‘Holy Wells and Healing Waters’ stories in Port Angeles

Will Hornyak

Will Hornyak

PORT ANGELES — A long way from here, a good and beloved king languishes on his bed, gravely ill. Only one thing in this world can cure his ailment. This elixir is called the “water of life.”

But that water lies a long distance away, in a separate, enchanted realm.

“Father,” cries the king’s oldest son, “I will seek the water to cure you.”

Away he rides, through the narrow gates of his father’s palace, into the wide world. Down the long path he quests for the water of life.

So begins one of Will Hornyak’s favorite stories, and one he’ll bring to resolution at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Hornyak, who is from the Willamette River town of Milwaukie, Ore., is the featured performer at the Story People of Clallam County’s event at the Port Angeles Library, 2210 S. Peabody St.

His set is called “Holy Wells and Healing Waters,” and promises myths, songs, legends, poems and lore from Ireland and elsewhere, all about healing and renewal.

Admission is $10 including refreshments. This program, happening in place of the Story People’s usual monthly swap, is suitable for listeners ages 14 and older.

A big fan of Port Angeles, Hornyak will stay in town to teach a workshop Wednesday. No previous experience is needed for the program from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Hall, 1043 N. Barr Road in Agnew.

Participants can bring a short story or part of a long one and work with it; cost is $40. To sign up, visit www.clallamstorypeople.org or call Story People President Erran Sharpe at 360-460-6594.

“We all have stories to tell and a unique voice and style for telling them,” Hornyak’s invitation reads.

In Wednesday’s workshop, titled “Telling Stories Well: A Toolbox for Storytellers,” Hornyak will teach how to develop a personal story or embody a traditional fable or folk tale.

Wherever the storytelling is, authenticity is Hornyak’s mission.

He works in schools, churches, businesses and prisons — settings with differing needs — and he aims to help other tellers connect with their listeners around the campfire, the classroom and the boardroom.

“He is one of my all-time favorite tellers,” said Sharpe, having heard Hornyak at the October Forest Storytelling Festival in Port Angeles on a couple of occasions.

“One time Will taught me something about storytelling that I continue to use in my personal life,” Sharpe added.

In a workshop on storytelling in the workplace, Hornyak discussed how to use a story to encourage someone after a mistake.

“He shared his experience when he was working in construction, and had built concrete forms for a large foundation. When the first load of concrete was poured, the forms blew out. They hadn’t been built strongly enough. Concrete was running all over the place. There was a line of trucks waiting to pump concrete into the now-useless foundation forms. He felt terrible.

“His supervisor pulled him aside and told Will a story about a time when he was working on about 30 cabins and made the mistake of ending the day with no roofing on the cabins. Overnight it poured rain, and the ceiling insulation, exposed to the weather, got soaked and ruined. He had to pull all the insulation out and replace it.

“I think about that story when someone is feeling bad about a mistake,” Sharpe said, “and I can share a mistake I’ve made.”

Those who attend the workshop can use their new-found skills at a Story Slam from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Studio Bob, 118½ E. Front St., with the theme “True Lies.”

Admission will be $10. More information is available by calling Nessa Goldman at 206-883-7701 or emailing [email protected]

Hornyak’s visit, coming as it does soon after St. Patrick’s Day, is a folding-together of two events. The nonprofit Story People of Clallam County traditionally host a Celtic concert around this time, and each month the group holds a free Story Swap.

Hornyak is appearing on the third Tuesday of the month when the swap usually happens. Because he’s a professional storyteller with a significant fee, Sharpe noted, this is one time when swap night comes with an admission charge.

When not performing and teaching around the country, Hornyak works with Open Hearts, Open Minds, a nonprofit organization bringing storytelling and theater to people who are incarcerated in Oregon.

He also created the widely presented school assembly program for kindergartners through fifth-graders titled “Living Streams — Stories for Healthy Watersheds.”

Sharpe recalled another high point in a Hornyak story he heard a while back.

This was an ancient tale about the legendary Irish warrior/poet Oisin. The piece explained that back in the day, warriors were all schooled in the arts.

“People believed that you should never give a sword to a man who cannot dance or write poetry,” Sharpe remembered, “because he might fall in love with war, and neglect home, hearth and family.”


Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.

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