Sunday, October 05, 2014

Sunday in Jonesborough

Sunday in Jonesborough

This morning Diane and Brittany (and Brittany's husband Eric) fixed breakfast for the Storybrook Farm bunch. John took the morning off. We had crepes with toppings that included strawberries, nuts, cinnamon sugar, chocolate, a whipped cream/ricotta cheese mixture, and powdered sugar. A different sausage, coffee, tea, and OJ to accompany it, and our 13 new friends around the table for good conversation.

Then off to the Library Tent for the whole day. That would give us a good dose of Carmen Deedy, Bil Lepp, and Kevin Kling, three of our favorites, and allow us to hear the two tellers we hadn't heard yet, Carol Birch and Kuniko. My biggest regret is that somehow we only had one good helping of Bill Harley all weekend. Bill has been a favorite for 25 years or more. We did end up hearing at least a small bit of every single featured teller plus the Story Slam folks. We missed the Exchange Place first-time tellers and Antonio Sacre who performed the Saturday Midnight  Caberet. We were just too tired to do a second day of late night stuff.

Oh my! How could it be Sunday already? First "Sacred Tales". Our emcee is Valerie Hudson who encourages us to find the stories we love and tell 'em.

Megan Wells told of her family's vacation in a pop-up camper. I could relate. Her father, she said, "went out of his way to go out of his way." Along the way her mother kept trying to get him to find a camping spot, but he kept doggedly driving toward the Rockies. Finally he found the pull-off he was looking for. He managed to get Megan and her mom out of the car while the two boys slumbered on the folded-down back seat. As he hugged and kissed his wife he asked, "It was worth it, wasn't it?" Gazing skyward his wife agreed and Megan turned her face heavenward. "I was nine years old when I met the stars." Previously Milky Way was a candy bar. Now? A million lasers. "Eyes, I thought, millions and millions of eyes. Something bigger was watching over us all." 

Megan lifted a tiny music box to the microphone and turned its crank as it tinkled out "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."

Tim Tingle, the cheerful Choctaw, uses no artifice or pretense. He tells, he doesn't recite. Storytelling is, by its very nature, more presentational than acting, but still I like the "first time" illusion of those tellers who tell as if I am their only listener and they are just relating the story to me, finding their words in the moment. Tim gives me that impression. He told about Alvey Carney, the WWII Marine who stormed Iwo Jima and walked through the rubble of Hiroshima after the bomb. Carney developed the Choctaw IQ Test. Scored were based on how long it took a new acquaintance to realize that Alvey's right arm was wooden. Tim says his score was the lowest of all time. It wasn't until Alvey put his elbow in the noodles on Tim's plate that he noticed.

And Dancing Mary had a wooden leg. The Choctaw bury lost limbs in hopes that those limbs will await a reunion in heaven. Mary's leg spent fifty years dancing with the Lord before joining its mate after her death.

Kuniko is a lovely and soft-spoken Japanese teller who explained and demonstrated paper cranes to us as she interspersed the music of her flute. A one point the paper crane appeared to fly on its own power into her hands.

She also told of a Zen master and apprentice and their debate about whether a zebra is a white horse with black stripes or vice versa; whether or not the koi are happy; and what is heaven and what is hell.

Tim Lowry loves Thanksgiving. He says it is Christmas without all the "stuff". And, in his childhood, on the day after Thanksgiving the second holiest book was brought out. Number one, of course, is always the Bible. But number two had to have been the Sears Roebuck Catalog. His mother used a magnifying glass to peruse it because she was "legally blind". She found a Nativity Scene she wanted because it was "big enough for me to see it", she said. When Tim and his sister saw a big plastic, lighted from the inside, manger set at the Ben Franklin store they put it on lay-a-way and began saving to buy it for their mom. It took even investing lunch money but they managed it. Their mother still displays it to this day. They always put it out on "Christmas Adam" --- the day before Christmas Eve!

Sue O'Halloren, told "Dad's Story" the most painful story of the weekend, perhaps. I honestly became so absorbed in the love and heartbreak of the story -- one with which I could so easily relate -- that I forgot about taking notes. Her father had influenced her daughter to avoid the racial stereotypes of her friends, neighbors, and even family members. He defended his black students from the belittling comments around the dinner table and on the street. He was strong and principled and loving. She had him on a pedestal of nobility. And at the very moment when she was most sure of his understanding in the middle of chaos, he crushes her with disappointment. 

It is a hard truth, I think, that we must all face-up to sin even in our saints. Sin is absolutely universally active. We do not have to throw our loved ones (or ourselves) out with their sins, but we recognize it, forgive it as we can, and continue to love.

Carmen Deedy told the long story of the nugget of story that prompted it, the writing and re-writing, near destruction, and final creation of her story book about the legend of The Yellow Star.

I hurried out to get us some supper between sets and made a poor decision for some pizza. Too time consuming! I ended up listening as best I could to Welsh teller Danial Morden's retelling of "Like Meat Loves Salt" from outside the tent. 

Back at Sheila's side near the front of the Library Tent we settled back for a thirty minute Bil Lepp tall tale. This one had its Genesis in the popular high school health class assignment of caring for an egg as if it were a baby. In Bil's case the teacher ran out of eggs and he was the only kid assigned a five-pound bag of flour instead. All of this led to hilarious and ever-more fantastical adventures.

The final showcase or "olio" of the festival featured eight tellers of eight fifteen minute tales. Emcee David Novak explained that olio is a term that originated in vaudeville and come from a term for savory stew made from bits of this and that.

First up, Carmen Deedy again with a story of her Poppy called "Gardens Grow". Her Dad loved gardening and at 78 was finding, even when living in apartments, scraps of soil to plant with tomatoes and other garden plants. But he had fallen a few times, and she bought him a walker. Ever a gentleman her Cuban Dad merely thanked her. But later she found he was using the walker, but not as intended. It was now a tomato trellis. Even now in his nineties he gardens on the porch. She and John gave him a porch planter with some Big Boy tomato plants, but he ended up cutting them down when they produced little. Then she found him watering the planter and cherry pits he had planted. The tomatoes were for him and had "died" as he soon would, but, he saids, "the cherry is for the grandkids."
Carmen challenged us to plant storytelling for our "grandkids".

I loved the family group The Healing Force. They sang, strummed, drummed, and told. "Beauty is something that can never be concealed." Their story of Ima was an African Cinderella story.

Finally we got a chance to hear Carol Birch. She told a Russion folktale and encouraged us to take it with us and tell it our selves. It is the story of the good serf, Stefan who loses his beloved wife Vera. The selfish, money-grubbing priest refuses to help the penniless serf bury his wife so he must do it himself. In the process he digs up a treasure. Now the priest loves his wealthy serf, but tries to steal the fortune and in the process dies of his greed. Carol says: "Beauty is as beauty does, but bad goes all the way to the bone."

Our final  story from Donald Davis is the one about stealing a cigarette, then having his Dad tell a story about kids burning down a barn smoking in it. Did he know? Donald says that a spanking, at best, is a temporary solution to misbehavior. If you want to really punish your kids... and maybe send them into therapy for life, tell 'em a story! 

Dovie Thomason told a story about "The Strange One." I am the strange one who was still caught up thinking about other stories and lost a vital point or two in this one.

Daniel Morden told the tragic tale of Orpheus and his love for Eurydice. 

Kate Campbell is a new favorite songwriter. She wrote this song for a celebration of the First Amendment. She read Martin Luther King's last speech and took "The Last Song" partly from that speech. It imagines the Last Song to follow the Last Supper. "I may not get there with you".

Kevin Kling surprised me by drawing moisture to my eyes with his story that concluded to festival. This man, who has lost his right arm and must depend on a severely disabled left arm for an awful lot, finished a powerful story with "Every day I see blessings in my curses." If he can so can you. So can I.

David Novak earlier in the afternoon had quoted, "Sweet are the uses of adversity." Hmmm. Here's more of Shakespeare's words from As You Like It:
Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.
What an emotional finish on this very special day in my life. (My next morbid post may deal with that.) Great stories all day in the Library Tent. A quick visit to the "Marketplace" before it closed at five to purchase one book and four CDs. The book is signed by the author and I was given specific permission to tell some of the great stories within.
We have lots to listen to on the way home tomorrow.

Back at Storybrook Farm now, all but one of the other guests have headed home. We enjoyed some ice cream for supper and have spent the rest of the evening lounging, just the two of us, in this comfortable house, reading and writing.

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