Ellouise and I were up bright and early to prepare for a busy day. We headed to the studios of the Montgomery County Maryland cable TV station to film my interview and a story, which should be available online soon. The interview went so quickly! I felt like we barely scratched the surface of all the things we could have talked about. Ellouise wanted to know about our lifestyle on our land and all the things we do to provide for our own needs. Like many West Virginians, growing a garden, foraging for wild food and providing our own source of heat is just part of everyday life, but it is not so commonplace in the Washington DC area and Ellouise had many questions. I left a jar of dried ramps with her, so perhaps she will have a little taste of the mountains in her cooking. Our conversation diverged to the story of my parents and how they met during World War II and that is the story I told for the interview.
We left the studio for lunch ins a cute little tea room, then browsed Kensington's antiques district. The shops we visited were filled to the brim with exotic, unusual and gorgeous items, all beyond my pocketbook (but then, I'm cheap!). Ellouise knew about another little place run by the Society for the Blind, and that proved to be a treasure chest. You can see a photo of its exterior on her blog. I found many treasures at this shop and left with a couple full bags. Ellouise found an amazing pair of retro eyeglasses she plans to use for a character in one of the stories she tells. My best find was a Hall pitcher that matches my favorite mixing bowls. I also found a large globe for a lamp that needed a top and two glasses to match the Jeannette carnival glass pitcher I own (I saw one just like it in the movie The Help--how cool is that.)
We returned to Ellouise's with enough time for me to prepare for my storytelling concert that evening and for Ellouise to get ready for another house guest, a friend from her school days back in North Carolina. Betsy arrived in time for dinner and we had a great visit before leaving for the concert. Ellouise made some great meals while I was there and I plan to try making her Eggplant Lasagna tomorrow. I was definitely well fed on this trip.
The concert was at a place called Friendship Village. I do not have a clue where we were except that we were somewhere near to DC and there were many, many tall buildings. I felt like I was a long way from home. The community center was lovely--an art show was hanging in the halls, and there were sculptures, gardens and fountains outside. As people began entering I saw the familiar faces of some storytellers I'd met over the years, and met others that I knew online or had heard of through other sources. Just before I started my friend, poet Kirk Judd, arrived. He's currently working in the DC area only 15 minutes from the community center. Soon after my program started, my sisters Liz and Theresa and my sister-in-law Nina arrived, and after them my longtime friend from elementary school, Debbie Couture, came in with her husband.
It was wonderful to tell stories to this group of friends, family and storytellers. I felt like my worlds were coming together--family, West Virginia friends, old friends and new, and storytellers. The stories flowed easily for me. I started with a ballad as I usually do, this time The Devil and the Farmer's Wife. It's funny and has a chorus for the audience to sing along. Then I moved to the true story of Burnt House, a haunting tale from central West Virginia, and followed it with a Jack tale called Jack and Old Fire Dragon. then sang the ballad Holland Handkerchief . That song led to an original story I wrote some years ago called Gracie's Cabin. It's a bit eerie, and includes many elements of mountain folklore. I moved on to the story of my parents' meeting and marriage during the Battle of Britain during World War II, and finished with the ballad Pretty Saro. It was a good mix, and I felt that it accomplished what I wanted to do: showcase the kinds of stories we tell in the mountains--ghost tales, folktales, family stories, original stories and ballads.
After the concert we adjourned to a coffee shop for more conversation. Back at Ellouise's we stayed up a bit longer and I heard stories from two incredible women about their early years, young motherhood and finding their way as adult women.
It was a long and satisfying day and I was filled to the brim, saturated with all I had seen and heard. I knew I needed a sound night's sleep because the next day promised to be just as busy.