Thursday, October 13, 2011

Full, Full Days

Stories, stories, stories. I am wallowing in a richness of stories.

The past two days I was at Jackson's Mill, WV, telling stories to busloads of school children from area elementary schools. I do not have words to describe how it feels to see their eyes intently following the stories, their laughter, their smiles and sighs. And not just the children, but the teachers and bus drivers too.

Storytellers Adam Booth, Ilene Evans, Marc Harshman and I filled the days with stories. Tales of Jack, of Mutsmag, of Tam Lin and more floated on the fall air like the falling leaves of the trees, and were just as full of rich color.

Adam is a young teller, relatively speaking. In this profession many sport gray hair. Adam is not even 30 years old but is one of the fast-rising young stars in storytelling circles. A professor of musicology, he somehow finds time in his schedule to spin some of the best stories I've ever heard. I love to work with him because he is flexible, open to the audience and so joyful in his work.

Ilene Evans has been telling stories for a long time. I was delighted to hear her tell her bilingual story La Hormiguita, the very first story I ever heard from her, this week. Multi-lingual and multi-racial, Ilene is a founder of Voices from the Earth; her current big project is a Civil War saga of an experimental settlement of former slaves during and after the war that set out to prove that blacks could learn quickly and could support themselves and bear arms for their country. It's a huge undertaking and totally fascinating.

Marc Harshman is a children's author with about a dozen titles to his credit. His story called Rocks in My Pockets is one of the finest examples of the mountaineer spirit you are likely to encounter. My favorite book by Marc is called Uncle James, and explores the relationship of a small boy with his alcoholic uncle. It's not for everyone, but I believe it's a necessary, and poignant, story. Marc is a stellar storyteller; his rendition of Mutsmag, the mountain girl who outwits child-eating giants, had the children mesmerized.

And then there was me. Since Adam and Marc did such a great job covering Appalachian tales, I decided to tell some folktales from other world cultures. I started with an Arabic welcome song, done as an echo song so the children sang back each line to me. Then I told a Nazarene story from the mid-East. Nasruddin is a "wise fool" which means he's nobody's fool. I moved on to a song from the Tamil region of India and then to a story from India about how the peacock came to be. From there I told a story from China about how the peacock and the crow got their colors, then went to Scotland to tell the story of Tam Lin in song and narrative--this is a story of a young man bewitched by the fairy queen and how a girl helps him escape the thrall of the queen. It is hands down one of my favorite tales. I ended by bringing the children back home to West Virginia by having them visualize their favorite place in our state, then closing their eyes and imagining that place as I sang a verse from Hazel Dickens' song, West Virginia, My Home.

Ah, what a time it was. Now I am home, catching up on email and Facebook and eBay, and getting ready to leave again tomorrow to do a day of Appalachian stories for a school not too far away. What a life.I love it.


Nance said...

oh my. you have given so much and the audience took so much today . . . and it was all beautiful. Do you have some left over to give tomorrow? Wow! This must be a calling.

Granny Sue said...

Today was awesome, Nance. I told Appalachian stories for grades K-5. Now I need to get ready for ghost stories tomorrow night :)

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