Thursday, March 20, 2014

Home from Travels, and Time to Share

From left: volunteer Sharon Rogers, Lynn Ruehlmann, me, Andy Offut Irwin,
Jerry Ingham,  Donna Ingham, Kevin Kling, and volunteers Cassie, Cherie,
David and Tamra. In front, a young teller from Florida and Robin Bady
Finally I have a little time to catch up here. The trip home from Salt Lake City was longer than anticipated due to flight delays and a canceled flight that meant staying overnight in a hotel in Cleveland. Another delay in the morning but by Tuesday afternoon I was home at last.

There is nothing like travel to broaden one's world view, even when the travel keeps us within our own country. I had never seen Utah before, so I was pretty excited to be able to see this unique part of our country. But even more than the anticipation of going to a new place, I was looking forward to being among storytellers again.

There is an energy that seems to emanate from tellers. Perhaps it is because our minds are always visualizing what people say to us and making their words into stories. Perhaps it is because storytellers tend to be very good listeners--all good stories start with having heard something that sparks an idea. Whatever the reason, conversation among tellers is always lively, usually surprising, often funny or touching and engaging on every level. Someone might say jelly donut and the jokes, stories, and memories will start, often seguing into related topics. "Doughnuts? I remember my grandmother making doughnuts one morning," someone might begin, "and the dog jumped up on the counter and ate all of them.The tracked jelly looked like blood on the floor and we thought granny was bleeding and someone called 911." Another might follow with, "I had a dog that ate tomatoes and he would slobber red juice all over the place, people thought he had rabies." And another, "Rabies? Did you hear about the guy..." and so it goes. Story after story after story. (This was not an actual conversation, mind--this is my storytelling brain riffing off the jelly doughnut and ending up with rabies. you can see how it works!)

Lyyn, Andy, Regi Carpenter, and the young teller
I was in some of the best storytelling company in the country last weekend. I was thrilled when I heard that my friends Lynn Ruehlmann and Robin Bady were also presenting. We spent a weekend together last year working on stories and I have not had a chance to see them since. What a combination we are--Robin lives in New York City and tells many stories of life there as well as tales from her Jewish heritage. Lynn comes from Norfolk, VA and deftly weaves Greek myths through her family stories. And then you have me, living deep in the hills and telling stories and singing ballads from our mountains. An unlikely combination, perhaps, but we rock it.

Regi, Andy, Kevin and Robin
The other featured tellers brought their own particular style to the conference. Andy Offut Irwin travels all over the country telling stories from his native Georgia, often in the voice of his fictional Aunt Marguerite and her cronies. His stream-of-consciousness, hilarious style has to be experienced to be believed. Kevin Kling was there too, and this was my first time to hear him. Funny, intelligent and thought-provoking, Kevin turns a disability into ability--the ability to entertain, to make us stretch our thinking and reach beyond the what is to the what if. Pure listening pleasure.

Robin doing what she does best--connecting 

I was so glad to hear Regi Carpenter present her program, "Snap," a lyrical piece about a teenager's slide into mental illness; I just wish I had been able to attend her workshop following the presentation. Noa Baum took us on a journey into her life as a young Israeli soldier and her later unlikely friendship with a Palestinian woman. I only heard Steffani Raff in the final concert, and mercy did she have us going with tales of growing up that we can all relate to. And Donna Ingham! That Texas lady can spin a tale, yall, tall or true or in between. I was so glad to meet her husband Jerry too; I've known Donna for years although our trails don't cross often--Facebook keeps us in touch and I am so thankful for that medium.

Beyond the group of us who came to present, there were all the others who came to volunteer or to attend the workshops and concerts. I finally got to meet some people I've only known online. How amazing to put faces and voices to their words! There were many new faces and voices too, and I look forward to continuing those conversations and friendships online as well.

Tomorrow, I'll show you some of what I saw while I was there. I know you'll find it as fascinating as I did.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Mac n' Janet said...

The whole thing sounds fabulous. Lucky you to be able to participate and hear the others.

Our Neck of the Woods said...

Sounds like an amazing time with a great group of people! I love the young storyteller. So cool!

PS - I'm glad your bees are doing well! Ours are Golden Italian, which was described to us as one of the most gentle breeds so that's why we got them!

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