A big help from a friend

This is it. Travel tomorrow. You can imagine the list for today - clearing the decks - not leaving any loose ends dangling.

A storyteller-angel, Tim Ereneta, tapped me on my cyber-shoulder in a post on Professional Storytellers.com the other day and offered to write an interview and place it on Fresnofamous.com - to help publicize my show.

He has done it. read the interview here.


Getting Ready for the Rogue - Its Multi-tasking

Getting ready for the Rogue - what does that mean?
You are just going to tell stories, right? How much could there be to do?
Let me explain - this is a "fringe" festival and while the Rogue publicizes the over-all schedule it is up to each performers to put some effort into additional promotion - so there will be an audience for your show.
So -
* I have designed and produced fliers to distribute and programs for the events themselves.
* Made a trip to Staples for the duplicating
* Written press releases and emailed them
* Entered blog notices (http://www.roguetales.blogspot.org/)
* Called folks in Fresno who can help get the word out.
* Researched for and worked on a couple of additional stories.
* Made and labeled cds to sell
* Assembled the stuff I need to take for the performance from the lapel mic to my banner.
You get it - all the administrative and clerical tasks that are needed to back-up a performance. I have a staff of 1000s and they are all ME.
I am hoping that stuff is out of the way now so that tomorrow I can pack and get all my personal gear together.
Multi-tasking is an essential life skill. Fortunately I have been well-trained at it.
Multi-tasking is a mother's survival skill. Thinking for several other people, of different ages. Forecasting what it is essential to have in your pocketbook in case of an emergency - from a band-aid to candy "life-savers" and all the stuff in-between. Being a mother of three was my first training ground for handling logistics.
In the late 1970s I had a job on the national staff of the League of Women Voters of the US. During those three years I learned advanced organization skills from the "masters '. Let me tell you - League women can predict and plan and make it happen. The League members and staff I worked with are the role models for women who could run large corporations and keep their homes going while they organized local school systems and held a poltician's feet to the fire. I loved it and soaked it all in.
Every bit of that experience serves me well as a storyteller.



Rogue Festival opens next week-end in Fresno, California.

Show previews at art openings around town during the monthly ART HOP next Thursday. That's February 28.
I will be telling a short story from my program at Veni, Vidi, Vinci at 6:40 pm

This year I am presenting an all folktale program.

YESTERDAY's SECRETS - Old tales of magic, mystery and romance. RATING CHANGED TO older family - kids 10 and up

"nothing pink and pale and plastic". Tales for adults and suitable for kids 10 and up.

Saturday March 2 1 PM
Sunday March 3 3:45 PM
Friday March 7 5 PM
Saturday march 8 6:15 PM

Ashtree Studio 1035 N Fulton Fresno, CA

IMPOTANT NOTE: Rogue is a "fringe" festival - I originally thought I would do an R-rated program and submitted that rating - but that is not my style -

Yes - this IS an adult program, but the stories are OK for children 10 and up.
I think you can be fringe without going all the way to mid-day bedroom soap opera fare.

I am telling folktales - remember, its Disney who took the real-life and oomph out of them. I am not.


Nanny Diggle's German Potato Salad

Because I am writing about the letter Nanny wrote in 1918 I have been thinking about her quite a lot this week. Remembering bits and pieces as I reach back to bring memories of her closer to the front.

Today as I was driving down Connecticutt Avenue on my way to tell stories to the women at my favorite retirment community, I was visualizing 826 Central Avenue. Unbidden an image of Nanny's German Potato salad came to mind. I loved that stuff. As I thought about it I could see a big dish of it sitting on the side-board in her dining room, and then I could taste it.

Nanny made it for special occasions. She gave my mother the recipe and later I brought the recipe with me when Jim and I got married.

Ok Ok these days I am a lazy cook - but now that thinking about it has whet my appetite, I think I will just have to make a big dish of this delicious concoction very soon.

As I understanbd it Nanny made up the recipe or adapted her version from a recipe she read. I would like to think she made it up. And always have because I have never run across on anyone's table who was outside her circle of influence.

Nanny's German Potato Salad
10 red skin potatoes - or Irish potatoes
lb bacon strips
large jar regular dill pickle strips or rounds ( not kosher dill pickles)
1 large bottle Kraft Creamy French Dressing
2 red onions -

Fry out a lb of bacon strips - drain ono paper towels.
Boil 10 medium sized peeled whole potatoes. Cook til tender, drain and then when cool, slice into medium thin pieces.
Slice the red onions into thin slices
Assemble in a large oblong pyrex dish - by layers -
layer one - sliced potatoes
Layer two - dill pickles
layer three - onion slices ( separated into rings)
layer four: bacon strips - crumbled. or torn into smaller pieces
Repeat these layers until dish is filled - or you have used up all the prepared ingredients.
Last step: Pour Kraft creamy french dressing over the top - lavishly - letting the dressing run down through the layers.
Cover with saran wrap or aluminum foil and let the salad set in the refigerator at least several hours, best over-night.

Great served with baked ham.



I received an email early this morning, "rave reviews for your storytelling", from the teacher who hired me to tell stories last night at a local elementary school for their reading night. I picked stories from the 398.2 section of the library and encouraged all the children to ask their librarians at school or in the public library to take them there. "It's full of stories like mine for you to tell."

The children and their parents crowded into a class room for two sessions. The school is a K, 1 and 2 school but ofcourse for these events little brothers and sisters come too. During the first session I was telling The Queen Bee, a Grimm's fairytale. When telling that story I click my tongue when the old man knocks on the door. At my feet an adorable child of about 4 years old, was so caught up in the story that as I clicked my tongue he did too - making a grand clicking noise. I stopped and said, "that was really wonderful. would you do it again." The smile spread across his face as he "knocked on the door" again.

I love storytelling.

Letter from the Past - Part 2

If you are just joining us for this story-catching exercise here's the deal. A few weeks ago I found a 90 year old letter my grandmother wrote to her mother when she was on a trip to New York City.

The text of the chatty letter to her mother in Charlotte is in the previous post - Letter from the Past - Part 1 along with a list of the characters. In this post I will explore the scene at the time she wrote the letter to develop the atmosphere and search out possible directions for a story. You know - I am just playing around.

To do that I am pulling information from family history, using my genealogy research - and turning to "'google" and the internet to take me back to this day and time and to enrich the content.

I want to bring Nanny's trip to life - primarily for our family. These stories are my subversive tactics in this world of the scattered family to water our roots and keep the family oak from shriveling to a sapling. Perhaps the exercise will give you ideas for catching a story of your own.

In the "olden times" when families lived close-by, folks told these stories at the dinner table or on a porch or maybe sitting around a tablecloth spread on the ground at a picnic. Children grew up knowing they were part of a large tribe and the stories of those "gone" lived on. We have to work harder today to keep our stories alive..

Exploring the scene of the story - New York City, April 30, 1918

Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States. John F. Hylan was Mayor of New York City ( http://www.nyc.gov/html/nyc100/html/classroom/hist_info/mayors.html). America was at war. More than 8 million people lived in New Youk City, and about 650,000 lived in Charlotte, NC. My grandpartents, Louise and Sam Diggle, rode all night on the train, leaving their six children at home with relatives for a business-vacation in the BIG city.

Hotel McAlpin
Louise and Sam were staying at one of the finest hotels in New York. Hotel McAlpin, a large hotel with 1500 rooms, was built in 1912. It was known for its innovations, decorative brick work, decorations and fine Marine Bar.

From an article in the New York Times, February 20,2008
Early 20th-century hotel construction was an exercise in quick obsolescence - with a new generation of buildings completely eclipsing the old one every three or four years. Telephone, telegraph, plumbing, elevator and other mechanical services rapidly advanced, but each new hotel also sought singular decorative schemes.

The Astor Hotel had an American Indian Grill and a Pompeiian billiard room, the Plaza had the Germanic-style Oak Room and the airy Palm Court, and the Vanderbilt Hotel had an unusual Grill Room with tiled, vaulted ceilings.

The 1,500-room McAlpin Hotel, opened in late 1912, was considered the largest hotel in the world and it also attempted to outdo its predecessors. There were floors restricted to women, men and even night workers - where silence was enforced during the day. There was a tapestry gallery, a banquet room with a vaulted ceiling, a giant marble lobby, a Louis XVI-style dining room and Russian and Turkish baths.

In 1913, the Real Estate Record and Guide noted another unusual feature of the McAlpin. Unlike other giant hotels, the McAlpin rented out its valuable store space all along the street frontages, moving its main rooms up or, in one case, down a floor. The basement room, at first called the Rathskeller and within a few months the Marine Grill, remains one of the most unusual in New York City.

The Marine Grill is a forest of tile-clad piers that curve up and form great curved vaults, all in a glazed riot of ornament and color - brown, green, cream, silver and scarlet. Giant semicircles along the walls carry faience panels depicting the maritime history of New York.

1918 - America was at war - the Armistice was not signed until November 1918.

In her letter Louise mentions the stir over the new campaign for Liberty Bonds. Around the first of April in 1918 they launched the the third Liberty Bond campaign - selling the Bonds to finance the American effort in France. This would have been of particular importance to Louise because her two younger brothers Walter, age 31, and Fritz, age 23, were in the Army serving in France.

She writes that she hopes to see some of the returning heroes before she returns to Charlotte. I imagine that she meant one of the parades down Fifth Avenue.

She says they went to Vaudeville - we can imagine the music - popular George M. Cohan songs like "Over There" and Give My Regards to Braodway" must have been on the bill and heard around town in restaurants.

Macy's: A History

In 1918 Macy's was located at Herald Square - on Bradway and 34th Street - very near the Hotel McAlpin - convenient for Louise to "look around and do some shopping" while Sam was at the office.

Macy's has an interesting history - growing from a small fancy dry goods store which opened in 1858 to it a world-known retailer.The website history calls Macy's an innovator. Macy's was the first to introduce the tea-bag, Idaho baked potatoes, and colored bath towels. Macy's moved to the Herald Square location in 1902. By 1918, when Louise "looked around and shopped there", Macy's was generating 36 million dollars in sales and was a world-wide tourist attraction for visitors to New York - like Louise.

I thought this was an intersting bit of Macy's history.
To help celebrate their new American heritage, Macy's immigrant employees organized the first Christmas Parade in 1924. The procession featured floats, bands, animals from the zoo and 10,000 onlookers, beginning a time-honored tradition now known as the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.


Letter from the Past - Part 1

I love old letters, whether I know the people of not. The handwriting brings you close to the person who wrote it and often there is a story hidden in an old letter. I have several storytelling programs built around old letters.

A few weeks ago an old letter fell out of some files I was moving. I recognized my grandmother's strong cursive handwriting before I picked it up. The paper is yellowed, the creases where its folded threaten to tear. The envelope is addressed to her mother, Mrs. J. W. Cobb, at 703 South Church Street in Charlotte and the postmark -

the letter bears a purple three cent stamp and is postmarked April 30, 1918. Mailed from Madison Square Station in New York City. It is written on hotel stationery - Hotel McAlpin, Broadway and 34th Street, New York City.

On a first read the letter doesn't say much but as I thought about it I wondered if there was a story in it. I often tell people to use old documents to make a story. So, what about trying it.

First I will share the letter with you - then I will add bits and pieces as I discover them to flesh out th story.


Tuesday, April 29th
Dear Mama,
This won't be much of a letter because I am pretty tired, But I just want to tell you that think I am going to have "some trip." We arrived OK this morning, and I hadn't slept much on the train. I went to bed after a hot bath and slept until about one thirty. Sam spent the day at the office, so I crossed over to Macy's and spent quite a while looking

around and shopping. Had dinner with Sam and then Uncle Fred and Florence came over to the hotel and took us out. We went to Vaudenville and then to a little place - a favorite of Uncle Fred's and had some beer and sandwiches. Believe me, it certainly tasted good. Florence is such a sweet girl. She has Friday evening off and she is coming to take me over to her house.

Cousin Nell called me this afternoon. She will be here about nine tomorrow morning and we will spend the day together.

Hope your finger is getting better and that the boys are not too much trouble. Won't write any more now as it is late. Everything here stirred up over Liberty Bonds. Hope to see the returned heroes from France before I leave.

Tell Grandma not to worry about Uncle Fred. He looks grand and says he never felt better in his life.

Kiss the boys and tell them to be good. Much love to you all. Will save some news until I see you.


First - Lets' consider the cast of characters:

Louise Cobb Diggle - the letter writer- my father's mother. At this time Louise was 32 years old, they had been married nine years and in that time she had given birth to six children and was now two months pregnant with her seventh child, who would be a daughter, Loretto. No doubt she needed a break.

Sam Diggle - her husband, father of all her children, was 31 years old.

Mrs. J. W. Cobb - Louise's mother, sister of Uncle Fred, was 59 years old. Her son Walter, Jr., 31, was in the Army and overseas in France along with his younger brother, Fritz, 23. Fritz was who was named for her brother, Fred - the Unlce Fred in Louise's letter

Uncle Fred Grose - Mrs. Cobb's younger brother who was 55 and had lived in New York City for some time.

Florence - his daughter

Cousin Nell - not sure who she is.

"the boys" - Lewis Diggle, age 7, Jack Diggle, Age 6 and Robert Diggle, age 4 - Robert is my father. The other children left behind in Charlotte were Mary Cobb, Catherine and year old Betty.

Grandma- Mrs. Samuel Grose - Louise's 83 year old grandmother and Mrs. Cobb's widowed mother.

One afternoon when I was about thirteen I was visiting Nanny at 826 Central Avenue, the house she and Sam build to house this large family. She reminisced about a wonderful trip they had made to New York. I listened vaguely, as a kid 13 would, but I do recall her saying that she had a new hat, a new Easter hat, with a wide brim.


Stories at The Camel

The Camel - a Social Oasis. Whatever is a social oasis?

In this case, the oasis, is an inviting space for music, comedy and storytelling at the edge of the sprawling Virginia Commonwealth University urban campus in Richmond, Virginia. Founder Alan Schintzeus is making a home for storytelling on West Broad Street.

Tonight was the kick-off for the storytelling series, every third Sunday evening at 7 PM.
The series is organized by VASA (the Virginia Storytelling Alliance).

Kim Weitkamp was the featured teller followed by a line up of open-mic tellers which included, Anthony Burcher, Linda Goodman, Adam Booth ( WVA), Ellouise Schoettler (MD), Helen Qubain, Judith Onesty and Les Schaffer - telling a tandem tale and Megan Hicks. WOW - what a rich, varied and full evening of stories.

My sister asked me, "why on earth are you driving two hours to tell a ten minute story? are you crazy?" No, I am not crazy, and as we digested the evening on the drive home, Jim and I agreed it was worth every mile to hear these top-notch tellers and to be transported by their well -crafted and wonderful stories.

Kim opened with a first-time telling of a touching personal story about her childhood - not one of her crowd pleasing hilarious tales but one that was soul wrenching as she invoked the healing power of story. She lightened her set with a short story about childish larceny and her father's wisdom.

In the Open- Mic session that followed the tellers told tales that ranged from Linda Goodman's tender Applacahian love story to Adam Booth's wild and whooping original tall tale. Helen Qubain told a story of the upside of being downsized. Anthony Burcher opened the session with a charming childhood story and it ended with Megan Hick's compelling telling of a memorable folktale Davy and the Devil. I really enjoyed a story of "relationships" told in a very free, open form of tandem by Judith Onesty and Les Schaffer. Slap in the middle of the line-up I told one of my favorites, my original story, The Tatooed Man.

It was an evening in the finest company - a promising launch for the series.

Next month, March 16, Megan Hicks will be the featured teller.



A day of contrasts.

Jim and I went to the movies after 5:30 PM Mass. My friend, Pat, had recommeneded The Savages which was playing at the Avalon a couple of blocks from the church. We made it into the darkened theater just as the movie opened.

The theater was so packed we were lucky to find seats. I hate having to stumble over people to seats after the movie has started because I hate it when people do it to me. Once settled I was too embarrassed to crinkle the paper and open my Raisinets so I sat clutching them like a kid while the first scenes of the movie unfolded.

In short, a brother and sister in their early 40s have to step in and take care of an elderly father
as he approaches death and dies. There are funny aspects. And, heartbreak. Laura Linney who plays the daughter is nominated for an Oscar. But from my perspective its the father played by Philip Bosco who was riveting.

I leaned over to Jim, "his eyes - he looks just like Daddy." "I know."

The screen-play is weirdly funny. And you welcome any and all laughs. There are scenes and situations that came very close to my personal experience and it was hard to watch them. There were other situations when I was aggravated at the shallowness of the son and daughter. Let's just say it is not an "easy" movie. Is it worth seeing - yes.

Yes, to face the reality of life and life ending.

On a happier note.

Earlier, as part of a collaboration project between Pyramid Atlantic and Silver Spring Library I told stories from my program, "Fur, Feathers, and Scales" and then artist, Sabeth Scarborough led a book-making activity. We had a nice sized enthusiastic crowd of parents and children.

Using a simple fold bookstructure the children collaged images from the stories. Sabeth brought wonderful materies i.e. printed felts, feathers, markers of all kinds, a set of letter stamps, glues, and other fabrics.

"Rooster Calls the Sun" - She told me that in her picture the sun was waiting behind the mountain while rooster tried to call it forth.

Meet the rooster as intertreted by another child.


There is an Elephant in the Village

The Village of Kensington is home to antigue shops, an historic train station, charming large Victorian farm houses and a sense of the past. As heavy traffic speeds by spewing emissions on near-by Connecticutt Avenue, Kensington sits quietly by.

Now there is an intruder. An Elephant has been plopped down on the edge of the village, dominating the view and proving how heavy a corporate footprint can be.
When we moved to this area in 1970 there was a red=brick Safeway in the Kensington location. It was an early flagship store, with friendly staff and a familiar and unassuming neighborhood presence.

Safeway closed that store two years ago, tore it down and rebuilt it in the form of a yellow concrete California- type lifestyle store which is now the elephant on the edge of the village. Having a beatifully arranged and misted produce section, Starbucks at the front door and new fangled carts with built in cup holders does not make-up for placing the building on the site so that the loadimg bays of this building are right at the edge of a narrow two lane cross street which will not be able to digest the traffic.

What were they thinking? Or did anyone from the corporate offices come and look at the neigbborhood before they sent in the destucto balls and earth movers? Would they want this monster in their neighborhood?


My Kind of Book

Last week when I was gallery sitting I resisted the high calorie sweets at Marvelous Market but when I walked through Kramer Books and my eyes landed on this book cover I was a goner. Here at last is my kind of book - A Perfect Mess

A book that promised to talk about the "benefits of messiness."

Here are a few bits of wisdom:
page 138. "The bedroom: making a bed when you get up in the morning is like tying a shoe after you have taken it off."

page 138. "closets: unless you truly don't know what to do with your money - could it possibily be worth spending several thousand dollars to get a closet organized."

page 139. : "the dining room: given how rarely most people eat in their dining rooms, who's to say it isn't more useful to use the table as a handy platform for everything from mail to unsorted clothes to business-card collections?"

Page 140: "cars: cars are exceptionall easy to clean - a minute or two with a large shopping bag usually does the trick."

Such wisdom and understanding..

As I read this book I breathe easier. It is taking the hook out of my cheek.

I have not felt this relaxed since Mrs. Parks, my 10th grade history teacher at Central High School, declared, "I can tell by looking at your messy notebook what your kitchen will look like."

Happy Valentine's Day

I will not be surprised if a single rose appears today - as it has every Valentine's Day since 1955. And I will know exactly who sent it -
Ahhhhhhh! Valentine Rose 2008


Worth Remembering

Today I voted in the Maryland Presidential Primary and I voted for Hillary Clnton - and as a woman I was thrilled to vote for a woman. Not just because HC is a woman. I am not blinded to the state of the country and our need for a new leader. In my opinion she is a fine candiate and has the "stuff" to lead the country.

There is no denying that I am a feminist and at one time I was an activist feminist. I worked hard to support and win the Equal Right Amendment. Anyone remember that? The campaign to ratify ended in defeat in 1982. Such a simple thing - to put Equal Rights for women in the Constitution.

It was sleeting when Jim and I drove into the local elementary school parking lot. And cold, bloody cold. Several women, one an artist from Gallery 10, were cocooned in heavy coast, hats and blankets sitting in the weather at their posts outside ready to hand out campaign literature. There were more election clerks and judges inside than there were voters so it was a quick trip. A momentous moment over in a minute. A minute that will have such an impact on all of us - no matter who comes out on top in the election.

A very frail and halting elderly woman was leaning heavily on her daughter's arm just ahead of me in the line to sign in to vote. I thought of Mama. She had told me the night before that she was not gong to get to vote in the NC Primary.

"I wish I could vote." I don't agree with her on her choice of candidates but I wish she oculd too. "I thought the "place" would make arrangements to take us - but they didn't."

More and more I hear from her how it feels to be side-lined by age and infirmity. I hear it in a different way - as a road I am walking toward.

No, no, not me!


Thinking About the Circus

Recently my sister Kathy recommended I read Water for Elephants - and I am.
Last Wednesday night I told "The Elephant Man" - the story of an 1880 circus accident in Charlotte, NC.

I had not told "The Elephant Man" in quite a while so earlier that week I pulled out the file folder to re-read all the clippings from the Charlotte Observer that recounted the event that September in 1880.

When I opened the file I found a gift I had forgotten on the top of the papers.

My aunt, Catherine Diggle Brown, went back to Sacred Heart College in the 1960s to continue her education. She reveled in it. She told me she particularly loved one of her English classes where they were required to do some creative writing. And, when I began storytelling, she gave me a few of her stories - " a few extra bits for you to use in your storytelling." (This fabric piece, Catherine Diggle Brown, is bordered with red wool from a cape she made, wore and then gave to me.)

I am sharing this one with you. She is talking about a morning in
the 1920s. In the line-up of eight Diggle children my Daddy was #4 and Koki (that's what we called Catherine) was #5. They would have shared this day.

Childhood Memories of the Circus by Catherine Diggle Brown.

The circus is coming to town! Those words are again ringing in our ears each time we turn on the radio or the television set, and every newspaper carries pictures and advertisements describing it in fascinating detail. The children are eagerly awaiting its arrival, and when I see their enthusiasm I'm carried back thirty-five years to the circus days of my childhood.

Whether or not my brothers, sisters, and I attented the yearly appearance of the circus in our town did not detract from the pleasure we experienced over its arrival. For weeks before it came we eight childrren had discussed it at length.

We had then, two things that children of today are missing. First, the arrival and unloading of the lolng circus train, and second, the exciting parade through the very center of town prior to the matinee.

My father would wake us at four a.m., load us into our old Packard touring car, and quickly make his way to the depot where the train was to be unloaded.

Here we would find hundreds of people with squealing excited children watching, open-mouthed, the fascinating proceedings. Each member of the circus personnel was busy; the performers, the train crew, the roustabouts, and even the animal trainers. The placid camels chewed and chewed, and the wild animals added to the general noise with their roars.

But the most interesting of all to us children were the elephants. How magnificent they were! They could shove the animal cages around as easily as we move checker men on a board, and their slow lumbering motions had us entranced. Each gaily-painted cage and truck that was unloaded brought forth louder and louder cries of delight from us all, and we would watch each one make its way down the road toward the fair-grounds until it was out of sight in the faint haze of sunrise. By the time the last one had disappeared we would begin to realize that we were cold and hungry, so it was back home for all of us to a good hot breakfast.

Circus Day during my childhood was fun from start to finish because all of the schools were closed. This was done so that everyone could attend the parade at eleven o'clock - - and such a parade! The Ringmaster, resplendent in his red and black unifoprm and high silk hat, and riding a sleek black horse, led the procession. Next in line was the circus band with each member in a red and gold uniform. There were beautifully dressed girls on horsemack, elephants wearing gaily colored velvet or sating trimmings, clowns by the dozen performing tricks as they danced along the street, and many a child received the thrill of a life-time when a clown would stop to shake his hand or pinch his cheek.

Then would come the animal cages; roaring lions in one, a leopard or two ub another, bears of all sizes that, through the eyes of a child, looked ferociouis, and then a cage containing large snakes. How relieved we all were to see that this particular cage had thick glass sides plus the usual iron bars.

The steam calliope was always one of the most thrilling sights for me, and for days folllowing the parade I would attempt to imitate the sounds that it made.

If I take my children to see the circus this year, I can be sure of one thing. When the band strikes up its opening tune, I shall close my eyes and once again tingle in anticipation of that marvelous spectacle of my childhood. I wonder if they still use the calliope!

Isn't she wonderful! I can hear her voice, her joy in remembering and in telling stories about the things she wanted to share. When I tell stories I feel close to her and I do not miss her as much.

Would it surprise you to know that she was named for Catherine Lonergan Cobb - a girl of Tipperary - Koki's great grand-mother. My great, great grandmother. The Irish connection - rich with blarney and love of story.


YES Book Exhibit

Earlier I wrote about the project Gretchen Schmerhorn, Adjoa Burrowes and I were conducting with a group of "dreamcatchers" - eighth grade girls.
Last night was the exhibition and awards ceremony where the girls shared their books with their famlies and received their awards.

The book structures are handmade paper which house collage pictures illustrating a story, The Pumpkin Seed Bird. The picture-scenes are are cut from paste papers which were made by the girls. Their product from beginning to end. An heirloom.

Last night the students were excited and proud. Proud to show their work to each other, their friends, and families. I talked with a number of the parents and they were a little awed by these creations - and very impressed by their daughters.

A videographer photographed the awards and I interviewed each student with her book. " what will you remember about this project?" Some of their answers:
"the fun of working with my friends"
"the feeling of sticking my hands and arms in the sticky water to make the paper."
" using forks and cards to make the marks on the painted paper"
" imagining the pictures in the story and then cutting them out of the colored papers."
"I liked working here (Pyramid)."

What will I remember?

I will remember these curious, creative young women, poised on the edge of their adult lives and the young professional women who volunteer as their mentors and friends. Working with all of them was a joy and a privilege.
A chance to touch the future.


A Touch of Europe

My turn to gallery sit at Gallery 10 again. Here at the corner of Connecticutt Avenue and Q Street it reminds me of being in Europe. And that helps my itch to travel. Too often I forget to look around here at home. Try to see it as if I am a visitor,

Her red shoes caught my eyes as I stopped outside Kramer Books before going upstairs to the gallery.

Later I stopped in at Marvelous Market for a salad at lunch. What more could you ask for than these delectable looking pastries. I stopped and looked and resisted, I am happy to say.


A Lesson and an Early Valentine - for me

Someone invited me to tell a story for a special "business and the arts" Valentine breakfast. It will have to be short," she said. No more than five minutes. Now - that is a tough assignment from the outset

Then the big question - what story to tell - to a sophisticted audience who will not be expecting to start the day with a story. I asked advice of other tellers, read stories, and looked through stories I know. I settled on an Irish "sweetheart" and funny story.

Then they called me - "more VIPS have accepted than we expected - and they have to say a few words. Can you cut your story to a shorter time?"

"Don't worry about it." I said.

At first I thought about how I could "cut" the story - then I realized - if I did that I would ruin this particular story.

So the answer was - tell another story. Maybe that was the gift of the situation.

I know a story, The Maiden in Green, a folktale from China, that I love to tell. And I tell it often. In three minutes.

It was a risk. A folktale for breakfast?

Not only that - but I found myself the first speaker on the program.

I told it. You could not hear a pin drop - until they let out the "Ahhhhhh" at the surprise ending.

They loved it.

My gift of story to them turned into a Valentine for me.

How could you not love being a storyteller?

TIP: Respect the Story.
Trust the Story.


Storytelling Report

Last night Sherry Geyelin and I told stories at the Kensington Row Bookshop. We had a delightful time.

Sherry brings such an elegant presence to her stories. Her use of language and gesture is rich, graceful, and enchanting. She takes you right to the scene of the story and brings it to life. I could see her seeing the story as she told it. When she told of attending a 1940s modern dance performance by Charles Weidman at Constutution Hall she showed it to us with small body gestures and words. It was a rich bit of storytelling.

Sometimes the producer has to fill in. I was not the scheduled other teller but when she cancelled at the last minute I was delighted for the chance to tell two stories that I am telling today for a large group in Arlington. Practice. Practice. Practice. It had been a long time since I had told the "elephant man" - the story of a tragic circus accident in Charlotte in 1880. I found the vivid account of the event in an old Charlotte Observer and then connected it to St. Peter's Catholic Church and my great grand-father, John Walter Cobb,who would have seen it all. The other story is one my mother recalled from her childhood which brings back a July afternoon in 1931 when a sweet, summer evening turns dark and bloody. The story couples mama's 13 yeare old eye-witness account of the incident with my investigation of it sixty- five years later.


Silk Ties - an invitation

I woke this morning dreaming about sewing,
Thinking about my stash of men's old silk ties,
My horde of delicious colors.

Maybe its mentioning quilting yesterday.
Bringing that yearning out into the light.
Because I do yearn to sew again.
Snip and cut, stitch and stitch.
Making something new from old cloth.

I collect men's silk ties.
Jim tosses his ties my way instead of in the waste basket.
Others are finds at The Salvation Army, Good Will.
A few from a Rescue Mission.
People who know, bring them to me.
"Something for your stash Ellouise."

I am holding out two from Cres -
"I am letting go of these
They were my brother's -"
They shine in the basket - yellow silk and pink with dark dots."
They will be just the right note one day.

I have used men's ties in a large altar cloth
and in a liturgical stole.
For a grace note in a tapestry.

Now I am going to start a larger piece
Twenty-five squares
Each a skewed log cabin.
For a wall hanging.

AN INVITATION In the tradition of old-time friendship quilts
I would love to include a tie from you -
and a story about it.

Just one thing -- silk only.

I will exhibit the piece and tell the stories either as a story or in an album.

Send to me:
Kensington Row Book Shop
3786 Howard Avenue
Kensington, MD 20895

What's GOING ON??
This is not my first collaborative project.

In 1978 - I made an Album, Woman IS... which included a paper quilt and an album of the words of 78 women artists from across the country. It was exhibited at Touchstone Gallery, Washington, DC.

In 1984 - I made the The American Album, a nine notebook album of art works by women from 322 states, which I took to the UN Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya in 1985. That project is now part of the Library Collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

About 1999 - I created my favorite - a large altar cloth and hanging made for Foundry United Methodist Church, Washington, DC from clothes donated by the congregation - the fabric of Foundry.

Its time for another out-reach adventure. I hope you will be a part of it.


More from Glimpses

After weeks of working on these pictures I am enjoying them now.
Savoring the colors.
I like working in a series because it gives me a change to see nuances in the changes.
These works are all about light and color - using a quiet corridor in a monastery outside Avignon as the base to anchor the changes.
In the tradition of Monet and his cathedrals and haystacks.
And the squares and other abstractions of the moderns.

or closer to home -

Think of the visual delights of quilts where each square has the same pattern but the quilter plays with color and pattern as she sews in the fabrics.

Its all in the EYE.


Smiling and grateful

Finished the last of my tests today and the doctor has given me an "all clear".

So I can get back to work - - using more good sense in how fully I schedule myself.

Hmm. That will be interesting. I have never been noted for my "good sense" in that area before - but - I can tell you I am not eager for another go around with hospitals, tests etc.

Except to say - how grateful I am for the good medical care. And the warm friendly people who administer it.

Accumulated bits:

** In a post to Storytell today Irish storyteller, Richard Marsh, quoted this old Irish proverb: An áit a bhuil do chroí, is ann a thabhartas do chosa thú - your feet will take you to the place your heart is. -- I do believe in my case that is anywhere close to Jim.

** Last night during the Super Bowl I escaped to our bedroom so that I could watch Miss Austen Regrets - the latest presentation of the Jane Austen Celebration on PBS. In one scene Jane Austen is seated at a desk writing a letter to her sister. She quotes as she writes - "which of my important nothings shall I tell you first." Ah, I relate to that - every time I sit at the computer..

** My sister Kathy recommended Water for Elephantsby Sara Gruen. "It really helped me understand Mama." When she said that I assumed she meant Mama's living through the Depression and I thought that sounded interesting.
Kathy is an inveterate reader and her book suggestions never fail so I dutifully reserved Water For Elephants at the local library. I picked it up last week. I understand now what Kathy meant. The first chapter with its vivid descriptions of life in a 92 year old body should be required reading for anyone who has an elderly parent living in an assisted living facility. One phrase particularly touched my heart, "women who ache and yearn for their lost men." Sara Gruen must know Mama - - who says, "I think of him every day. He is never out of my thoughts."



The Venice Bridge of Sighs seems a good place to start.
I missed my opening Friday night.

My son, Jim, his wife, Monica and Juliana, tech wizard, covered for me at Gallery 10 and brought reports that the digital frames were well received.
And more - the whole show looks great and people were very positive on all the work. Lucy and I feel very good about the effort.

Why did I miss the opening - because I was languishing in a bed at Suburban Hospital. This time I was the one wired up and being observed - with Jim sleeping in a straight chair next to my bed. Oops, a role reversal.

Started with a pain in my jaw and left arm. Jim checked me out as far as he could at home but without an EKG there were still questions - so he took me to the emergency room.
Those symptoms mean a cardiac work-up and if there are no definitive answers you have bought yourself a night in the hospital, in my case two nights. The cardiologists assured me they are being much more aggressive about women and possible cardiac problems these days - that is good news.

So far, mine is good news. I have a nuclear stress test on Monday to complete the work-up but so far so good. Oh, I know there are some real challenges ahead - a diet and a real exercise program ahead of me! I know I should has turned into you will do it.

Since I showed up in the emergency room I have been x-rayed, ekg-ed, sonogramed (that's an echocardiogram), and wired for sight and sound 24 hours a day. My blood is so thin that it gushes if I prick my finger. All for the good end of preventing an incident. Hey, that is fine by me.

Being on the other side of the hospital experience has taught me quite a lot. Most of all - it is scary to think that something you can't see could kill you. Brings new perspective to the bucket list and the things that are really important. And renews my gratitude for the blessings in my life - my family and friends.

The rest, that I often give so much importance to, is really "trappings". Valuable, yes, but clearly second.

It is time to review my New Year's intentions and figure out which have to be resolutions.