Practicing my story.
Packing my suitcases. To much stuff.
My nephew's new son arrived today via C-section.
Phone photos are great. He looks bright and awake - ready to meet the world. So happy they have named him Finn. Great stories are waiting for him. I cast off his blanket last night - whew - on time.
Mary posted a link on Facebook that may be the best way to make use of my box of fabric yardages. Make quick quilts to donate for the homeless to keep them warm during the cold nights ahead. Sounds like a good family project to me.
There is a weathered wood fence in Jonesborough that borders an alley-way cut- through to a few big tents. I found it the first year Jim and I went to the Festival and every year I look forward to going back to this wonderful "found art" gallery. Who ever keeps this collection adds and enriches and, as afar as I can tell, never removes. The stuff stays.
I take pictures from all angles. I try to get as many "still life" set ups as I can. Sunny days are best - the light brings things out. Accidents happen with the light and shadows.
Thinking of Jonesborough and the Storytelling Festival which starts Thursday evening.
Hoping for these wonderful blue skies and sunny days.
having my family - my wonderful fan section - there in the front row - where I can see them - and then laughing together as we enjoy more tellers, and more stories together. We all fell in love with storytelling festivals when we went en masse to the 2nd WVA Storytelling Festival in Jackson Mill ten years ago.
Finally we will be together at the "mother ship."
seeing my dear friend Betsy who is coming from PA, because she loves the festival - and to encourage me as she has since we met in our Girl Scout Troop in Charlotte, NC a few years ago.
the people we will see - the smiles on their faces - the stories - and the laughing. Oh, the laughing. It makes you feel good all over to sit in a tent packed with 1000 people - all laughing. Norman Cousins was so right about the healing power of laughter.
and thinking of those folks - besides Jim - who have encouraged, taught and helped me along my way as I started re-inventing myself as a storyteller twenty years ago. I will especially miss seeing Sherry and Lynn who planted the seeds that led me to Exchange Place.
thinking about the story I will be telling Friday afternoon at Exchange Place - feeling excited and nervous - but knowing that its going to be really fun to stand on that stage to tell my story. I am already in love with everyone in the audience. Jim and I lived the story. Now we laugh about it. And so do the folks who hear it. "You are kidding," they say. "No. Afraid not."
Magical Montgomery, a street fair for the arts in Montgomery County brought crowds to Silver Spring, MD.
It was cloudy and rain was eminent but that did not dampen the enthusiasm of the kids, and folks of all other ages who enjoyed music, dancing in the streets, and booths featuring arts organizations and activies through out Montgomery County, MD. I was glad to be one of the featured performers- telling a couple Jack Tales and nature stories.
I am enjoying a new-to-me old NC Jack Tale - The Talking Mule - which I have recently started telling. Is it my imagination that Daddy might have told that story years ago - maybe its just that the story sounds like one he would have loved
The The Puppet Company was fun to watch - - the music ensembles which followed - acts that I don't usually have a chance to see.
Two middle-aged men who had been standing at the back stopped me. "We loved your stories. The highlight off the day." One man added: " I have not heard storytelling since I was in school." I handed him a card - "then you are going to love storytelling for grown-ups. Check my website. I list local storytelling events. Please come."
Yep. It was worth it to take storytelling to the streets.
And it did start to rain - just as Jim and I headed home.
Jim braved the rain at a vegetable stand near our house to pick up locally grown corn and tomatoes. Can't pass those up.
1. Paperwork. Paperwork. Paperwork.
2. NCIS on Tuesday night was a good start for the new season. Ah, yes. Other than NCIS and House I only watch movies. House reminds me of the days when Jim and I were at Hopkins. NCIS has a good cast, a continuing world, and good storylines. I also find the forensics and technologis fascinating.
3. Will be missing The Guiding Light for some time to come. In case you don't know - GL was a TV soap opera ( serial story) which began on radio in 1937. CBS cancelled the program this year. The last episode aired September 14. I felt sad when they rolled "the end." across the screen. The Guiding Light was an intergenerational connection. I first listened to the programs with my grandmother, later watched episodes with my mother and in the last year of her life before Mama stopped watching TV the characters were often the people we talked about when I called.
I no longer watched the program regularly but I checked in at 3 PM every so often just to keep up with the latest storylines. Yes, I will miss them. The characters on that show were my people.
Waiting to Go.
Hurray. My computer is un-hexed - - and backed-up. It was infected with many viruses. Yes, I do have security programs. The computer repair shop was stacked up with virus-ed computers. When Jim and I were there this morning a guy arrived, cradling his laptop in his arms. "Can you fix it. I got a virus from the internet." Lots of mean things happening.
Lately I have been involved in conversations about the relative value of blogging versus Facebook and Twitter - since blogging takes so much more time and effort than the other two.
Here is where I come down on the subject.
Blogging takes more time, true - but to me, blogging is part of my art form. The other two are marketing tools.
I collect bits for stories on this blog. I put up varied art works - so I can see how they look and I work the relationships between photos and works to enlarge the story.
My blog posts are often boring - even to me - but they are a net for catching bits of story. I appreciate the folks who stop by and I hope you will keep coming - and I am particularly grateful for comments but --- in the end, this blog is for me.
I am doing private work in a public forum and people are welcome in the studio.
Recently I began to understand what I am doing on the blog - in a new way - and to see how it relates to an old art form. I am scrap booking - using the blog as the scrapbook.
I don't mean in the current consumer form where people use new materials to make formulaic storied photo collections. I applaud these archiving efforts but I have an aversion to the mass-produced feel of them.
My work focuses on collecting and compiling images, words and events. Putting them together in a random form - to capture the everyday and to connect the past to today.
A few weeks ago I happened to notice a beautiful coffee table book at the library - Scrapbooks: An American History by Jessica Helfand.
The book contains pictures of a collection of fascinating old scrapbooks. Collage. Collecting. Compiling. Beautifully written essays about the impulse for scrapbook-making and discussions of each individual work.
Fireworks went off in my head. The book validated my long-time impulse for album making and scrap gathering. I first exhibited albums in 1975 at the Washington Women's Arts Center - a collection of photographs organized to tell a story with handwritten text added.
Now reading a history, The Scrapbook in American Life, I find myself in good company from the Greeks forward. As a child of the 40's reared by women of the 1920s and 30s I am a product of the social impulse for women to collect and glue.
Even as a storyteller I collect bits to make pieces.
Voila - here is language - academic, artistic, and personal - which brings my work - story and visual art - together under one umbrella - as a scrap-book-ing.
My blog is my scrap-book. My work-book. And just like any scrap book - each page tells you a bit but for the full meaning you have to take a look at the whole.
I like that it also reduces my carbon footprint.
A special memory
Ellouise with the San Francisco Gorilla Girls.
Getting back to talking and remembering my days as a feminist activist for equal rights for women brings up some unexpected moments.
After a storytelling at the California College of Arts and Crafts these two great activists showed up. They were called out by my friend, artist Eleanor Dickinson.
Thank heavens they were not after me - they came to give hugs. You know, no one ever knows who is behind the mask - and they don't speak to protect their identity.
1. Something has hexed my desktop computer. I have to dismantle and take to Mr. Boon today with hope in my heart that he can fix it - or else - well, I just don't know what all I will lose if he can't fix it. But I know it would be like brain surgery.
I know. I know. Back-up. Back-up. And I do - every so often. Okay. Okay. That's not enough. Lesson learned. Hope I do not have to pay too dearly for the lesson.
2. Visions of Jonesborough and the National Storytelling Festival are dancing in my head. People we will see, stories we will hear - and the laughter.
3. Revisiting the week-end. Remembering:
* Fun conversations and good time spent with Granny Sue, Larry, Richard and Debbie.
* Blue skies and warm days in the mountains. Pleasant driving. Beautiful vistas.
* A touch of Germany in the Bavarian Resturant where we had lunch in Hagerstown. Interesting collection of authentic steins brought back memories of Bavaria when Jimmy and Monica lived in Munich. Jim and I broke a lot of plastic so we could spend time with them and our oldest grand-daughter.
* Just being with Jim - which is always a plus for me.
* Delicious home-made brownies at the League meeting - what a lovely spread of goodies appeared.
Talk about SPECIAL
Aren't these wonderful socks?
They arrived recently in the mail -
An unexpected surprise
Handmade for me by my friend, storyteller and knitter, Kate Dudding.
These will be a special memory.
The week-end was great. And this morning I am doing my follow-up, letters and accounts. Storytelling is a FUN business but it is business and so - paperwork goes along with it.
But I do want to record a bit of the fun - so - if you want to follow - I will start back with Saturday, add Sunday which was grand in Hagerstown and then wind up here later.
Right now - I am switching hats to rehearse for the TV taping this afternoon.
Read about Jean Ritchie and the Appalachian Festival HERE
Great day yesterday - sunny, stories, wonderful people, good conversation, topped off with a memorable concert by Jean Ritchie.
I have a lot I want to say about being at the Appalachian Festival - but will have to wait until we get home tonight.
Time to switch channels from Jack yesterday to Jill today.
Jim and I moved on to Hagerstown where I was to tell my ERA folktale for the League of Women Voters.
The event was held in the Women's Club which is located in a lovely mid 19 century historic house. I knew as the women arrived that these were my people. All would be well.
Fanny Crawford introduced me to the group. Fanny heard the story in Chevy Chase last Febuary and asked me then if I would come and tell the story to the League. Fanny is herself a fine storyteller so I was doubly pleased by her invitation.
They listened a very good version of the story from me. I saw in their faces that as they heard my story they were remembering their own experiences. It was exactly what I had hoped would happen - that the story would be a catalyst to bring back their memories in those who heard the story.
Afterwards during the Q and A the women shared their stories from the elder woman who remembered that she had wanted to take "shop" in high school and could not because she was a girl to another woman who had been administrative aide to Congresswoman Bella Abzug in her first term in Congress. It was a rich discussion - it was great.
The line formed outside the Palace Theater on Main Street a half hour before the doors opened. We were there to see her sons help Jean Ritchie from the car to spontaneous applause from those in line. She nodded, smiling at the welcome.
When an icon take the stage you know it. Jean Ritchie brings a presence and grace that lights up the space around her. The combination of her years of performing with her earned years - is elegrant.
When she is joined on the stage by her grown songs she glows and its fun to watch the easy affection between the three.
Her voice is not what it was - and why should it be - she is now a matriarch of folk music and her stories are a rich legacy - a slender connection to a style of simple life that is disappearing.
Whether she was singing or telling stories of her growing up, the youngest of 13 children, in a singing family in Kentucky - she had my full attention.
She sang " play-party" songs from her youth, gospel songs, ballads and her famous Black Water, the hauntingly beautiful song she wrote about the destruction from strip mining.
Jim and I agreed - we will never forget the evening and are grateful we came.
Apalachian Heritage Festival
Jim and I came to Frostburg because I was telling stories as part the Frostburg State U. Appalachian Heritage Festival along with Susannah - Granny Sue - Holstein and Katie Ross.
And telling tall tales with them was as much fun as I expected it would be.
We were pleased to have an audience with us for the full 90 minute set. That's really liking stories because there is so much else that calls for your attention at a festival like this - where the smells from fired up grills fill the air, music from the tents and from the impromtu fiddle groups that pop up and the thoughts of the crafters in their tents - all pulling at you.
But this was a festival celebrating folk-arts - not a theater performance. There was room for it all and we were richer for it.
Gathering Stories for the New Front Porch
Personally I was drawn to the crafters tent - particular to the tables of the women demonstrating needle-arts. You know - hand-work.
Carolyn Groves was demonstrating needle tatting - next to a table showing her work. Her tatted-beaded necklaces were really fine and gorgeous. We talked. I mentioned that I bought a tatted collar in Prague in the mid-90s. Her eyes lit up. "If it was made with gold thread I bet I know who made it." Evidently the artist published book and was now well-known for his work. Talk about a funny "small world" moment. You have to ask, don't you.
I could have stayed and talked with Elaine Pressman all day. She showed me how to crochet a cotton thread wash-cloth, talked about braiding a rug, and gave me a few tips on the way she had assembled the simple quilts that were near-by. "I started learning how to do when I was 5 years old - from my mother and my grandmother." Yes, her grand-daughters sew and knit. How could they not? Hers are experienced hands. She is a woman of many trades - the fiber arts as well as carpentry. She also told me that she plants and grows a large vegetable garden which feeds her all winter. This woman connects us to our pioneer ancestors.
Janice Bell was hand-stitching a paper-pieced quilt. She uses tiny stitches to form the shapes which are then whip - stitched together. "It is small, easy to carry and its very meditative work.
I did buy a bag of recently milled yellow grits. "Its yellow not white because I ground yellow corn." Makes sense. Did you know that - I didn't. I grew up thinking all grits were white - because that's what they sold at the store. And a bag of fresh milled - buck wheat flour. I had forgotten buck wheat flour. Mama sometimes mae buck wheat pancakes. I will be trying those again.
Did I mention we were in the HILLS and that Fall was popping out? It was a warm, delicious day to be outside. Music in the air. Stories being told. And all with a nod toward our roots.
Dawn is cracking.
Jim and I are packing.
Heading out to the Appalachian Festival.
All systems are GO.
Its all on my website: http://www.ellouisestory.com/
FOCUS ON BUSINESS
My head is filled with tall tales and stories about Jack to tell at the Appalachian Festival on Saturday and with my personal ERA journey story which I am telling Sunday in Hagerstown, MD for the Western Maryland League of Women Voters.
Come to think of it this pair of stories is not such an odd-couple. All the tales are about dreams, trials, and bumblings and - - - they are all mostly funny.
This morning we are taping Focus on Stories. Andrew Hiller is my guest and we are going to talk about how he works up his NPR commentaries. His is a tough gig - the carefully thought out - short, short story!. He does it well!
I have to remind you - check out Travelin Oma this morning. She has the real low-down on working with your Muse. As well good relationship tips on working with that elusive lady.
Alan has a post on quitting smoking that brings back memories for me - especially the song - don't miss the tape.
The song, a period piece, brought back memories of my dad. The struggle Alan decribes of giving up smoking hit much closer to home. I had to make myself smoke - everyone was doing it. And then 20 plus years ago, giving them up was harder than I dreamed. I read somewhere that the best way to make it through the first few days was to frequent places where you had never smoked. So, I spent hours every day in the bath-tub, emerging with my body looking like a shriveled up prune.
What a day!
1. Received a surprise gift in the mail. Will tell you about it when I have a picture.
2. Someone came to my blog looking for my comments on my ancestor Tunis Hood and when I checked it out I got a surprise - Elvis Presley also descends from Tunis Hood. We are cousins, yal.
Elvis descends from Tunis Hood's son John; we descend from Tunis Hood's daughter Rachel. All this through Mama's mother. Granny was born and raised in Mint Hill - near Hood's Corner.
Genealogy is so fun - and filled with surprises. Mama would love hearing about this! You hear it, Mama?
3. Whew - finished my September newsletter. Relieved to scratch that off my list.
Rain, heavy rain. Chilling, saturating rain. Not an appealing day to go to PA - and that's good.
Actually its a good day to snuggle down under the covers with a good book - maybe a gripping spy novel - but that's not happening today.
Expect the Unexpected - still working on remembering my trip to Europe with Jim and then Marie in 1975.
I tell you that to remind myself.
Good morning. I am going to write on the previous "expect the Unexpected" first - then I will come back here later today - after, I hope, something happens.
Travelin Oma has a wonderful post about travel planning today. One of her wise items is "expect the unexpected". Now she tells me.
It reminds me of my first trip to Europe in 1975. I have thought about attempting a story around that trip for a long time - this could be the springboard.
I was in my third year of graduate school working toward a Masters in Fine Arts in Painting. I had been studying art history for seven years and had never been to Europe. Washington is rich in art treasures but I was eager to see those other masterworks for real - not just in the Jansen textbook.
Let me explain something else. I returned to College as a Freshman in 1968. The mother of three elementary school children I juggled school and parenting. By 1975 our kids were in high school. So when we decided to go to England for Jim to attend an international medical meeting they were old enough for the both of us to be away for two weeks and - - - for me to stay on alone - to meet a friend in Paris and travel for an additional three weeks. It was a dream come true.
Using Frommer I planned it all. From our two weeks together in London with time in Oxford and the Cotswolds - to my jaunt with Marie. Knowing nothing at all about Europe except the art works I wanted to see, I mapped out a trip - - Paris, to Florence to Rome, to Venice, to Vienna, to Wiesbaden - where Marie lived - and then I would take a train to Amsterdam alone and fly home. Along the way I would satisfy an independent study course on the Color of Turner, Delacroix and Van Gogh - with lots more thrown in.
The Eurail Pass would be our ticket to anywhere on the Continent. B and Bs would be our homes.
Jim and I were leaving our kids home so we decided to fly separtately. We arrived at Dulles for the afternoon BOAC flight to London - for me - and then Jim ate and read until his evening flight, also to Heathrow.
When I arrived I took a bus to Victoria Station and then walked to near-by Belgravia where we had a firt floor closet-sized room in an elegant white Victorian converted into a bed and breakfast. Jim arrived six hours later on plan.
For the first week Jim attended scientific meetings during the day and I explored the museums I had on my list and scouted out others to go back to with Jim. To refresh those memories Jim and I sat over coffee at Einsteins and made a list of the most memoriable sights: The Inns of Court - Rodin's sculpture The Burghers of Calais on the green at the edge of the Thames - the Elgin marbles at the British Museum - orderly queques at the bus stop - double-decker bus rides through London traffic - subways three escalators deep - the scenic boat ride on the Thames - the slabs of bacon of a full English breakfast - patterns at Liberty of London - Harrods - Hyde Park orators - Tower of London - The Tate Museum - Turner paintings - and on and on and on.
A side trip to Oxford and then three days in the Cotswolds where our bed and Breakfast was a converted parsonage in a small town. The church was across the road, owls hooted in the trees at night, and all the guests in the dining room were properly British. Shakespeare's Richard III at Stratford was a huge plus as was Warwick Castle.
Expect the Unexpected
One night I woke up realizing that I had too much baggage to carry alone when I left Jim so the next day we shopped around and bought an inexpensive patterned fabric zipper toostie roll type bag. I repacked sending half my clothes home with him
When Jim waved good-bye on the platform at Victoria Station in London I realized the scope of my adventure and a tsunami of panic washed over me.
Rough seas on the English Channel brought me to my knees with mal de mare. I had forgotten to bring Dramamine.
I had not expected being in a train coach with no English Speakers on the French train to Paris, misunderstood their directions and got off the subway a block too soon. I wandered lost for about an hour unable to find anyone who spoke English to help me find my hotel where Marie was waiting - and not thinking to hail a cab and solve the problem.
We were staying near the Place de Vendome at a small hotel at the back door of the Ritz. It was recommended by a woman in DC who planned group trips for the Smithsonian. She told me it was a little known gem owned by the Ritz. It was adorable - a miniature of a place - and the room was barely big enough for the two of us.
Our first day in Paris Marie and I stopped by the American Embassy to check out the PX. Marie and David were still in the Air Force and she wanted to check to see if they had better merchandise in Paris than they did in Wiesbaden where David was stationed.
Would you believe it - Marie - in a Julia Childs moment - bought a set of real French copper pots "we are going back to the States in two months. This is my last chance to get these." There was no time to ship them to her home in Germany so we walked out hefting the huge and heavy box and for the next two weeks we shoved that box on and off trains from Paris to Rome to Vienna before we reached Germany and off-loaded them for the last time. Somethimes we shoved it out a half open train window rather than drag it down the narrow train aisle. Whatever - I can tell you that by the time David met our train in Wiesbaden I loathed that box. and, I know that Marie wondered what in the world she had been thinking.
We were traveling the last of July and three weeks in August. At a time when b and b's were not air conditioned - little was air-conditioned. The coolest place on a hot day was a church - one with plenty of marble.
HEAT: Paris was hot. Rome was hotter.This picture was taken in Notre dame Cathedral. everything was melting.
FOOD: I don't speak or read French so conversation with locals was "out" and a menu was a nightmare. I finally settled on oeuffs - eggs. I recognized the word,figured they could not alter is too much and that everything about the egg would be safely washed.
By the time we reached Rome ten days later it was hotter. We walked everywhere, sweating and feeling that were were melting. I could not facet pasta dishes with mysterious sauces or any other heavy food so I survived on Caprese - a delicious salad of sliced home grown tomatoes, freshly made mazzarella cheese, fresh basil and olive oil. I love it to this day and its still my first choice on most menus.Paris to Italy
We stayed in Paris five days and then took an over-night train to Florence.Ahhhhhh! In Florence Art History comes to life. We stayed at the Hermitage Bed and Breakfast - where we had 3 meals a day - served in a rooftop garden that over-looked the Uffizi Museum Courtyard. This was an old palazzo located two blocks from the Ponto Vecchio Bridge. It was a Frommer special find.
Marie shopped. I only wanted to "museum". The Eurail Pass gave us a lot of freedom. One day I took the train on my own to San Sepulchro to see the Piero della Francesco frescos. Wonderful. Town and Art.
Marie was carrying her copper pots and I was lugging a large purse with camera, lenses and film.-- and binoculars to see the ceilings. In 1975 cameras and telephoto lenses were heavy and noisy - the shutter echoed in cavernous churches. Empty rolls of film added weight to the baggage with no clue about the pictures. To be safe I bought postcards - a habit to this day. Reminders of where I have been and the names of the churches.
The weather this week-end was glorious. Sunny and warm. A perfect end of summer. Today has the feel of a school day - you know, cool, a bit gray. The weather says "pool closed, pull on a sweater and get down to work."
And that's what I have to do. Two weeks until the Appalachian Festival in Frostburg and next day I am telling my ERA story in Hagerstown. I used the time and the quiet in Biglerville to step back into that story. I have a recording from the February performance and I have listened to it
a number of times to remind me of the sequencing I used then. This week I begin tweaking - polishing - practicing. Along with practicing the stories for the Appalachian Festival and a few run-throughs of the story for Jonesborough.
Next week I keep these balls in the air and add the programs for October - Cross-Currents with Noa Baum and Linda Fang and my annual solo Halloween program. Its what storytellers do - learn, practice and tell stories. Its work and its wonderful FUN.
Don't forget Traveling Oma's School of Writing. She keeps adding the most intriguing and challening prompts and assignments.
Checking the library for one of Riley Adam's mysteries. I have met her on her blog; I look forward to meeting her through her work.
Having a video meeting with Robin this week. I know we will work but mostly I want to chat.
Looking forward to the new season of NCIS which starts Sept 22 and the Ken Burn docmentary The National Parks on PBS later this month.
This has been a three state day. We began in Pa, rode down Hwy 15 until we crossed the Potomac River into Virginia for an out-door Mass and pot-luck Labor Day picnic with our prayer group and then re-crossed the Potomac River at Point of Rocks and took Hwy 28 into Maryland - a drive home through beautiful rolling farm lands and horse farms. Good to get a look of the larger area where we live.
We photographed a crane standing beside a farm-pond up the road from our house in PA. We have often seen cranes in the area; this is the first one we have on film.
Good family time this week-end. Time to talk and laugh with Jimmy, Monica and Karen.
More important that an apple a day - daily contact with God, family, and nature.
2. Fruit Tips:
AS part of our to-town errands Jim and I headed up to Hollabaugh's Orchard Store hoping there were still some peaches in. There were peaches but they were hard as rocks and I want to serve them Monday. Jim wanted to add pears to the bag and they also had a way to go before they were ready to eat. One of the women working there told us:
Peaches: Spread the peaches out in a single layer in the back of your van and leave them during the day. Bring them in at night. We did that. Its working. Jim some back in the car this morning while I will cut the others up. By tomorrow morning we should be well supplied with delicious ripe peaches.
Pears: Different story entirely. The pears are hard and green. She told us to store the in the dark until they turn yellow. Then they are ready. Why? "That's just what you do."
Blackberries: Five minutes across the Carlisle Road you find Yellow Hill Farm where U-Pick blackberries and raspberries. Jim sent me to the thorn less blackberries, bless him, and he took the thorny raspberry lines. Its nearing the end of the season but there were still plenty. The owner recommended freezing the berries by laying them in a single layer in the freezer - and then bagging them in zip-lock bags.
She also gave us a recipe for delicious blackberry sauce. We tasted this on vanilla ice cream and its a simple winner.
Blackberry Sauce: Place berries in a sauce pan: add water until you can just see it. Mash berries lightly. Bring to a simmer; cook for 10 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth or strainer at least 1 hour. Cool. Add 3 TBS cornstarch for every cup of liquid and sugar to taste. Cook and stir over medium heat until the color deepens and the mixture is thick. Serve over ice cream, cake, biscuits, sort cake, any dessert!
About 4 o'clock Jim and I decided we would add blackberry picking to our day - yummmm. Yellow Hill Farm is only a five minute drive up and down a rolling and hilly road. The berry bushes are planted in long rows that tower over me which makes for easy picking without too much bending.
Gallantly Jim handed me a white plastic pail and steered me toward the thorn less blackberry rows while he headed off to the thorny raspberry bushes. We agreed that we would pick berries for supper and breakfast, you know. not too many, just enough. Nodding, we both knew that would never happen. And it didn't. We went home loaded with berries to wash and freeze and eat.
Under a pale blue sky I felt the quiet of a space filled only with nature's sounds., birds calling, cicadas, and the occasional crunching of tires on the near-by gravel driveway. These are the sounds that are swallowed up in the city and suburbs where we usually spend our days.
A cool breeze softens the air. My finger tips stain red as I pull plump ripe berries off the vines and drop them in my pail. Oops, some purple juice stains the rolled sleeve of my favorit Jonesborough denim shirt. Oh, well, I hope it will come out. I feel too content to "sweat it".
Its near the end of the season but the hard red berries I pass over promise we can come again Monday.
Mama used to tell stories of "going pickin" at Uncle Charlie Shaffer's place near Mint Hill or at the Keasler farm in Sandy Springs by my sisters and I never did. The farm experience slipped away. Or did it just get lost to other distractions?
I don't remember anything as fun as this. I hear parents cajoling their little ones on the next row, " we're in raspberry land. Taste this berry. Ymmm. Good."
Sorry I did not know to find some fields for our kids. Well, that's not exactly true. We picked strawberries in Oxon Hill in the blistering hot when we moved to Maryland and lived near Kirby's Farm on Indian Head Highway. The kids and I got chigger bites on all our arms and legs and the red, itching bites reminded us for days that strawberries taste good but that "picking" is hard.
I wonder if Mama got chigger bites? She never said.
When I stopped at the main street barber shop for a shampoo and hair-cut ($12) I learned a few things. The Country Story - across the street which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this month - prominently displays a sign PROM DRESSES so I asked the young woman cutting my hair if she had every purchased a prom dress there. "Yes, several.I bought my wedding dress from her too. " She lifted a photo off the mirror and handed it to me - a pretty girl in a very smart formal dress standing with her good-looking young man. " My daughter bought this dress for her prom last Spring. I kept telling her to go to the County Store but she turned her nose up at shopping in her home town until she could not find anything she liked anywhere else." We laughed.
" Is there a football game at the High School tonight?"
" Yes. Its the Opening Game of the Season. My daughter's boyfriend -that boy- is on the team so we will go - have to support the kids, you know. Its at 7 PM."
Jim, it turned out had been across the street at the Country Store while he waited for me. I told him about the football game. "Let's go."
Last night was balmy and the parking lot was already nearly full when we drove in at 10 minutes of 7 for the game. I did not know there were this many people in the town. Like people in small towns across the country we fell in step with the families ambling into Musselman Field for the Opening Game.
What's not to like? Happy people of all ages, laughter, the smell of fresh cooked french fires, strapping young guys suited up and scrapping on the Field under bright lights and a golden full moon, a bevy of cheerleaders crying for victory, and the band giving it their all even though no one could hear a thing.
It was great.
Just five minutes from our house on Gurnsey Drive.
After the football game last night I thought of the stadium in Charlotte on Friday nights during the 1950s. The lights blazing and our bands playing as guys I knew butted heads with rival teams.
I wrote to my friend and high school classmate Ed - one of the guys on the field in those Central High School games - about last night's football game here in Pa. Ed and I live on opposite sides of the beltway in the Greater Washington Metro area - he in Virginia and I in Maryland - but we keep in touch by email and share our memories of the Elizabeth Section of Charlotte, NC in earlier days.
I am adding his reponse to round out the view of the games.
I’ve been to several High School games in McLean. I really enjoy them. The smell of the dirt on the field being stirred up by the players cleats was the first thing that hit me. I remember that smell very well, having had my face rubbed in it many times. And like you, the enthusiasm of the cheerleaders and the band…was electric. The game on the field was pretty good too.
But what struck me most of all was………none of the kids was watching the game. They were all watching each other.
Oops, did you guys think we were watching you?
Mystery author Riley Adams is also a cook and she is part of a cook-book collective. I dipped into a few of their recipes yesterday and followed her advice to become reacquainted with asparagus. Don't miss this recipe - it's delicious. Jim I relished every bite for supper last night. Liked it so much that Jim wants me to make another batch for the annual Labor Day pot luck with our church group.
My next experiment is going to be the fried zucchini.
Now I did not really have to get re-acquainted with asparagus. I buy and cook it often. Its easy, dresses up a meal and I love it. But - the change is nice and it shows a new side to the taste. I am so known to love asparagus, especially the slender, baby spears, that Jim's mother used to stock the refrigerator and have the bright green bundles waiting for me on our visits to California. I have eaten it for breakfast, lunch and supper. Asparagus as a side with scrambled eggs - ambrosia.
Growing up Mama bought canned asparagus at the Big Star on Central Avenue when she wanted to dress up a special meal - you know, the fat, muddy green, soggy spears. She would put them on a platter with a huge dollop of creamy Duke's mayonnaise - maybe some red tomato slices -as a side dish. Even then I liked them - mostly because they were supposed to be a special treat.
I don't remember the exact time or place I discovered fresh cooked asparagus but after that moment there was no going back.
It might have been about the time I discovered that green beans did not have to be cooked with fat-back until they were black - although that is the way I like them best and will feast until I am full on the memories of my grandmother's house on East Seventh Street.
Looking forward to a few days in the country this week-end.
Our dog Leia loves it best. She hops out of the car and with a burst of energy joyously races from one boundary of the yard to another checking her territory. Leaving Jim and me hefting the bags into the house. Even though we have our stuff there we rarely manage to go up carrying only a toothbrush.
My burdens are electronic. Computer, iPod, camera, chargers and cords. Can't be without the toys.
This week-end I am also packing several boxes of fabric and a stack of old jeans I have been collecting from thrift shops. I am determined to start the quilt I have been thinking about for weeks. In my fantasy cutting and stacking squares will be the perfect job to go along with the work of preparing two story programs which are ahead later this month.
Actually they are only three weeks away. I am counting those days and hours now.
Multi-tasking. Makes me feel so productive. But the tasks have to work together. Quiet cutting as I listen to my stories on my iPod seems to me to be a perfect combination. We will see.
On the Road & Storytelling Report
Last night was the first evening of my fourth season producing monthly storytellings at Kensington Row Bookshop in Kensington, MD. Julene Cupp, Holly Range and I told stories to a full house in Kensington last night. Being with them felt so good to me. We were part of a group - could it really be eight years ago - and told together frequently. Holly and Julene had new stories drawn from life - well-crafted and well-told. Good examples of how you take ordinary life and turn it into story. Julene turned her recent yard sale into a charming story of memories, daily experience and sales that is a how-to on setting up a yard sale. Holly used a memory with her mother to transport her listeners into a magical place of myth and folktale. I told a familiar tale as a test - yes, this one is right for Exchange Place October 2.
Burano, Italy e. schoettler
Near the ending of Casino Royale James Bond and his current sweetie are gliding into the Grand Canal in Venice on their enviable sailboat. Yesterday watching those scenes brought back lovely memories of the five magical weeks of very hot summer days Jim and I spent in Venice. Could it really be five years ago. Seems yesterday.
Those days were particularly wonderful because we charted our own course every day. There were no appointments. no lists, nothing pressing. We had taken our shoes off. I don't think I have ever recovered from that experience.
Today is the first day of September. And I am not in Venice. My shoes are on. I am not unfettered.
The fetters are all good mind you - but they bind just the same.
Am I whining? I guess a bit. I always do when I feel over-whelmed. Its my way of puffing up my sails so that I can press ahead.