PA Surprise

Grudgingly I agreed to go when Jim suggested we ride up to PA yesterday to check on the house.

Just after we passed the Hwy 30 exit we noticed fields of vibrant yellow on each side of the divided highway. I looked a bit closer. "Jim, those are sunflowers."
Acres and acres of sunflowers in full bloom. Gorgeous.

We agreed we had never seen this display before - and we were certain we could not have missed the expanses of glowing color.

On our way home we found a back road that bordered the sunflower fields and stopped for some pictures.
There were two other cars parked - people out, standing waist high in the flowers taking pictures. One mother had stopped with her three year old snapping possibilities for her 2008 Christmas card.

"Isn't this beautiful?"

" I know" she said. " people have been telling me about it so I came over to see and take pictures."

"Is it new. I don't remember ever seeing it before."

" It must be. I live around here and I have never seen it."
" Don't you want a picture with your little girl?" At first she said no, but then she thought it over and handed me the camera.

What a nice memory. A warm. bright afternoon surrounded by vibrant yellow sunflowers - standing straight - with all their heads turned toward the sun.

Are you sure this is PA - looks a lot like Provence.?

And I would have missed this! I bet Aesop would have a fable and a moral to fit this almost missed opportunity.


Raring to Go

Looking through photo files I came across this one. I remembered the afternoon. Jim and I were visiting Robin in CA. Our trips always include game-time - for which ever sport our grandsons are involved in at the time. This day it was a basketball game being played at a school in Alameda, CA.

After the game Robin suggested we stop for a sandwich. Good idea - fuel up for the long freeeway ride home.
Outside a local sandwich shop these twin road warriors were neatly parked - silently waiting.

Wearing their helmets at a rakish angle they struck me as very Star Wars - ish and they looked ready and willing - raring to go.


French Flea Market

Jim and I were wandering through the streets of Nice, France on a sunny afternoon when we happened upon a wonderful flea market.
A city square filled with tables whose tops were crammed with enticing items. I could not buy a thing because there was no room in our suitcases to bring home "stuff."
I was forced to settle for an hour of wandering through the tables - fingering things, wishing and wanting and contenting myself with taking pictures. How I would have loved to buy the pink pig, the clown and the cobra.
Jim was relieved that I could only load up camera disks.
Now, I am grateful I left it all sitting on the tables. But there are times when I think of those things and I cannot help wondering if it they are still there.


Tennessee Guitar

This is a familiar sight on our way to Jonesborough.

Shortly after we leave Virginia and cross into Tennessee we come to the Welcome Center.

We know where we are by the out- size guitar across the road.
Reminds us that Nashville is the home of the The Grand Ole Opry and the pressure cooker for country music.

My daddy was a great fan of both and I remember many a Saturday night sitting on the living room floor in front of the stand-up radio listening to the old-time pickers and singers. I still love it.

I know that giant guitar will be waiting for us next Thursday.

The first memories I have of "being quiet" while the Grand Ole Oprey radio program was on was when we lived in a small house on Woodland Drive. I guess I was about 4 years old. Lynda was born but this was before Kathy. Woodland Drive was a red dusty road with gravel in it. I know because it got all over my clothes and I picked up pebbles in my sandals as I walked along with Mama going to and coming home from the little grocery store at the end of the street.

I remember Woodland Drive as being pretty far out so I was surprised last month when the hearse carrying Mama to Evergreen Cemetary turned into Woodland Drive. Its a shorter street than I remembered. Even though we were moving slowly I did not have a chance to see if I remembered which house we lived in. I would like to check it out the next time I go to Charlotte.
Today I was thinking about Mama. I was sorting stories on my Mac for new playlists on the iPod. That's how I practice stories - record them, make playlists and then listen to them. Anyway, I decided to save some of the extra stuff onto cds. My Mac is always giving me a high-sign " your disk is full."

For the past few years I taped conversations with Mama from time to time. We would talk about family stuff and the long ago folks. Or I would just leave the recorder running to pick up a usual conversation. I found several still on the computer. Listening to them was bittersweet. I am glad that I have them but its a bit too soon to really enjoy them. Its too soon to listen without crying.

I burned them onto a cd and put them away very carefully.


Tennessee Homecoming

What is the magic about Jonesborough, TN on the first week-end of October? That's the week-end of the National Storytelling Festival.

People from all walks of life and all parts of the country - from other countries too - are drawn to Jonesborough because they share a love of stories and storytelling.

And often its to meet up with friends.

Last year Granny Sue and I stopped and hugged and chatted on the street. Jim snapped a picture to remind us of that moment. Granny Sue says she won't make it physically to TN this year but I know she will be there in spirit.

And I will check out the familiar hand painted signs and colorful decorations folks use to spruce things up and welcome everyone

It may be their hometown but folks in Jonesborough share it with us.

They know we feel like we are coming home.


Signs of Autumn

Feels a bit cooler and the leaves are beginning to turn to gold.

Growling school buses lurch down our street so early in the morning.

Pumpkins - round and plump - ready for carving - are appearing in the stores

Halloween sweaters and costumes on the racks and in the windows.

And, I am reading ghost stories - preparing for scary story programs.

Best of all.

Jim and I leave for Jonesborough, TN and the National Storytelling Festival a week from today.


Looking At You

Here's looking at you, kid. collage, 2008


Back to the Real World

One of the great things about spending a week-end at a storytelling festival is that you step off the treadmill and into a wonderful world of stories.

We got home yesterday afternoon - sorry to leave Williamsburg, the storytelling festival and the idyllic week-end.

Coming back to the real world is a jolt.

But stories are still front and center. Today I am taping stories for my TV show and this afternooon will be teaching for Pyramid Atlantic with Adjoa Burrowes. My world is still filled with stories and I love it -

But in real life stories don't happen in a vacuum. There is all the stuff we don't talk about in the stories. You know: reading the pile of accumulated mail, unpacking the suitcases, putting the stuff away, washing your dirty clothes, completing what you didn't do before you left, tieing up loose ends from the trip, running the vacuum and oops - don't forget getting some food in and picking up the dog.

A woman told me once - she was just back from an enviable three week safari in Kenya - that when she gets home from a trip she does not go to bed until she has unpacked and put everything away. I was impressed.

I think of her and she pricks my conscience when I wake up the morning after returning home and see the bags stacked, un-opened at the foot of my bed. Waiting for me.

Why is it that I can pack quickly, and it all fits into the bag. Unpacking takes three times as long and what I put into the bag has multiplied. Not only that - the stuff has to be sorted so I can put it away.

Maybe I will wait until tomorrow.


Stories, Stories, Stories

Too busy listening to post about the Festival from Williamsburg -
Please check back and I will fill you in on the rest of the storytelling festival.


From Williamsburg

Warm and sunny day. Williamsburg looking fine.

Yesterday was the "school" day for the Williamsburg Festival. The tents were filled with school kids laughing and clapping, wiggling and singing. It was great energy. And it fueled the storytellers to better and better.

Bobby Norfolk was a highlight of the day for me.
Norfolk draws the audience into his stories. He tells stories with full body energy and he surprises everyone with the voices and sound effects he creates to bring them to life. Kids love it. Everyone ones it.
Jim and I were surrounded by fourth graders during his set and they were so loving his every word and move and sound. I really enjoyed Norfolk's version of Wiley and the Hairy Man and so did every other person in the tent. He peppered the story with three good jumps and everyone screamed and laughed. He also does a great rant of the Three Billy Goats Gruff.
Last night was a "taste" of all the national tellers. Each one told a fifteen minute story. All were good. Two stood out for me - Waddie Mitchell, the cowboy poet - is a teller I had never heard before and he was really in top form last night telling one funny work and a second that I found surprisingly touching. His delivery was flawless. Donald Davis ended the evening with a lovely story about his father - I have heard the story before but last night it touched me more deeply as I heard the level beneath the laughs. He is an expert at telling a story that plays all the emotional chords.

I am telling today. A half-hour with Art Johnson at mid-day and a ten minute story in the eveing line-up. And, I will MC for Milbre Burch's solo set. Fun Ahead.

On a personal note. Jim and I are staying at the Governor's Inn, one of the older Colonial Williamsburg motels. Its near Bassett Hall - not for walking for me but a short drive. It is set on the "other" side of a railroad track - a heavily trafficed freight track. We have an end unit on the first floor - a real gift - which is maybe 100 to 150 feet from the track. When the train is coming a bell rings and the red and white crossing bars go down. As the train lumbers past our room shakes a bit and fills with the familiar sound of steel wheels on steel tracks.

Do you think I am complaining? Not at all. This is the music of my childhood. I grew up in the Elizabeth section of Charlotte, NC - near Granny and always close to the Pecan Avenue train crossing. This is familiar - makes Williamsburg feel like home.


Off to Williamsburg

Jim and I are driving to Williamsburg this morning for the Williamsburg Storytelling Festival.

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! The stories will soon begin.

We are looking forward to family time.

And to seeing storyteller friends like
Diane Macklin who is also a regional teller this year.

I am really looking forward to telling with Diane in the "Famiily Stories" line up Saturday night.

Today my head is filled with my stories. Like always I am psyched. I am excited . I am nervous.

Jim says, "Relax. Have fun. Your storytelling is best - when you are loving the audience."


I have my camera in my pocket so I will be taking lots of pictures of the festival and no doubt of the town - where the images take you back in time.

History Note:

I was checking something out in Wm. S. Powell's NC history book -then just randomly flipping through. I stopped to read a few paragraphs about how women won the vote in NC.

The upshot of it is - they didn't. They piggy-backed on more enlightened states.

In 1920 when the struggle to ratify the 19th Amendment was going on - state after approved the amendment. The women in NC lobbied and probably begged for their State Legislature to ratify and give them the right to vote but those men refused and disappointed the women of NC. What did they expect - the first time the issue was presented in the NC Legislature it was referred to the Committee for the Insane.

Dispite a petition against it sent to them from NC - Tennessee ratified - giving the margin of states necessary to pass the amendment and change the Constitution. August 26, 1920 - women in the United States were granted the right to vote.

In 1971 North Carolina finally ratified the 19th Amendment.

Hmm. I love my home state but I am not proud of that bit of history.


Ducks in a Row

Might as well admit it. I spend a lot of time trying to "get my ducks in a row."
I was sitting in a meeting.
The woman said:
"I spent my whole life getting my ducks in order - then I found out they weren't MY ducks."
I laughed.
Then I started thinking about it.

Life would be simpler if I remember to make sure the ducks belong to me before I start getting them in order. Hmmmmm.


Political Rant - Be Warned

Nothing like a major shift in centuries - but I can't resist showing you these shoes.
This photo, taken near Norfolk, was mixed in with my Williamsburg photos. Boy is it out of place - stirs things up.
They stir me up enough to tell you what I am thinking. It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me well - and that includes my history as a feminist activist. I have not introduced politics onto this blog - and probably will not again - but I am weakening today.
These shoes make me think of Sarah Palin - I guess because she is on my mind. I have been ranting about her all day. The final straw came when I went in to film my TV show, Stories in Time, and a guy in the studio and I had a charged - civil and friendly but charged- conversation about the current election.
We recognized the vast chasm between us - - in the way we see Palin as a candiate for Vice President of the United States.

He countered - I like her - she is a Hot Chick. He was not kidding or baiting me - that's how he feels.

Do you see that breaking the glass ceiling? I mean that is where women have been through out history. Its the Playboy standard.

I finally asked him. "How old is your daughter?"

"Nine," he says.

" Well every time you look at her ask yourself - how do you want her capabilities to be evaluated - by her boobs or her brains?"
He tossed that aside.

Its not a silly question. Think about it, for your self, your daughters, your grand-daughters, your neices and all those other girls and women who have ideas and ambitions and dreams. Sarah Palin is not there because she worked for it or dreamed it - she is there because some man called her and yanked her onto the stage to help him be President. The scary part is that he is an older and physically vulnerable man - which means she could end up President. Do you sleep well with that idea?

I wish I could be more profound.

I wish I could speak right to the issues - but are we blind? Can't we see what's happening?

The old guy has run in a "hot chick" to help him out.

Oops. Sorry. That was not nice. To speak ill of another woman. I am a feminist. We all think alike and will fall in line behind any woman who is moving up.

Let me tell you something - there is too much at stake - the cost is too high to be nice - and to keep silent. And to vote for an unqualified person - woman or not - for the second highest office in the country.

I would rather have Tina Fey - at least she knows its a joke.


Williamsburg and Family Ties

Thinking about Williamsburg.

We are going on Thursday - - that's five days from now.

I am looking forward to listening to all the stories at the Williamsburg Storytelling Festival - - and to telling stories myself -

and there are other pluses for being in Colonial Williamsburg.

When you step onto the lanes of the old town you step back in time. I love the presence of the history in the buildings,
and the presence of the costumed re-enactors - but most of all the the quiet that prevades a walkable town with no cars.

For the past three years our family has made the Williamsburg Sorytelling Festival a September destination. Our son, his wife and their two daughters, and our Maryland daughter share it with Jim and me. Its great - - and would be even better if our California daughter and her family were here too.

We have a storehouse of family stories
about trips to Colonial Wiliamsburg. Those stories start with the school trips our kids made in the 60s and 70s - a Williamsburg field trip is a highly anticipated part of the Maryland elementary curriculum.

Our memory book includes week-end get-aways with the family as well as Christmas 2005
when our entire family spent Christmas week in Williamsburg to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary.

Yep - its a special place for us. A tourist site that has become more for our family.

When we visit Williamsburg its warm and familiar - it is like sitting around the table at Thanksgiving - pulling out stories - reminding ourselves of some very happy times - feeling the ties that bind us together.


Life is a Verb Interview with Patti Digh

Saluting Patti.

Patti Digh's work on 37 Days has enriched all the folks who follow her blog and join me in celebrating her new book, Life is a Verb. For the book Patti has selected 37 essays from her blog and arranged them in chapters which set a path to living a life with intention. In each chapter you will find questions, prompts and challenges as aids for your life journey.
The book is beautifully complemented with art work from artists around the world and poetry.

Three years ago I stumbled upon 37 Days and reading Patti's essays became an important part of every week for me. I was drawn to her essays by her storytelling and her writing. Then I realized that there was so much more to what she was saying. The way she was observing her life every day and connecting it to a deeper meaning resonated with me and my own work as a storyteller. Absorbing her ideas about commitment to intention has changed my life and enriched my storytelling.

Speaking of storytelling, I am telling stories at the Willliamsburg Storytelling Festival in Williamsburg, VA September 20 and 21. Since the world is driven by serendipity what do you bet there will be other 37 Days followers in the tents.

If you see this and are also at that Festival please tap me on the shoulder. I would like to meet you. And, if you are reading Life is a Verb between story-sets we can take a picture and send it to Patti.

Now to the feature event - the interview with Patti .

Yes, the interview is about Patti's new book, Life is a Verb, however I decided to focus these questions on the author, her intention and process for her writing and to wind up with a question about what's on the horizon for her. I am not surprisesd to find that Patti has a few things brewing.

On YouTube Ira Glass talks about the importance of the moment of reflection to a story - something that gives the anecdote deeper meaning. What’s your feeling about that?
I think he has just described the real meaning and thrust of 37days. It isn’t these stories about my daily life or the trips I’ve taken or the people I’ve been privileged to meet—it’s about sitting back to ponder the meaning of that interchange, the deeper metaphoric meaning to even the smallest of events—and perhaps, if I’ve done a good job in telling the story and delving into that metaphor—the deeper meaning for other people too.

I consciously end each essay with a challenge because 37days was intended to be an instruction manual for living for my two girls. Those challenges open up the path for readers to apply the lesson I’ve gained from each story to their own lives. Or at least that’s my hope.

Ellouise: Which essay touches you most deeply?
Patti: It’s hard to pick one, I must admit. There are some that were more difficult to write—“Unpack your bags” is an example of that. Some are examples of very big “a-ha’s” in my life, like “Say hi to Yaron” and “Burn your jeans.” All are such a part of my life and touch me for very different reasons.
Ellouise: Why or how did you choose blogging as the form for writing your legacy for your daughters?

Patti: I started writing an essay each Monday in a Word document, then emailing it out. On January 3, 2005, I sent the first one to 12 friends and said I’d be doing one every Monday if they wanted to receive it. It was a way of holding myself accountable for actually doing it. They all said yes, then evidently sent the essays to others, who sent them to others, until after just a few months I had over 15,000 readers who requested to be on the email list. It got to be too much for me to handle and I thought posting to a blog would be an easier alternative! So, it was a decision solely based on my lack of technical knowledge about how to maintain such a big mailing list!
Ellouise: Is there anything about your blog writing process that you don’t think people understand or do you have a suggestion for other bloggers to improve their blog writing?

Patti: Because I didn’t see myself as a blogger, really, I didn’t pay attention to any of the “rules of thumb” about the length of blog posts or how many times you should post to build a readership. If I had paid attention, 37days would look and feel quite different.

For the first two years, I religiously followed a particular formula, one that defied the “short is better” and “post often” rules. My essays were stories, not posts, and they were usually 1,500 to 2,000 words, not 350-500 words. So the people who started reading 37days were an unusual bunch to stick around through such long essays! I posted only once a week, on Mondays, so there wasn’t a lot of action on the blog, either. But that gave me a whole week to really hone each essay and make it writerly and beautiful, as opposed to quick.

I’m not sure that my formula is right for everyone, but that’s what I did—and what I want to get back to.

Ellouise: At what point did you realize your blog writings were a book?

Patti: I actually wasn’t the person who figured that out! A woman named Nikki Hardin contacted me after reading 37days for a while and asked if she could reprint one of the essays in her magazine. Nikki is the editor of Skirt! magazine, based in Charleston and printed in cities across the U.S.

After printing a few stories in Skirt!, she asked if I would be interested in publishing a book based on 37days for the new Skirt! Books imprint being started by Globe Pequot Press. So it was Nikki who first saw the inklings of a book in the pages of the blog, not me!
Ellouise: What has this three years taught you about your self that was most unexpected?

Patti: Without a doubt, this is my biggest learning: The power of a single intention.

I didn’t start writing 37days to get a lot of readers or to publish a book. I didn’t start writing the blog to win awards or get speaking engagements or be among the “cool” blogger set. I started writing it with a deep sense of urgency to capture my stories for my daughters.

My business partner, David, is a theater director. One of the first things he teaches young actors is that you can’t play two intentions at the same time on stage. I think the same is true in life.

If I had been writing to gain an audience, I don’t think the blog would have had the same intensity and clarity of purpose. I would have been working from split intentions. I had a longing to say something, not a longing to “build brand” or “build a readership” or all the buzz words that people use when talking about blogs. I needed to say something—and the gifts that have come back to me because of that single intention have been overwhelming. Not in terms of
material things at all (think: starving artist), but in terms of relationships and connections with extraordinary people all over the world, telling me their stories, connecting with me in ways I never knew possible.Ellouise: What’s next for you - any projects you can talk about?

Patti: I’m finalizing a proposal for a follow-up book to LIFE IS A VERB—another 37 essays about living more mindfully—and am open to suggestions on a great title!

I’m also working with my business and creative partner, David Robinson, on two book projects—one, an application of LIFE IS A VERB to the business world, tentatively entitled, “TOAST RULES: Fifty Ways to Burn Yourself and Your Company.” The other is a children’s book called “Kichom and Fucchi: Wisdom Tales from the Smallest of Teachers,” based on a story told me by my friend Kichom from Tokyo about a small bug from whom he learned big lessons.

David and I—along with my husband, John Ptak—are also working on a symphonic project that will combine music, narrative, and art to explore what it is to be “removed” from your place on the earth—like the Cherokee who marched on the Trail of Tears, or the Japanese who were sent away to camps in the desert, or the victims of Hurricane Katrina. It is called “The Taken,” and should premiere with the Portland Symphony Orchestra in 2010.

Post Script:Last week I sent Patti an email which I think belongs with this post.

We were talking about books which have changed your life. The first one I mentioned to her was a book that set my intention so far as a lot of my storytelling goes.

"The second was the 37 days blog - three years ago - your search on 37 Days touched me as few things have - spoke to something I needed to look at - and along the way helped me to really be present with my mother in her illness, dying and death. Particularly the tender and loving posts about your young friend, Meta, and her mother when both died."

I expect that Life is a Verb is going to be a similar companion to people - open them to the richness and gifts of living with intention in the everyday. It is a book that will change lives.

Thanks, Patti.


Thinking About Next Week

Thinking about my calendar and all the good things coming up.

TOMORROW I will post the Life is a Verb interview with Patti Digh.

Only six more days til I leave for the Williamsburg Storytelling Festival.

Thinking about what stories I might tell.
And about seeing friends.

Seeing friends like storyteller Diane Macklin. Diane and I met a few years back when we told together with a small group of tellers, In Our Own Voices, in Washington, DC. We told stories together at the Art Barn, Rock Creek Park, local churches and art galleries. I enjoyed telling with her again last June at the Washington Folklore Festival at Glen Echo Park, MD. She is a terrific teller who reaches out and draws the audience into her stories and touches their hearts.

And Rich Knoblich. Rich and I told stories together last October at the Autumn Glory Tall Tales Festival in Oakland, MD. He writes and tells very funny stories. Our family discovered his stories at the West Virginia Storytelling Festival, could it be nine years ago, and we still laugh when we talk about his Viking Funeral story.

Milbre Burch is a headliner for this festival. This is a woman who can tell a story and give it a very special touch. She led me to storytelling and I don't even know her. More than ten years ago I heard Milbre Burch tell stories at the Washington Storytellers Theater. It was serendipty that Jim and I were even in the audience. She told a very moving story about her father. An epiphany. I squeezed Jim's arm. "I am doing that," I said.

Her story showed me the way that I could and would use to tell family stories so that my target audience, our adult children, would listen to the begats and family history I was finding through genealogy. It worked. I tell people I came to storytelling as a subversive activity. And found myself in stories and storytelling.

The Silver Screen
Movies from the 1930s are always a big draw for me.
Last night I watched a 1935 black and white movie on TCM - I forget the title - with Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler. It is a charming film with music and a predictable plot. Ruby Keeler wore lovely flowing dresses which draped so beautifully on her body and Powell was sweetly handsome . Do you remember his romantic songs and her snappy tap dancing. There is such an innocence and freshness in the characters that they are appealing even when they are sappy. The steadiness of the father - played by the same man who always played Judge Hardy in the Andy Hardy movie is reassuring. And, I don't know about you, but I really appreciate the flickering "silver screen" of black and white movies.

Mama was a senior at Charlotte Central High School when this movie came out. She probably saw it at the grand Carolina Theater on Tryon Street. I feel safe in saying she saw it because she told me Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell were two of her favorite stars. Do you suppose she and her friends danced down the stairs from the balcony after the film was over? There was a bunch of other stuff I should have been doing but I am glad I stopped and watched the movie.


Seven Days Until Williamsburg

This afternoon I was talking with Robin and she asked me, " When do you go to Williamsburg?" I looked at the calendar. My head snapped back, my heart jumped a beat

" Next Thursday.
That's seven days.
Seven days until we leave for Williamsburg."

The tents will be up on the greens behind Basset Hall just a few blocks from the main street of Colonial Williamsburg.

This will be our fourth year attending the Williamsburg Storytelling Festival.

Donald Davis will be returning to tell
his wonderful stories along with seven over national storytellers. (see website)
Milbre Burch, Gayle Ross, Valierie Tutson, Bobby Norfolk, Susan Klein, Syd Lieberman, and Waddie Mitchell.

This year the storyteller line-up also includes four regional tellers and four Colonial Willimasburg tellers. (see website)

I am happy to be invited as a regional teller and to be a part of this festival which is special for the storytelling programs and for its setting.

On Saturday September 20 (12:30 pm - 1:30 pm) I am paired with the marvelous, Colonial Williamsburg storyteller, Art Johnson, for an hour of stories - each of us telling for thirty minutes. I have heard him tell stories a number of times and really admire his work and enjoy his stories. Will be great to work with him.

Saturday evening I will be part of the "Family Stories" line-up which features Susan Klein, Tracey Turner, Sharon Rogers, Waddie Mitchell, Diane Macklin and Bobbie Norfolk.

Sunday, September 21, The four regional tellers, Rich Knoblich, Diane Macklin, Kim Weitkamp and Ellouise Schoettler, will tell stories together between 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.

And lets not forget - listening to all those great stories in-between. What a week-end.

Seven days until Williamsburg.

Any chance any of you will be there?. if you are - please tap me on the shoulder - I would love to see you.


No Magic in Colorful Boots

you wear
colorful boots
to slog through muck

its still

comes in waves
out of no where
washing over me

remember the joy
of splashing
in puddles

slapping slapping slapping

small feet
stirring up
noisy waves

big feet
should make huge waves

but the water is too heavy

it won't move

even colorful boots


I collect images of shoes. This morning I played with this picture of boots thinking I would post a happy image and give my grieving a rest. Out popped this poem. Nutty as it is - my connecting things - its what I do and it helps me.

The boots are a photo I took yesterday when I went to Pyramid Atlantic to meet with Adjoa about our new class. I love Gretchen's collection of boots that the artists wear when they are making paper and sloshing across the wet floors in the paper mill. It was a good time. I felt happy - looking forward to the class - its challenging and we expect to work with a highly motivated group of middle school students twice a week until December. All is good.

On the way home I called Robin. She was at lunch with her friend Kay so we could not talk. I know. I know. I should not be driving and talking on the phone. Old habits die hard.

Holding the phone - my new burgundy cell phone - I thought of Mama. I often called her from the car - a quick hello on the way home. And it swept over me.

I can't call Mama.

My primary contact with my mother for the past 53 years has been the telephone. I can't call her. Missing her washed over me. I started crying - not a great thing in Washington, DC rush hour traffic.

To heck with it. I called Betsy in PA. She answered.

"Betsy, I can't call Mama."

" Oh, God, you're there!"

" What will I do?"

" Feel it. That's what you need to do. It will pass off - for now."

We talked. It got a bit better. For now.

" I am glad you called me, Ellouise."

I wrote to someone recently - friends are the glue that holds us together.


September 14 - Life is a Verb Interview Here

Have you wondered what the Life is a Verb Blog Roll sticker on my blog is all about?

Life is a Verb, the new book by Patti Digh, was released September 2. As part of the launch a group of blogs are publishing interviews with Patti. I am delighted to be one of them and will post our exchange HERE on September 14.

Initially I planned to interview Patti by phone but the evening we had scheduled our talk I was in the car racing to NC. So we went to Plan B. I sent her questions about the book, her process and her future plans from my cell phone and she responded several days later. I do love technology.

Based on Patti's question - what would you do if you had 37 Days to live - - this book is a collection of meaningingful essays from her blog 37 Days enriched with questions and challenges. Its a powerful tool to help someone work out their way for living with intention.

Almost three years ago I discovered Patti and her blog and felt touched by and connected to her writing and her life-view. Reading 37 Days became an important part of my week. Jim and I attended her first Life is a Verb retreat in Asheville, NC. It was a great week-end and I can tell you Life is a Verb is a work by a woman of depth, sensitivity, warmth and strength.

I am very proud to have these two pieces of my art work in the book.


Counting My Blessings

Mama used to say - "if Ellouise answers the phone, there could be blood on the floor and she will tell you everything is fine."

My cousin Jim called, "How are you Ellouise? I am worried about you."
"I am fine." I assured him.

Ok. So I am not fine - but I am starting to pick up pieces I dropped when my sister Dena called and said that Mama was "going" and Jim and I rushed to NC. You know the story from there.

I am counting my blessings.

While the sky was falling some good things have been happening:

My two new cds arrived.

Second Hand Rose - original and family stories.

The jacket reads - a southern storyteller weaves tales of second hand clothes, intriguing thrift shops, sibling rivalry, revenge, quilts, and mother-love in a salute to family ties.

The stories were recorded in performance at Strathmore Hall Arts Center, April 2007

Vigilanteoff-beat original stories written and told by E.S.

Recorded LIVE at Speakeasydc, Washington, DC
2005 - 2008
They will be on sale at Williamsburg Storytelling
Festival - and ofcourse I have them.
Directly from me - you save $2.00
$13.00 plus a $3.00 handling fee.

The prospect of telling stories at the Williamsburg Storytelling Festival is really exciting. I am grateful for the opportunity, the pressure and the focus right now. Especially with suc a terrific line-up of feature-tellers and working with three friends in the regional line-up - Rich Knoblich, Diane Macklin, and Kim Weitkamp.

Starting next week I wll be team teaching with artist/author Adjoa Burrowes
on a new ten week workshop at Pyramid Atlantic.
We had a good time last year and the kids were fun. I am looking forward to it. And very grateful to WORK!

And to take time to eat.

Jim and I shared my favorite sandwich - lox and cream cheese with onions and tomato on an onion bagel - yesterday at Einsteins. Can't you taste it?

And very grateful to have the blessing of an irrepressible friend who helps me to switch my paradigms.

Holly wrote:
I am so happy for you that you had your mother in your life for so long - and that you got to be there with her to wish her BON VOYAGE.



Mama Makes a New Story

After Daddy died Mama was so overwhelmed with grief that we wondered how she would remake a life without him. Then an "angel" entered the scene. Father Paul Gary came to St. Patrick's and he reached out to Mama - asking her to become an active volunteer - as Sacristan at the noon daily Mass and to work in the office.

Again she was wanted, expected, needed. She bloomed as a member of the "amazing grays."

Mama and Father Gary continued their friendship even after she moved to Concord Place some 25 miles away. He and another member of St. Patricks visited her shortly before she died.

Father Gary spoke of his last visit with her during his Homily at her funeral Mass. He recounted the story Mama told him of how she met Daddy at St. Patrick's Cathedral and fell in love with him there. It was a beautiful story, very touching and sweet - exactly the way Mama would have wanted it. Except for one thing - it was a fantasy - another of the stories she created during the last months of her life.
Complete storyteller truth.

I loved it! Brava, Mama! Tell it like you wanted it to be.

Driving home I called Mama's sister. I told the new story to her. She was quiet. I could almost hear the puzzled look on her face. " Ellouise, that's not how I remember it."

"I know Punny. That's not how it happened. Mama rewrote the story."

This is the way Mama told the story to me - many times.

Her friend Louise Bouvey
introduced them on a blind date. Daddy was so good-looking that Mama was smitten right away but when he called for a second date she turned him down - playing a bit hard-to-get. Her tactic worked. He called back and she agreed to go out with him.

Several months later they eloped to York SC. Morgan Heath and his wife Ruby drove them down to York and stood up with them.

Punny spoke up. "I remember that night (Punny was about 9 years old). Robert and your mother came back to the house about nine p.m. to tell Mother and Daddy. Louie told Daddy first. And when she told Mother - it was a shock - but Mother's first response was -

Louie you have married into a staunch Catholic family and the first thing you two have to do is go to St. Peter's and make things right with the Catholic Church." (Mama was a Methodist. Granny had worked with Daddy's great-aunt Annie Grose and knew the family and their connection to the Church.)

First they were married in June by the Justice of the Peace in York, SC then they were married in the front room of the rectory at St. Peter's on July 6,1935. That same rectory still stands next to St. Peter's on Tryon Street.

Punny added. "And poor Robert was really frustrated because your mother would not live with him until they were married in the Catholic Church."

This is Mama's favorite picture of them - it was taken at Wrightsville Beach, NC in late August, 1936 - six weeks after I was born.

One of the first lessons I learned when I began working with genealogy was - don't believe the first version of a story and try to talk to an eye-witness if its possible.

I guess another thing to add is to watch out for storytellers.