Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Month of Story

I just returned from a full weekend at the SE Womens Herbal Conference at Camp Rockmont in Swannanoa, in the mountains of Western North Carolina.  Swannanoa... what a beautiful word!  It conjures peace and light to me.

I met Ramona Moore Big Eagle there, and she offered a session entitled Finding Your Story.  While I am a writer with lots of stories, I love to listen to and learn from others.  Ramona is a tall, graceful, powerful Legend Keeper, a storyteller of the Tuscarora Tribe, with dancing eyes and a welcoming, open countenance.  Everyone in our group of at least 60 ended up telling two stories about ourselves to someone in the group we didn't know.  We were all energized and excited about our adept ability to tell stories, even though that's what women do... we are all storytellers.  It's our legacy, and our universal way of teaching and leading.

After returning home, I read an article in Waverly Fitzgerald's October Living in Season e-zine where she writes about Curating Her Life.  There's a lot in that issue.  Waverly points out that October is a month of memories, stories, and ancestors.  So I have decided to do one of the things I love best (but seem to let slip to the end of my "to do" list) and write one story a day this month about memories and ancestors to honor this time of year.  All Hallow's Eve (or Samhain) is traditionally the time of honoring the dead, being thankful for our harvests, and slowing down in the cold and darkness, returning to the cave and the fire, and telling our stories.  So I will honor that ancient tradition.

Memories abound with my participating in a recent Small Book Exchange through Asheville BookWorks.  Memory Palaces was the theme, and each of the 15 participating artists interpreted that in her/his own way to create a rich cornucopia of miniature book art.  My book, entitled Rooms with a Clue, traced my connection to and passion for art and creative expression throughout my life (so far).

It all started with my Gaga's button box, and continues through many wonderful memories of art created with my hands and heart.  One of my very favorite memories as a very little girl was sitting at our kid's card table (just the right height for littles) in our pine-paneled den with my Mama.  She and I drew and traced pencil marks all over a page from the newspaper, making swirls and circles and intersecting curved lines over that generous expanse of newsprint.  Once we were finished drawing, we found shapes that reminded us of fruits and vegetables and colored them as such with our crayons.  I remember watching her color a green pear, wishing I could color as beautifully and regularly as she did, and also relishing the time we were spending together.  It was so lovely, nurturing, and just plain FUN!

My Mama was a fun lady who loved to laugh and put others at ease.  She was a Libra, and it showed; everything was about balance to her: relationships, bank accounts, give and take. People were the most important thing to her; she was the essential extrovert.   And she loved creating, too.  A needleworker (I still sleep under afghans she crocheted and have sweaters she knitted) she taught me to embroidery, knit, and sew as a girl.  I grew up surrounded by lace tablecloths, bedspreads, and handmade baby clothes which adorn my home today.  Holidays brought out major efforts in decorating:  the tabletop decorative Christmas tree she created with hundreds of hand-wound roses made of dark red crepe paper strips and attached to a cardboard cone that fit over a small table lamp so you could see a little bit of light every now and then through the roses.  And then there was the time that she created two huge (well, probably 3 feet tall) styrofoam bells shapes that she covered with hand-cut green felt leaves for props for one of our annual Christmas cards that showed how much my brother Fred (11 months older than I) and I were growing.  It was the 50s; the debut of the picture Christmas card.

She had a beautiful handwriting and always tried to write in green (she had a fountain pen she used all the time that only held green ink) because it was her favorite color.  Today, it is also mine.  Whenever I would ask her for her autograph in one of my autograph books (another 50s fad) or school annual, she would pen, "To my understudy."  And while I understand that now, it didn't satisfy my youthful daughter's need for superlatives about who I was... at least I didn't think so at the time.  Today, I am proud to be her understudy, to continue the creative self-expression that she nurtured in me, and to quote her wonderful, unique sayings.  Of course, we've all heard "This too shall pass" which was NEVER comforting when you heard it, but which I have said to my children as well.  My favorite saying of my wise mama is, "The sun don't shine on the same dog's ass all the time."  Now we call it Karma, but we didn't know that term back then.  Course, with her Charleston Geechee accent, it sounded more like "De sun don' shine on de same dog's ass all de time."  I can enunciate it exactly as she did.

I hope you take the time to savor a great story today.


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