The weather was wonderfully cooperative for both the Central Illinois St. Andrews' Highland Games (http://www.central-illinois-standrewsociety.com/), and for Clayville's Spring Festival (http://www.clayville.org).
On Saturday I spent the morning at the Highland Games' Heritage Tent. They had an very nice set up, with banks of computers for individuals to research Ancestry.com. Along with this attraction, author, Wendy Wilson (http://wendywilsonbook.com/), was signing her book, A Touch of Irish, and there was a talk by Tara McClellan McAndrew (author of Stories of Springfield) on, "The Irish in Springfield, Il." She is at
Ms. McAndrew's talk was very interesting, and Ms. Wilson's puppy, Zero, was quite the hit with everyone.
The high point for me was when one young lady, and later her older brother, came to listen to tales. The young lady was probably about 13 or 14, and so for the first round I told, "Tam Lin," and later, when she and her brother came back, I told "The Selkie Bride," and "The Elderly Seal." It is always lovely when teenagers, and young adults, take a interesting in storytelling.
Sunday saw me out at Clayville, and after finding a nice, shady, tree to place my chair I settled to tell tales (and occasionally have saltine crackers with homemade butter).
The 114th Cavalry was in fine form with their western skirmishes, and there was a steady crowd. My tree was right by the main route so I was able to tell my stories to people passing by. I often invited them to come, "Share my shade, the breeze, and a tale."
I wish I had had more time to explore as I could hear the drums of the Native dancers, and caught a glimpse of the array of vendors. But by the time I was through I was just warm enough to be ready to pack up and held for some dinner.
There are a lot of themes wandering through this Story Musing. Over the last couple of weeks I have walked through historical exhibits, and have spoken with individuals about slavery in the 21st century. And across it all runs the theme of stories.
A few weeks back I attended, with some friends, the opening of At Home In the Heartland exhibit (http://www.museum.state.il.us/exhibitions/) at the Illinois State Museum. It is a beautiful exhibit of quilts and clothing, artifacts, and letters from the Civil War era. The note cards for each item tell snippets about the women who sought to support their loved ones, and a greater war effort. Taken all together they form a tapestry, or a quilt, in their own right.
This was followed by a tour of the Illinois Military Museum (http://www.il.ngb.army.mil/museum/)by the Sangamon Historical Society (http://sangamonhistory.org/). We were privileged to have a private, evening, tour. The Military Museum is one of Springfield's rare gems of a museum, which not only recognizes the sacrifices of past warriors, but of those who have given their lives in current conflicts. On the first floor is a tribute to Illinois soldiers, and a very personal one for local Guards men and women.
The director asked us to remember that, "Everything in the museum once belonged to a living soldier."
This week offered the Illinois Historical Society's (http://www.historyillinois.org/) symposium on the Emancipation Proclamation out at the University of Illinois - Springfield. Many of the panels were interesting, but the most powerful was the one entitled, "Historians Against Slavery."
I was able to attend the first part of this, and was able to learn of a student organization, named, "Western Against Slavery." (http://www.wiu.edu/news/newsrelease.php?release_id=10060). This is a multi-disciplinary group that is endeavoring to educate the public about the very real issue of human trafficking, which is a global problem.
I ended the week with a meeting with the director of Unity 4 Christ, which is a organization focused on helping unwed mothers. The stories I heard that afternoon were both sad and hopeful. Both the director, and her young charges, are all working toward shaping something better.
And while the director was happy to have me offer storytelling there was the unspoken question, "Why do you want to? What is your reason for volunteering this?"
She had offered me honesty, and honesty is something I returned.
Storytelling is a talent that was gifted to me; along with a secure and loving childhood. I had parents that not only gave me that safe life, but also helped mentor others. And who listened to those who came with troubles.
If I can return a little of those blessings to others than it is definitely a life worth lived.
Storytelling may be a business that I want to be in, but that doesn't mean that if I can't offer it as a gift when needed.
The last few weeks have been one of launching new projects, with the main one being my new site - Tales of Sangamon (http://www.talesofsangamon).
I am hoping that with the site I can gather some of the stray stories and legends that exist in Sangamon County, and in the surrounding area. Over the years I have been given enough hints, via fragments of stories, to bolster my belief that others might be out there.
The more I read the more I believe that the stories traveled through Illinois at some point. Just recently I have been reading Leonard Roberts' books, South from Hell-fer-Sartin and Old Greasybeard: Tales From the Cumberland Gap. One of the tales in the later book is, "The Man and the Devil's Daughter" is very similar to a story I found in one of Vance Randolph's books on Missouri Folklore. In both cases the story is a wonder tale about a traveler (of farmboy in the case of the Missouri folktale) who goes to work for a rich man, who turns out to be the Devil. The daughter takes a shine to the worker, and by magical means helps him complete 3 impossible tasks. She then flees with her boyfriend, and once safely away from her Pa she renounces her magical heritage to live a normal life.
As always there are hints.
Other projects that I have on the list include voice lessons, teaching myself Excell, and the rather bemusing occupation of rebuilding a lamp.
(Its my favorite reading lamp, which is attached to a table, so I hate to get a new one.)
As to the voice lessons I am hoping my instructor survives with some patience intact. She has some hope of disproving the belief that I am tone deaf, and so we are struggling to get me on the proper key. Granted, I have no belief that I will become a singer, but it is something new and interesting to learn, and hopefully will add to my vocal strength.
Though a touch warm today I doubt that any could complain of such a lovely day, and the retirement village I was telling at today is a well-planned, attractive, locale.
The residents were gathering in the dining room, which is a spacious community room, with good acoustics. And I actually had a decent turn out - considering there was a Cardinal game.
Once everyone was settled in I began my half hour program; telling such tales as: "The King's Rice Pudding," "The Twelve Months," "Tamlin," "The Stolen Bairn," "The Pedlar of Swaffham," and "Jack and the Friendly Animals."
At the end of the program many of the residents asked if would come back, and one said that while I was telling my stories you could hear a pin drop.
All in all it made for a very pleasant day.
I am a Springfield, IL based storyteller with a fascination for how folklore travels, and for history.