I went in an adult. I cringed at the prices, and raised an eyebrow at the stone and foliage-covered facade at the state fairgrounds. But I was urged on by a child - one that is at the core of our lives. That child in me wanted to see DINOSAURS; I could almost feel that hard green plastic brontosaurus back in hand.
The adult was back in the fore when I went in, and was faced with the very hokey mannequin in front of explorer's fire.
But the money was paid, and I went on.
Yes, the dinosaurs were nearly life-sized and moved - kind of.
They were in sets, with some that could be touched, mostly all with chipped paint and ill-fitting tails. And the adult began whispering things about, "A sucker born ..." Though I was honest - that included me since I had paid the money, But there I was, and with a bit of a goal, which was to test out my USB video camera. Yet as I wandered about - between roaring monsters - I watched the families too. Babes looked in awe - or terror - from their strollers, as did the toddlers. Slightly older children were torn between hesitancy and wonder as they reached out to touch the models.
And the green plastic brontosaurus became a phantom in my hand again.
A reminder that awe-filled imagination overlooks the imperfections; that the exhibits were somewhat like Plato's Shadows. The dinosaurs in the exhibits became the back drop, and the base, of dreams.
Maybe I need to find another green plastic brontosaurus to periodically remind my adult that there are times when the paint chips, and ill-fitting tails, are the illusions.
I had the privilege of performing for the Lincoln's Tomb, "Spirits of the Civil War" last Saturday.
While the day was hot it was lovely, particularly under a shady tree not far from Lincoln's Tomb. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to hear Tom Emery's talk "Eddy: Lincoln's Forgotten Son," on Edward Baker Lincoln, but I was able to enjoy Mr. Andrew Bowman's and Mr. Khabir Shareef's performances. Mr. Bowman protrayed his grandfather, Color Sgt. Andrew Jackson Smith, who received a posthumous Medal of Honor in 2001. And Mr. Shareef protrayed Maj. Martin Delaney, who was one of the few African American officers in the Civil War.
These gentlemen are with the Storyteller's Drum, and their performances are well worth seeing.
My own performance was last, and I will admit I wished I had used the offer of a mic. My sinuses were playing havoc with my voice towards the end of the show. But, as they say, a "learning experience."
My show revolved around the experiences of immigrants coming to Sangamon County.
What I decided to focus on was the influence that travel logs, memoirs, and in particular, personal letters played in influencing the decision to immigrate. While my sources were limited to books that had been reprinted, A True Picture of A Immigrant, and Eight Months In Illinois, both being for English immigrants, I was able to give some insight into what most immigrants faced. The books, and Eliza Flowers' letters to her nephew, offered good windows into the challenges and hazards faced - from the time they went to port - to arrival in Illinois.
One story I would like to pursue further was of Mary Nagle, later wife of John Burkhardt, who sailed from Bavaria in 1841, aboard the Oceania. The ship wrecked off the coast of Jamaica, and Mary didn't arrive in St. Louis until 1842, when she learned her father had died. I found reference to her in the Unigraph edition of The History of Sangamon County.
There was a fine attendance for all performers, despite the heat, and I was sorry when it was all over. But am definitely looking forward to the full evening of history, "The Fiery Trial: Civil War Stories by Candlelight."
This is a new blog series that focuses on life stories that have caught my attention. With some being better known than others.
The thread of this series began when Amazon offered up one of their "Recommendations," which was Steve Blamires, The Chronicles of the Sidhe. I am always interested in new books about fairy folklore, and decided to look at the review. It turned out to be intriguing in that Mr. Blamires offered the theory that the biographer/poet, William Sharp, was possessed by a Fairy spirit, who had taken on the name Fiona McLeod. And through her abilities wrote volumes of powerful poetry.
NowI wasn't too sure about the theory, but I was intrigued by William Sharp's story, because it was a fact that he did write poetry (some said it was better than his own) under the name Fiona McLeod. He also carried on quite a elaborate plan, for many years, to make her seem to be real individual.
Mr. Blamires also wrote one of the few biographies on William Sharp, entitled, The Little Book of Great Enchantment, which is a more standard biography. What also makes William Sharp's life interesting is that his life overlapped so many other fascinating people - Y. B. Yeats, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Wellesley Tudor Pole (via Glastonbury and the blue chalice).
While I don't subscribe to Mr. Blamires' theory of fairy possession I will admit that William's Sharp early death did remind me of the legend of the Leanan sídhe. The Leanan Sidhe being a fairy lover/muse who inspired their chosen lover to great heights of artistic fame - before cutting their lives short.
Be that as it may, the books on William Sharp brought to my attention other life stories I wanted to follow, and I will write more about these later.
I am including some links to Fiona MacLeod's poetry:
Yesterday was the Forever Home Feline Ranch's Open House, which I was definitely looking forward to. So I dutifully checked the address, checked Google, and wrote down all needed phone numbers. All of this was needed, because the truth is that I can get lost in a brown paper bag.
And off I headed for Rochester, Il.
While a hot day it was also a lovely day, and made for a pleasant drive. I made it to the older part of Rochester, and realized I may have not written the directions correctly. And the phone numbers were going to voice mail. So....
I logically stopped in one little store, Dollars and Cents, which is a lovely coin shop located, appropriately, in a 19th century bank. They weren't sure where Hobbs Road was, and sent me to the antique store.
A very gracious lady, who unfortunately wasn't from Rochester, sent me to the quilt shop next door, and they sent me to the vet's office. They, mercifully, were able to give me directions. Nor could I really complain about my little side trip through Rochester, since I learned of many interesting new places to explore.
Some further driving took me out to Buckheart, IL, and down a couple of country roads to the Forever Home Feline Ranch.
A breeze had kicked up, which made the day more pleasant, and I was situated under a large shade tree - all the better to appreciate said breeze. I had also brought one of my Folkmanis kitten puppets with me, a little ginger one, and as planned, it helped as an attention-getter. As individuals finished tours of the ranch, or finished with the games, they would come over to hear a story or two.
Popular tales of the day were "Jack and the Friendly Animals," and "Dick Whittengton and His Cat." Later I was able to go visit with the three ranch donkeys, and to try and get some photos of the ranch.
The donkeys, it is hoped, will one day be able to live at the Ranch, since they will help protect the farm against coyotes. To do this, however, ranch will need the funds to repair the barn. As I came over to their pen the donkeys vied for attention, but when I stepped back to get a picture - all three turned their tails to me. I guess they had had enough of that for the day.
The Ranch is neatly organized, and has lovely grounds. There are four small houses; three of which are homes for the cats; with two of the houses dedicated to cats who have transmittable diseases.
Mr Hugh Moore was there to perform his music, though I didn't get a chance to go over and hear him.
As the breeze began to blow harder it became apparent that rain was probably headed our way, and slightly before 3 pm folks began to pack up. However, that was at the end of successful day, since there had been a good number of visitors. Hopefully many will become volunteers for the ranch, or, at least, adopt one of the cats.
Sometime this evening I will get what pictures I have up. I won't swear to my photographic skills, but hopefully they will give some idea of the ranch.
While I have been pursuing a social media strategy for my storytelling business for a while I never quite dreamed I would be creating a new division for it.
What sparked the move, though, was hearing so many business people say, "I know I need to do social media consistently, but I don't have time"
And I know from owning White Fox Productions, Ltd. that the social media packages are usually beyond the means of a small business.
So White Fox Productions, Ltd, and its resident storyteller, are bravely launching White Fox Social Media (http://www.whitefoxsocialmedia.com). All in an endeavor to help my fellow small business owners get there story to their customers.
Finally I have sometime to sit down and consider a few conversations I have had recently.
Back in mid-May I attended LLCC's "Welcome Visitors," which was the lead off to Community Learning's intensive Interpreter training week. (http://www.llcc.edu/commed/CommunityLearning/tabid/989/Default.aspx) The evening was very interesting, and the speakers discussed the role in customer service at historical sites. I wish I could have participated in the whole week of classes, but that weekend was already booked.
This was followed by Clayville's Spring Festival (http://www.clayville.org), and conversations with many of the volunteers about what all had needed to be done to prepare for the festival.
I had had a little sample of the preparation, since I had been out that week to help dust, and I have to salute all of those who had been at it continually.
All of this is on top of keeping the site open weekly, and for private functions, such as weddings.
Later, thinking over the week, I considered how fragile the support is for many of our historical sites, since so many of the volunteers are retired individuals; many of whom are elderly. The main thing driving them is their great love of history, and their particular site.
It's not just Clayville that faces this, but many of the smaller sites, where the main bulk of their volunteers are in their later years. And the work they do isn't just talking to people and taking them on tours - it can require cleaning and some heavy work.
Now I'll grant that for Clayville's many festivals there is help of all ages, but the normal, weekly, part falls to just a few people.
What happens when they can't do it anymore?
Who will step in?
Places such as Clayville, the Elijah Iles House, and the Grand Army of the Republic - to name a few - are staffed by dedicated people, but the demands can be hard. These individuals strive daily to see the stories of these places told, and that the sites live on for other generations to know where history happened.
It also made me wonder if we couldn't create a youth volunteer program for historic sites, such as what is done with the Henson Robinson Zoo (http://www.hensonrobinsonzoo.org/page.php?8) and Lincoln Memorial Gardens (http://www.lincolnmemorialgarden.org/programsatthegarden.html)? Maybe there is one. Hopefully there is. And if not, one should be created as we need one to train future custodians of these sites.
But foremost, I offer a challenge - take some time this summer to help at a historic site. They need people to help keep them clean and ready for visitors.
And to preserve the property.
Plus you are helping the city by showing our many attractions in their best light to visitors.
Story Musings - Of Foxes And Such
Recently I've noted that a lot of folks are searching for white fox folklore, and realized I didn't have much to offer on the site. Which seemed a shame since my website is White Fox Stories, and I do love foxes.
So a little web searching allowed me to discover a nice retelling of "The White Fox Wedding" from Tales of Old Japan.
The web site is - http://www.sarudama.com/japanese_folklore/whitefoxwedding.shtml
Along with that I have added a Fox Bibliography to the site.
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.
To set the stage - I had a booth at the Pet Expo, which was held last Saturday to raise money for the Animal Protective League (http://www.apl-shelter.org/). This was a joint effort with the APL and Mid-West Family Broadcasting (http://www.alice.fm/). The Expo was held in the Exposition Building on the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
The whole thing was very well organized (if chilly), and hosted not only animal-oriented vendors, but a whole floor of adoptable pets. It was also an opportunity for whole families to come - this included their four-legged family members.
As mentioned, the vendors were mainly animal-oriented, which led to a polite quip, made by one attendee, of, "I'm sure pets really enjoy stories."
Which led to a nice discussion on the uses of storytelling; along with the fact that I was more than happy that the booth fee helped out the APL.
More importantly it allowed me to gather several concepts together in my explanation. The main one being that storytelling helps build empathy - whether for animal or human.
Of course there are many stories told from animals' point of view, and then there are others where animals are helpers. This later theme runs through many cultures' folklore, particularly with the hero or heroine proving their worth by their kindness to animals, or the elderly.
A good example of this type of story is the Grimm's Fairy Tale, "The Queen Bee." (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2591/2591-h/2591-h.htm#link2H_4_0040).
The basics of this story go along this line....
Once there was a king who had three sons, with the youngest being rather weakly, and the king sends out the elder two sons to seek their fortune. Finally he allows the youngest to go after them, which does not please the older two boys.
Along the way the youngest is able to protect an ant hill, a bee hive, and a flock of ducks from his brothers. In turn the ants, the bees, and the ducks aid the youngest when he is given three tasks, which he must complete in order to keep from being turned to stone like his brothers. And thanks to the insects and ducks the youngest not only saves his brothers, but wins them all brides.
Within the fluidity of the old tales animal, plant, and human flow between one another - with all being worthy of kindness. These stories were reminders to both the children and the adults in ages past, and still have validity today.
Every once in a while life gives you some wonderful hints that you are doing something right. Though, I'll admit, the start of one program made me wonder how things were going to go.
Friday saw me at the site for one of Compass's after-school programs
(http://www.service2families.com/after-school-program). Compass is a great program that Springfield District 186 has for children in challenging situations, and I've been delighted to be able to work with them.
On Friday I was doing a program for 2nd graders, and it had been set up for there to be eight children attending; plus volunteers. Slightly warmer weather and it being Friday had combined to get the youngsters pretty charged up, and so the idea of sitting for stories just didn't sound fun. Matter-of-fact, one little girl expressed it quite clearly, "STORY TIME! That's for babies - she's going to read to us!!!!!"
I smiled and asked if she saw any books around, and was informed that I was hiding it in my coat.
It was obvious that I wasn't going to win this group over with stories like, "The King's Rice Pudding," or any of my other tales for 2nd graders. So I plunged into "Tam Lin."
Afterwards the young doubter looked at her classmates, and informed them, "Quiet! I want to hear more stories!!!!"
Once it was obvious I wasn't going to sneak out any books we were good.
Yesterday I was at the Springfield Art Association's Family Day (http://www.springfieldart.org/). This is a fun day of art projects for the family. So I had worked on such stories as "The Man Who Loved Dragons," "The Magic Brocade," and "Anait."
I was set up in the main room/library, with chairs circled around, and a nice large sign. About every half hour they would announce storytelling, and those who'd finished projects would take a break and come hear some stories.
One family who had brought their two little girls was a family from China; a group that included not only parents and children, but grandparents. The family split up so that some adults could help each child, and the father, plus grandmother remained in the library.
After a few sets of stories the father explained that while he is still struggling with English, and that they had only come to Illinois in July of last year, that by watching my hands, and by listening carefully, he was really getting the idea of the stories. And was really enjoying them.
Compliments are always nice, but to know that you are able to cross a language barrier, even marginally, is a wonderful feeling. Later the whole family came into hear some of the stories.
And then there were two youngsters, about 4 years of age each, and from different families that kept coming back and asking for stories. Didn't matter what I was telling they sat and eagerly listened. The only disappointment for the little boy was that I didn't know, "Jack and the Snow Man." I guess that is a popular story as someone else piped up, "I know that book!"
Definitely a grand three hours!
I am a Springfield, IL based storyteller with a fascination for how folklore travels, and for history.