The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.*

We writers are a curious bunch. Curious about the world. Curious about other people. Curious to hear their stories.

A sense of curiosity is nature’s original school of education.

~Smiley Blanton*

 

 

Right this minute, I’m curious about African artist Raina Mazwiembiri and her Seedpod Birds.

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Her talent is making birds and the seeds they dine on become one.

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Mazwiembiri gives the seed pods twisted wire feet, adds putty beaks, and paints the quirky creatures in resplendent colors and patterns.

 

I just had to know her story.  Seems that Raina’s husband, George, started making seedpod birds to earn extra money.  A few years later, Raina joined him and together they sold their birds at local craft shops and markets. When her husband moved on to other things, Raina took over and now works with two of her daughters.

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The seedpods come from the Ulumbu Tree, the star chestnut (Sterculia rogersii). Raina and her daughters travel seven hours to the Bulawayo area to pick them and then travel back home. The trip typically takes three days. (I’ll be googling that, I bet there’s a lot more to it.)

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I’ve never heard a boring story or met a boring person. When police question neighbors after a crime occurs, often the reply is he’s always been quiet, comes and goes at the same time every day, hardly see the guy. Sounds like he was a boring person but clearly there is something to discover, a story to uncover.

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I’m loving the Owen Canfield holiday stories.  He’s a local man-about-town who writes short pieces about a bike hike or a falling tree, Velveeta cheese or potato pancakes. Trivial items, maybe, but not trivial topics. Everything has meaning, doesn’t it?

 

Every Christmas I reread the stories, poems, and essays in Norman Rockwell’s Christmas Book. (It was new in 1977. It’s still new to me every year. Aren’t I lucky?)

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It’s one plum pudding of a book. 200 pages of literary love.  Ogden Nash, Laura Ingalls Wilder, O. Henry, Charles Dickens, Taylor Caldwell, Louisa May Alcott, Langston Hughes,Christopher Morely, Robert Frost,W.H.Auden, Booth Tarkington, Mark Twain, John Milton, William Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, and of course, Clement Clark Moore ~to name a few~ release small miracles on every page illustrated by Norman Rockwell.

 

 

The book even includes Fannie Farmer’s Menu from 1896 with recipes.

Roast goose with potato stuffing? Consider this:  you need to singe, remove pinfeathers, wash and scrub with hot soapsuds, draw, wash, stuff, and truss before it hits the oven and maybe comes out looking like this.

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Rockwell’s Christmas book is happiness for a crystal-cold night. Serve with a hearty Cab and a couple of crooners.

*Curious about Smiley Blanton?  Me, too.

Toni 12/14/15

*Header quote by Muriel Rukeyser, poet and activist

Call Me…

    CALL ME ISHMAEL.

That iconic first line, you know it even if you haven’t read the book.

And then there’s the movie. Remember Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab? One briny adrenaline rush after another.

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Here’s an invitation from A New Ishmael.

The stories of Call Me Ishmael are as singular as the books the storytellers choose. 

Phoned in by booklovers like us.  Have a story to tell?

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Here’s my favorite one about the Dictionary and heartache.

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And this one, told by a man who grew up with Sneetches and civil rights.

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Call Me Ishmael is one enthralling literary voyage. The tales are here, in the belly of the whale at Buzzfeed. 

 

Toni 6/11/14

TELL STORIES, RING BELLS, BELIEVE ~ IT’S CHRISTMAS, CAROL

Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.

~ Washington Irving

I never met a story I didn’t like.  Around every holiday table, my family shares some roaring tales.  It’s such a basic need, isn’t it, our need for story.  And what a handy way to carry our experiences around.

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Writer Abigail Thomas talks about story as container. She says the shape can be anything – a soup pot, a trapeze, a funnel.  I think Loretta Lynn found a sublime container in the structure of song.

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The coal miner’s daughter remembers a lot.  And it all goes into the mix. Every song that she’s ever written is about some story that happened to her or someone she knows. She hangs onto the truth and puts it to music. Profoundly human stuff.

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In addition to penning two autobiographies, Lynn wrote an autobiographical cookbook. Someone get me a copy of You’re Cookin’ It Country, please. I want to learn to make her mama’s lemon whippersnappers!

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Author Willa Cather grew up in the village of Back Creek, Virginia.

The Cathers had a hired girl named Margie, and when Margie would go home to visit her mother, she brought young Willa with her. Margie’s mother was illiterate, a hill woman from Timber Ridge. But Willa soaked in the stories Margie’s momma told — the gossip, family feuds, tales of lovers and murderers and legacies from the Civil War. Later, Willa dramatized the Appalachian memoir and made it the stuff of fiction.

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So, as Abigail Thomas says, memoir is about this is how it was. Musical stories, oral stories, recorded stories.  So listen closely, keep an open mind, leave room for surprise….and write it down.

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‘Tis the season to do as my friend Carol does ~ sing some songs, ring some bells, stop at all the Salvation Army kettles. Wish someone, everyone, a happy holiday.  Especially your friends and relatives for always being there. And especially this Christmas, we all need each other to help us Believe.

May Angels Lead You into 2013.

12/25/12  Toni