Posts Tagged ‘storytelling’

Been a while since I posted.  Many things have happened.  So first an update.

I’ve been working hard to reclaim my space, and find forgiveness.  Neither one has been easy and neither one is really complete.  Time and action are required for both.  I’ve been really kind of surprized at the mental and emotional blow that incident hit me with.  I became kind of paralyzed and numb, walking through my life and seeing friends without really connecting.

Luckily for me, I have had the most amazing womyn enter my life and take me out of myself.  I am blessed with the best of friends and the most wonderful lover ever.   Through their gentle emotional connects and real, physical help, I have come to a place where I am not stuck any longer.  Yay!  It’s still a day to day process and I have to really let go of the resentment that I was unable to do the things I needed to do to get ready for the Season of No Light.  But I’m making it.

Okay, on to other stuff.  I love story.  So much so that I am in charge of a grant at my school to sponsor storytellers to come in and teach my students how to go from the oral tradition to the written form and back again.  At the end of September, I went to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee with my lover.  It was interesting on many levels.  First, let me just say that we totally loved it!  The weather was perfect, the town was lovely, with an amazing little chocolatier that you definitely wouldn’t expect to find in a town that has mostly just it’s main street to boast of.  Earth and Sky Confectioners made a perfect treat for the end of our days!

When you register, you are given a little square of fabric to pin to your clothing.  This is your admission ticket to all of the daytime shows.  My lover and I got to experience a number of really quality storytellers!  Some of our favorites were Sheila Kay Adams, who demonstrated an amazing ability to think on her feet and held an audience in rapture for over 15 minutes while a freight train rolled by, interrupting her story.  She’s a tiny powerful womon who can make you cry with laughter.  Gay Ducey, from San Francisco, stopped me in my tracks and made me call my doctor from Tennessee to schedule a mammogram.  ( By the way – it’s time for you to stop reading and go schedule yours – the latest recommendations be damned!  Go!  Now!  I’ll wait!)  Although she did crack a joke about bearded womyn.  My bearded girlfriend and I were quite surprized, seeing as she was from San Francisco.  Other stellar performers were:  Donald Davis, who told school stories about how teachers touch the lives of their students in ways they can’t really know, (how could I not love him?!), Nial de Burca, who flew in from Dublin to entertain us (what a sense of humor! and flair for drama!), and the Rev. Robert Jones, whose Sunday morning story was one I’d heard before, but was richer for hearing his telling of it! 

There were a couple of storytellers that we didn’t care for so much, but it was mainly that we didn’t connect with them or their style.  But one, one storyteller was really so offensive to me.  This woman’s resume led me to believe that she would be something to behold.  2007 Oklahoma Librarian of the Year, Storytelling Circle Award winner.  I was looking forward to hearing her craft a tale.  She strode onto the stage, this slim blonde powerhouse, like she owned it.  And she did.  She was speaking to her people.  The audience was obviously familiar with her.  Barbara McBride-Smith was preaching to her choir.   Ms. McBride-Smith is obviously an intelligent, well-educated Christian.  And as such, especially with her job in the educational field, I was expecting something that might not have been my spiritual cup of tea, but respectful.  And then she opened her mouth.  She referred to Jewish people as “those Manischewitz drinkers.”  She went on to reinforce several stereotypes in her stories in a way that made my jaw drop.  It’s been a couple of months, and I don’t want to put words in her mouth, so I won’t quote anything else, since I can’t remember the exact wording.  I was embarrassed for her that as an educator she had the opportunity to change opinions and open hearts and minds, but didn’t. 

 Jennifer Armstrong, a new voice to this venue, was probably one of the bravest womyn there.  In her story (and we saw her a couple of times) she rewrote Christian (the Lord’s Prayer) text to be more inclusive, and came out in this tiny little Southern town.  I saw people get up and leave her show, but I also saw many approach her after with congratulations. She’s from Maine, and holds her own Pie and Story Festival, which I plan to attend next year.  But for this year, I’m going up to Lewiston on December 11 to see her perform.  Anyone want to join me?

Which brings me to the other truly remarkable thing about that weekend.  I have lived in the Northeast for so long, I had forgotten what it is like to be an out dyke in a place that not only frowns on it, but has a culture of active discouragement.  So there we are, my lover and I, walking hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm down the only main road in this little town and I start to notice something.  People won’t look us in the eye.  We went into a little shop, and the teenager behind the counter nearly tripped over his own feet trying to point us out to the other employees.  Other lesbian couples (yep, there were a few) wouldn’t look at us, or each other – as if acknowledging we existed would get them pegged.  Now one thing you have to understand.  While my lover is probably one of the most beautiful womyn in the world, to the world-experience challenged (ie: never left their hometown) she can seem a bit exotic.  One of the things I most appreciate about her.  So when we walk down a street, we don’t exactly blend.  I had forgotten the discomfort of the hate glare, the challenge of smiling at ugly and actively laughing and enjoying myself when others around me would prefer I not exist.  I used to live like this.  I used to live in the South.  But it’s been years.  And so it has also been years since womyn who don’t know me have come up and thanked me for being out and visible.  And that happened to my Girl and I.  More than once.  There is still oppression happening in this country, and there is still a need for queers of all stripes to step out, be visible, and be friendly in the face of discomfort and hate.  I hadn’t realized that we would be a symbol of freedom in this place – I just thought we were going to hear good story, but we were, and we did it with joy and pride.  Next year (and we are going again!) we’ll be more out, more proud, and we’ll bring friends!


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