December Stories at Fern

Presiding over a very full house, Sylvia Olsen hosted our December meeting.  After giving a warm welcome to a good number of newcomers, she managed some last minute shuffles of the story roster with good cheer as nine tellers made their Christmas offerings.  As always, stories and fairy tales were glittering with intricate details lovingly presented by our expert tellers.

 The universality of story themes emerged once again as Jennifer Ferris  presented a story by Paul Coelo from Brazil based on a folk tale from India and bearing a remarkable resemblance to O’Henri’s “The gift of the Magi” in which a young woman sells her hair to buy a special present for her beloved.  In Coelo’s story it takes the intervention of the king to bring that present to fruition as he sets conditions that only the beloved could fulfil in a contest for the post of scribe he so badly needed and wanted.

Smiling all along the way, Pat Carfra drew on Robert Fulghum’s story to chronicle the life of John Pierpont, a poet who was also successively a teacher, lawyer, merchant and Unitarian minister AND who failed in every one of his endeavours. He died in 1866 feeling himself to be a failure.  Yet he left a marvellous gift, one that continues to spread joy throughout the world to this very day. For John Pierpont was the writer/composer  of  a winter song – Jingle Bells!  With that revelation, Pat had the entire gathering join in a rousing rendition of John’s song.

Fae Mogensen told the “legend of Wali Dad” based on an Indian story in Andrew  Lang’s Fairy Book. It chronicles how gifts freely offered by a lowly grass cutter created an ever escalating need to reciprocate. Faye’s lively style of delivery kept the story moving right along until the recipients – the prince and princess – were  happily united  and the initiator of the gifts, returned  to his little hut to resume his comfortably familiar job.

“Which way should I go” was Sylvia Olsen’s story as she shifted into the role of teller. She introduced Joey, a happy, helpful lad who was always cheerful but particularly so when he visited his grandma who made applesauce for him and always offered him a choice ranging from cinnamon to ice cream as an addition to the treat.  So close was Joey to Grandma that when she died he refused to be consoled until he once again was offered the opportunity to choose and decided that he could choose to stop crying.

Told by Sharon House, Hans Christian Andersen’s story of “The Shirt Collar”, a moral tale, is a convoluted one about a flirtatious shirt collar getting on in years who fancied itself a dandy, proposed to unlikely objects of its affection and ended its days in the rag bag from which it was converted into the very piece of paper on which its story was written !

Opening her session by playing her Hang, Margo Mcloughlin presented her own translation (from the Pali language) and retelling of a Buddhist “Jataka tale,” the stories the Buddha is said to have told of his previous lives. In this tale, the miserly treasurer named Kosiya is very much a Scrooge character whose generous ancestors come to teach him the benefits of giving.

Margo has been translating and adapting the Jataka tales for several years. A number of translations have appeared in Parabola Magazine. This year, as Artist-in-Residence at the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria, Margo is working on a collection of stories of women who lived at the time of the Buddha.

“Wisdom” is the title of the story by Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen that gives a very personal account of a little girl learning about the history of Hanukkah in school and about its deeper meaning in the study of her grandfather, an orthodox rabbi.  Anne Forester told the story in the first person to preserve the profound connection Dr. Remen had to the love and wisdom of her grandfather and to her own observations on the miracle of the light within. Remen’s book is My Grandfather’s Blessings.

“Trees, trees, trees,” might be the title of Sherryl Harris’ opening: singing the complete “Woodcutters’ Song” that offers valuable advice to householders about the merit (or lack of it) of a great variety of fire wood.  Shifting to an account of the tree most dear to her, Sherryl told the story of “the most marvelous Christmas present she ever received.” It had its beginning at a Christmas fair she and her husband visited on Christmas Eve and being enchanted by the sudden fragrance of a Viburnum tree.  The very next morning, there it was complete with coloured ribbons –  the present to her from her husband .  By some miracle he had had it hidden all along right under the steps just waiting for Christmas.

Still glowing with the excitement and joy of her daughter’s wedding, Sandra Johnson completed her tale of  visitors from abroad, joyful gatherings and the decorations that included 1,000 carefully folded paper cranes suspended above the celebrants to assure lasting happiness.

Blog prepared by Anne Forester with contributions gratefully received from Janna and Margo Mcloughlin.

P.S. A change in the way refreshments were offered was based on a group consultation and decision to accommodate our large audience. The serving table was placed by the door with cups of tea already poured – one side black tea the other herbal.  As the large crowd filed by, guests picked up tea and goodies and move back into the meeting room.  All had a chance to serve themselves, mingle, and then return empty cups.

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