Forming part of our Tree Festival and being just one day ahead of World Story Telling Day, the March meeting was nothing short of phenomenal in the stories presented and the fine example of spontaneous collaboration – setting up for some 85 guests in the audience, donors and helpers coming forward with generous gifts of food and help in the kitchen and guild members making so many guests so very welcome. That collaboration extended to the gracious and lively co-hosting by Jennifer Ferris and Sandra Johnson aided by Margo McLoughlin playing her Hang. What an evening!
Shoshana Litman opened the session by drawing that large audience together in a lively song “Trees Please” that she had especially adapted for the occasion from “Tu Tu Tu B’Shevat” (The Birthday of Trees). In her very own style, she got wonderful participation complete with arms waving like trees in the wind.
Admiration for the Basque people’s age-old tenacity in maintaining their language and culture during centuries past and decades of persecution under General Franco shone through Lina de Gueverra’s account of her stay in their country that culminated in a visit to the city of Guernica. There, in front of the Meeting House she found The Tree of Guernica, the famous oak tree that continues the venerable tradition of the Basques to hold their assemblies under trees that in ancient times saw rulers come to swear on bended knee to uphold the local laws and traditions.
It was trees pushing with all their might that brought light into this world – in the Maori world that is – as told by Kaya Englestoff while giving a vivid account of the Maori myth of creation complete with Mother Earth and Father Sky and all the Maori Gods with their colourful names and fierce attempts to win their battles to bring light.
Taking us to Africa and a detailed account of human evolution as recorded in the geology of the land, Norman Mogensen dramatized all those changes in climate and vegetation that explain just how we evolved from being all hairy and gangly into naked humans with the right shape of arms and legs for standing upright on the earth instead of floating in water or suited for living in trees. Never knew evolution could be so colourful.
Returning to monkeys in the trees, Faye Mogensen brought all her storytelling skills to bear as she told of Monkey foolishly asking God to send him “misery” – without knowing the meaning of that word. After a harrowing God-sent lesson about the true meaning of “misery”, God saved Monkey by sending him a tree.
What an enviable job is held by Parks employee Thomas Munson whose area of expertise is the Garry Oak meadows in Victoria ! He enchanted us with tales of a life intertwined with trees from his childhood in Ontario to the Yukon to the Kootenays of B.C. and the joys of creating a woodpile to see one through the winter as well as the frustrations of having it stolen by folks not inclined to chop their own ! A welcome guest to Fern whom we hope to welcome again to tell us more woodsy stories.
Victoria’s personal story titled “Dig Deep” took us to her childhood home and the delights of having their very own large maple tree in their garden. A tree that played an important part in each season of their years’ games from winged seeds applied to noses to leaf houses and tunnels. Tender memories of her mother and her mother’s recollections of that home at a time when age had diminished her faculties touched us all.
Marie Hibbert opened her story in French but then reassured her audience that she would speak English and did so as she took us on her camping trip into the forest where she pitched her tent under a huge old tree. After 3 days of dry and sunny weather the top of her tree burst into flames. Frantic to save herself and the tree she prayed for rain, remembering that there is the saying “rain is when les anges font pipi”. Then she poured her small supply of water around the perimeter of that big trunk and retired to her tent. In the morning, looking at the blackened branches at the top, she asked “was it mother nature, the angels, or my supply of water that did the job? What do you think?”
In her story of the old apple tree that provided lovely homes for birds, insects and squirrels, Serra gave a vivid description of their fruitless pleading when the farmer started to chop down their tree home because it no longer bore fruit. But once he found that bees also lived in the tree he did stop. After all, the tree was still productive – of honey. So the apple tree is still there to offer homes for so many creatures.
To close the evening with a special finale, Jennifer affirmed that we all have tree stories and invited all present to turn to their neighbors to tell their stories. The resulting noise told its own story.
Anne Forester and Janna