Weaving Baskets of Knowledge

Annual Conference and AGM of the Storytellers of Canada – Conteurs du Canada – 2019

By Mary Gavin, VSG Conference Delegate

Le conte ou l’art de tisser les fils de la connaissance

Akonutomahtimok: Askomiw Latokonasuwol Kcicihtuwakonol

Conference site:  The University of New Brunswick (UNB) is on Wolastoqiyik traditional land.  UNB is the alma mater of Al Fowler.  He described past buildings; present buildings retain the spartan features of earlier days. 

In 1785, seven Empire Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution established UNB, making it the oldest English Language University in Canada.  Perched on a high hill overlooking the St John River, UNB provides a scenic view that entrances the 12,000+ students, somewhat less so for winded storytellers.

Master classes:  on the 5th  on particular aspects of storytelling.

Field trips: on the 6th to either NB lumber history or the artistic endeavours, including the  renowned Beaverbrook Gallery.  Here the pictures came alive under the docent Wendy MacKnight who imbued characters in diverse paintings with nefarious motives which she wove into a popular story, published as “Frame Up.”

Haunted Hike:  an improv event by theatre trained millennials who interspersed their chat with story.  Most haunting was the story of infanticide, told in the darkening cemetery as long poem, three steps by three steps…

Conference: formally began on the 7th.   Held in conjunction with Education Department of UNB, the Conference co-chairs Joanne LeBlanc-Haley, a founding member of SC-CC, and Rod Campbell  thanked SC-CC and the Literacy Coalition for their support. 

Ramona Nicolas, an archeologist and celebrated basket maker from the local First Nations,   smudged the 78 participants whom she invited to write on thin strips of ash what story meant personally.  On the last day, she returned the strips, now woven into 3 remarkable baskets.

Dance Story: local Scottish dancers performed the Saint John River Dance which describes the twists and turns of the River, its bridges and the reversing falls.

2019 Story Save  Teller:  Comfort Ero of Surrey, BC with her 2 set CD Tohio!  The Art of African Storytelling.   Her traditional Nigerian greeting of Tohio! Hia, hia kpoi means come quickly, I have a story to tell.   She tells with humour, vivacity and encourages interactions.

The 2020 StorySave Teller:  is Judith Poirier who will focus on family stories from her work.

2019 Story Keeper:  Sylvi Belleau of Montreal.  Story Keeper alternates East and West in keeping with the Conference location.

Radio SC-CC:  with listeners in 20+ countries, including US and Canada, the Radio trains SC-CC members in interviewing and recording stories.  Its current focus is children and their stories.

Keynote speaker: Bob Barton of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education adroitly referenced stories to show how listeners co-create the story through the inherent edges, reactions and tensions.  He quoted from his studies of children to demonstrate his points.

Workshops: various aspects of storytelling.


Government House on Friday:   we sat on green, velvet chairs!

An evocative tribute paid to the late Charles Solomon, a Wolastoqiyik Medicine Man and expert basket weaver whose life gave rise to the Conference theme of weaving baskets of knowledge.

 Lorraine Hartin-Gelardi of New York State told a riveting account of Vasilisa.  A local farmer and Green Party MLA, Kevin Arseneau energetically told in French a story about a tree.  Judith Poirier of Quebec told bilingually about her Aunt Albert’s House,

Afterwards, we partook at a table-groaning reception.  Upstairs, was a modern art and sculpture while downstairs Care Bears in a multitude of forms festooned the room.

Auditorium on Saturday: we sat on student chairs, padded and practical.

In her inimitable style, Shoshana Litman of Victoria told The Princess & Her Beloved.  Kathie Kompass, the Ottawa teller who twice performed in Victoria, told 4 short children’s stories under the title of Tales, Tails, Tales.

Using her theatre training, Catherine Wright of Newfoundland engaged us with her Tale of Laughing Jack.  With verve and gusto, Rob Malo, a Francophone Metis from Manitoba, regaled us with an interactive voyageur story.   Finally, the beguiling lip slippery poems of Sheree Fitch of Nova Scotia amazed us with her skill and poignancy. 

Afterwards, we adjourned to an impromptu Story Circle until midnight came all too soon.

SC-CC AGM:  always a scramble for time and staying on topic.  Briefly, we are solvent and looking for diverse ways to gain income as we excel at spending monies in projects and programs.  By laws change deferred to the next AGM.    

Focus Groups:   summaries to be posted on SC-CC website.

Canadian Storytelling Night:   building in strength.  8th on November 2, 2019 with the theme:

A Breath of Fresh Air.   Date is extended one week before or after as required by local groups.

Telling Tuesday:  Every Tuesday in October, tell tales anywhere to promote storytelling.

New Board:  Elinor & Ron Richards as co-presidents; vacant VP; Dinny Biggs as Past President; Mary Gavan as Treasurer; Susan Wheat continues as Secretary.  Five members at large

BC Representative:  Pat Forrest, Nanaimo.

Quilt: raised more than $1500 and won by Pat Dickson of NS.

Future Conferences:  offers required for 2021 onwards; infrastructure run by SC-CC. 

Four Corners:   Kathy Jessop, AB for the North;  Michael Williams, AB for the South;

Marva Blackmore, BC for the West; & Margo Carruthers NS sang a haunting lullaby for the East.

Next Conference: 

Parksville, BC from May 26 – 30, 2020.  Theme:  Rivers of Voices, Oceans of Stories

Hosts: Round Town Tellers; Mid-Island Storytellers; the McMillan Arts Centre; Coast Salish.

Accommodation: Tigh-na-Mara with special rates   www.tighnamara.com

Master classes: Hugh Lupton; Elizabeth Ellis and Lorne Niemi ( Difficult Stories); others tba.

Workshops: 8 lasting 90 minutes; 5 lasting 3 hours.  Details tba.

Storytelling:  two formal concerts; many informal around campfires as permitted.

Review of The Geography Teacher’s Orders

The recent telling of The Geography Teacher’s Orders by the author herself
was truly riveting as promised by her PR materials and storytelling friends who’d
recommended her.
Marta Bruno Singh has crafted a story from real events which occurred during
her own senior high school years in Argentina. Juxtaposed with the true story of
Argentina’s painful transition from dictatorship to democratic rule is one teacher’s
integration of power & politics into the daily classroom regime. The teacher’s rules,
expectations and consequences twisted and perverted the meaning of education,
inquiry, research and fact. She rewarded individual gain and preyed on individual
weakness. Marta was one of the students in that cohort approximately thirty -five
years ago.
In creating The Geography Teacher’s Orders, Marta took her repository of
memories, measured them against the archived political and socio-cultural history
of Argentina in the 80’s and shaped a cautionary tale that is alarmingly relevant.
Written not a moment too soon, Marta’s story has uncanny similarities to political
and social events unfolding currently in our own backyard.

Of interest to writers, researchers, educators, historians, archivists,
storytellers, librarians, politicians, anthropologists…

THE GEOGRAPHY TEACHER’S ORDERS was hosted recently by Victoria Storytellers Guild & Word Weaver Storytelling of Qualicum Beach. It was sponsored by the Ottawa Arts Council and the City of Ottawa.

Review written by Nejama Ferstman

Change in Grant Programs from Canada Council


On January 20th , the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA) announced significant changes. While details will be announced later this year, the general plan includes a massive consolidation, from 142 current grant programs (governed by 108 policies), to fewer than 10 large programs.

CCA is setting up a new computerized system to manage its relationship with their clients with completion of the new funding model expected in eighteen months. CCA maintains that nobody will lose funding.

The intention is to avoid modifying the actual allocations of funding and to avoid destabilising arts organizations. Rather, the intention is to create a new baseline to fund Council’s priorities with new investments by the government.

A saga unfolded starting with this public meeting on January 20th, details http://canadacouncil.ca/council/news-room/events/2014/invitation-annual-public-meeting

October News

Many thanks to members who faithfully described the stories told at past Stories at Fern. These write ups are still available. Fear not! Although we are no longer providing these, we will continue to keep you up to date on items of interest to storytelling enthusiasts.

March 2012 at Fern

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


February 2012 Stories at Fern

With the spirit of St. Valentine’s Day still upon us Shirley Routliffe hosted an evening of stories in which love and honour were well represented.

Jennifer Ferris opened the meeting with her story of “Lazy Jack”, a dreamer, who  produced a surprise ending that saw him  lead a donkey laden with baskets filled with gold to his loving mother who had declared repeatedly (with fine audience participation), “Jack, I love you dearly, but you have a lot to learn.”

“It could have been me!” might have been the title of Donna McCaw’s story “Einstein’s Brain”, for though she encountered that brain encased in a glass jar, displayed in a small room in New York she ignored its plea for rescue and the offer of a sure-fire way to “break the bank” in Las Vegas.

In Lee Porteous’ story “the Sword of Wood” a poor cobbler meets his king’s final challenge with quick wit and a sword of wood he himself had fashioned. Ordered to act as “executioner”, the cobbler shouted, “Let this blade turn to wood, if this man be innocent!” as he unsheathed the sword.

Love changes form and endures in “The Blue Faience Hippotatmus”, an Egyptian tale of a young hippopotamus’ love for a princess.  From Alice Kane’s collection: “The Dreamer Awakes” and presented  by Catherine Sheehan in her inimitable gentle style.

Celebrating both female heroines and lateral thinking, Jacquie Hunt presented the story of “The Maiden Wiser than the Tsar” a story that, though set in Russia, has a number of parallels in storytelling.  Outwitting the Tsar in all the tests he is setting her, the maiden wins his admiration and love, including the final test of showing her ongoing loyalty and devotion.

To help those wishing to pursue the study of lateral thinking, Jacquie left slips to show her favorite reference www.folj.com/lateral that offers a truly awesome list.

“Love Story” is the title Victoria Cownden gave her signature animated account of her return from a trip to Europe to be greeted in Vancouver airport by Sean. Taking us back to times when airports had neither security checks nor carefully guarded entries or exits, her vivid account swept us along with her to see Sean leaping over the barrier to embrace her and enjoy the applause of her fellow travelers as they walked out together to go home to Victoria and 32 years of loving marriage.

The TEA BREAK had us return to the familiar kitchen setting and the sociability of gathering in one crowded place to partake of the refreshments.  Katherine McGinnis and Faye Mogensen hosted this time-honoured gathering between stories, ly helped by prepoured cups of tea and cake accompanied by enthusiastic chat. So, KEEP IT SIMPLE  is  the motto for refreshment volunteers to make the job less daunting for themselves and an enjoyable social break for all.

In “Silent Bianca” Sandra Johnson drew a sparkling picture of the Ice Maiden Bianca proving both her love and her wit to melt the resistance of those who would bar her from becoming the queen of the king and his heart.

“ The Amber Witch” a folktale from the Baltic Sea, tells of the fisherfolks’ understanding of how the Baltic treasure, amber, is brought from the depths to be found on the beaches. In their imagination, an old crone scatters it from her black apron as she dances in the Southwesterly gales, but when a young fisherman goes out in the storms to learn her secrets, he is bewitched by a beautiful young woman in a golden dress who bids him dance with her and eventually leads him over the waves to her palace beneath the sea. “But the fisherfolk said that he drowned.” Told by Janna, once a Dane living on the shores of the Baltic.

Nejama Ferstman offered a beautifully detailed African version of the “Cinderella” theme in “Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters” – Nyasha kind, Manyara selfish and rude. Virtue is rewarded as Nyasha responds with kindness to the trials set by the king himself along the route to the court to help him choose a bride. As Manyara’s rudeness earns her a servant’s post in the court, the tale is said to be offered as “a lesson to children.”

Pat Carfra’s Guitar and her lovely rendering of  – “Black is the colour of my true love’s hair” brought a delightful evening to a close.

Anne Forester

With kind and most welcome input from Catherine McGinnis, Sandra Johnson and skillful editing by Janna

Poem for Six Voices by Janna

We are the storytellers.
Tellers of fable,
myth and legend,
folk and epic tale.

We tell in song,
prose and rhyme,
gesture and mime.

We are the listeners,
to the ground.
Stories come writhing out of the bogs,
out of the mists,
out of the clouds in the rain,
down the rivers,
to the sea,
up to the clouds again.

We are the voices
elders, enchanters,
ancients, of heroes
wee folk,
the years from beginning of time.
We are the voices of desperate ones
lived and died
the justice, compassion,
were denied.

We are the story seekers,
gliders through tangle of forest,
scalers of castle turrets
palace walls;
the highways,
, seaways,
search of story.

 We are the scribes who keep these tales.
We are the tellers who give them wings.
We are sculptors of imag’ry,
our words with chisels
mind and lips and tongue.

We are artists,
on canvas of air
brushwork of passion for story
colours of life, of death,
grief, of joy,
pain, of love, of hope.

We are the listeners,
The voices,
The seekers,
The scribes,
The sculptors,
The artists.

We are the storytellers.

Call for tellers – 2012 EPIC STORYTELLING WEEKEND

Listener, tellers… hear the call!For the past several years, a small group has gathered to breathe life into epic tales from around the world. We’ve traveled from Russia through China to India and Persia to Ghana, Guatamala and beyond. This year, we are back at it, with the Norse Epic. Many stories have been selected, but there remain several tempting stories looking for a teller — please don’t disappoint them — they’re too good to miss.

Would you, could you join us as a listener or a teller? All are welcome!

The experience is always RICH. It’s a gift to walk deep inside the psyche of an old culture in the company of creative souls who play with the stories to bring them back to life ~ the experience is a true blend of the 21st century with ancient times.

Some details follow and if you want to know more – email faye@fayetales.com


Den Nordisk Mytologi – The Norse Epic Tales

A Call to Tellers and Listeners

At the dawn of time, say the old bards of Iceland, there was neither sand nor grass nor dancing waves, but the great Ice-world Nifleheim and the flaming Fire-world Muspellheim…….where they collided, there appeared the deep seething roiling pit called GINUNGAGAP. …. …. The source of all life……. and out of this emerges YMIR the fierce Frost-Giant and Audumla the Ice-Cow and her four rivers of frothy milk…..

And so the great creation myth of Norse mythology begins, and does not end until Ragnarok, the destruction of the world. In these harsh northern lands of mountains and deep fjords come dazzling sagas of love and bitter war. These are romances and tragedies with a cast of vibrant, larger-than-life characters – gods, giants, dwarfs, serpents, Odin, Thor with his hammer Mjolnir, the trickster Loki – who overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. There are tales here of trickery and initiation, betrayal and forgiveness, great humour and beauty, nobility and gruesome death.

And, they are waiting to be retold!

“World-swaying power in the wind wields the breath of great ODIN

Firing with flash of lightning, the heart, with courage undaunted….”

Will you have courage undaunted, and join us in this Epic Weekend? There are many tales still to be chosen.

1. Specific Details

Dates: Friday – Sunday April 13th-15th

Reply by: Tellers – please be in touch by February 15 Listeners – you have lots of time to decide!

Location: The Vancouver Waldorf School in North Van, as in previous years.
Food: Potluck, and a Saturday evening Norse feast courtesy of chef Eitel Timm

Preparation & Pronunciation Workshop: Sometime in February

Cost: we share the cost of space rental and Saturday’s feast – full weekend cost will not exceed $50.00 (that includes Sat. dinner). Partial sessions are charged accordingly.

Reply with your interest to: faye@fayetales.com – If you would like to tell a tale, I will send you the list of stories and their descriptions.

January 2012 Blog

Katherine McGinnis, the Guild’s talented stage setter, not only “cosied up” the seating for our first gathering of the year, but played the roles of  host, warmly welcoming newcomers, and that of storyteller as she closed the evening.

   Chile was the setting of “The short happy life of Pudu” told by Lina deGueverra. The miniature deer spent that happy life in a corral in the family garden until the dramatic end was provided by the neighbor’s dog who, after an unsuccessful attempt to enter Pudu’s corral, came to sit on the steps of the house every single day without fail until the time when poor little Pudu was found dead and lacerated in his corral.  The vet confirmed that a dog had done the deed and Lina commented that she “had never known that a dog could plan ahead;” for, having succeeded, the dog never returned.

Introducing World Storytelling Day Festival, Victoria Cownden came forward waving a large branch of evergreen decorated with three printed reminders that March 18, 19 and 20 are days to be marked in the calendar to “celebrate trees in story and song” as hosted here in Victoria by the Victoria Storytellers’ Guild and promoted by “tree” reminders handed out to all present at the meeting.

Faye Mogensen introduced her vivid account of the Pongal festival in India with the comment that “a place of the poor is the place where there is hope.”  Having travelled to a place “where tourists never go,” the family participated in the four days of Pongal starting with a thorough cleaning, the swishing sound of brooms, then the decorating of man and beast alike using  intricate designs and the feast of overflowing abundance that included  the untouchables.

Sheila Blake offered three “shorties” each with a funny twist such as the story of the Frog Prince who acted the “demanding male” and not surprisingly caused the story to end with the princess enjoying a nice meal of frog legs.

Lights were dimmed to create the atmosphere for the ghost story set in old Tokyo as  Catherine Sheehan presented Noppera-Bo (the faceless ones) – a modern twist on a traditional Japanese ghost story, adapted from “Mujina” by Lafcadio Hearn.  A policeman, a dark alleyway in Tokyo, a faceless ghost…

Martin Luther King Day was the impetus for Moira Walker’s putting into words the double shock she experienced on the day King was assassinated. Being a high school student in Chicago at the time, Moira shared the blazing headline “KING ASSASSINATED” with a woman outside her school only to receive the brutal rejoinder:  “Good!  I hope they kill them all!”

Martin Gavin a Scot with his home accent well in place treated us to two short allegories – the first one of the devil wishing to enter Noah’s Ark to create havoc and having to transform himself into a snake in order to gain entry by one small hole in the Ark.  The second one offering indelicate remarks about  “dogs’ ass holes” asserted that those funny behaviours displayed by dogs accounts for the fact that to this day they greet each other as they do.

Calling it a “religious experience”, Norman Mogensen, Faye’s uncle, spoke of thinking of the beginnings of humanity while travelling in Morocco. Tracing a tiny stream in what is now a desert, he found confirmation of his musing when at a stop near the Atlas Mountains, his fingers, as he thrust them into the desert sand, encountered a perfectly shaped spearhead. To this day, that spearhead rests on his desk at home.

Under the title of   “Micah’s Figtree” Shoshana Litman presented the age-old striving for peace as a colourful village story of Micah planting a fig tree by his house with the birds carrying those seeds of peace all over the world even though disaster had struck once again. Shoshana’s source was “A person is Like a Tree: A Sourcebook for Tu BeShavat” by Yitshak Buxbaum. “The vine and figtree” are still with us as symbols of peace in stories and songs.

Sharing her deep love of Christmas, Sue McCullough painted a vivid canvas of her Christmas Eve celebration from her walk through the night to the Cathedral whose bells were calling her to the beauty of the sights, sounds and smells of Frankincense and Myrrh of the service.  Creating a sense of walking home with her through the cold night, the audience was embraced in the feeling of the power and beauty of the sea that accompanied her home.

Quite a different pageant came to Katherine McGinnis mind as she looked back to her childhood and the village church she attended. Under the guise of “cleaning the church” she and a group of her friends entered one night to re-enact high mass, complete with vestments and candles that only came to an end when one of the actors decided to ring the bell.  Katherine said nothing of retributions, but the story of the pageant was kept a secret for many years.

January 2012

Anne Forester with kind editorial help from Janna

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.

Stories at Fern November 21, 2011

Hosted by Patricia Houston, the November 21st meeting was a cornucopia of fairytales told with verve and skill that kept bringing the house down.  Patricia started the meeting by giving newcomers a brief history of the Guild and Pat Carfra introduced the Annual Retreat to be held in March of 2012. As the November stories unfolded, a number of them were built around October 31, the “Day of the Dead” or “All Souls’ Day”.

  Lee Porteous opened the telling with “Godmother Death”  – a story told in cultures throughout the world  – this one developed by Doug Lipman and  featuring Antonio, born on the Day of the Dead and the godchild of Death who endowed him with power, wealth, justice and mercy.  Unfolding the story with her never-failing fluency and verve, Lee provided the panorama of Antonio’s rise to fame and fortune as a healer, followed by his downfall for failing to abide by Death’s strict rules.  In true fairy-tale fashion. Antonio suffered the consequence of his transgression – death.

  Under the title of “Storytelling” and transposing an Irish tale to a delightful “old Victoria” setting, Andrea Samuels skillfully wove the never-changing importance of storytelling into her tale of the adventures of Johnnie, a young boy lost in Arbutus woods on Christmas Eve.  Rescued by phantom riders who provided him with a bull calf – fashioned from a twig of Arbutus –  as a mount,  he followed them as they crossed the Gorge in full flight. But  Johnnie, too, suffered the consequence of ignoring a strict rule and was plunged into the Gorge.  Yet he made a wonderful gain – Now HE had a story to tell!

Providing no names within her story “That Day”, Catherine Sheehan led her audience to discover the identities by easy stages and colourful hints.  The setting, England at a time when the old king had died; the players are knights, ladies, an old Druid priest and a young boy living with foster parents who don’t know his identity. Then the  tournament  featuring a block holding a magnificent sword that only the boy can draw forth provides the confirmation. He is Arthur, the true king and the old Druid is Merlin. Catherine’s source story:  “Arthur the King”  by Kevin Crossley-Holland.

Songs of a Sourdough a collection of the ballads of Robert Service was the source of Pat Carfra’s beautifully expressive recitation of the complete Ballad of the Cremation of Sam McGee – “a wonderful way of getting warm in the freezing conditions of a Canadian Winter.” The enjoyment of the performance was enhanced by audience participation that claimed Robert Service to be “almost” a native son of Victoria.

Deploying her acting skills, considerable sense of humour and her imagination in creating her own story, “Prince”, Phyllis Graham kept her audience participating and sending up gales of laughter as she unfolded a “male version of  fairy-tales”, complete with a less than heroic prince. After dealing with a series of grotesque tribulations, the hero reluctantly accepts his princess once they recognize that she is just as hairy as he is. They lived happily ever after and the audience was still laughing.

Providing  a veritable quilt of his family history, Al Fowler lovingly unfolded the story of quilt making that went back to his grandmother who made quilts for each of her children.  She endowed every one of those quilts with her love as well as her needlecraft and the power of that built-in love revealed itself when one of Al’s uncles returned from the “Great War” bringing back the patch that he had cut out and taken with him as he went to war.  Though grandma at one point abandoned her husband and family, when she returned to them, the power of her love patched the family back together.

Having just returned from Tucson and her daughter’s wedding, Sandra Johnson opened her saga by showing a beautifully folded white paper crane that travelled with her through all the joys and hazards of the preparations leading up to the wedding.  One of the roadblocks included a gigantic All Souls’ Day festival and parade that inexorably closed down Tucson’s streets. With so much to tell, time became the block that prevented her from revealing the significance of that white crane, but Sandra promised to return and tell.

Anne Forester November 23, 2011