I hope the holiday season finds you not too crazy. A little is good, a lot is bad. I’ve done both and know. Last night, Debbie hung a wreath out on our barn and it seemed to change the whole feeling of our space. It was dark, we turned on the little lights, and there it was in the dark – some light shining. Peaceful! Hope! A metaphor!
I’ve been walking a lot lately, across our friend’s fields and along a path that traces the beginnings of the Runnins River, the little (and I mean little) river in our town. I scare up some deer, or a hawk, and a crow complains, and there’s a stand of white pine on a small rise where I stop and sit on a rock for awhile, like I’m in church. It calms me a little and I center on what’s around me, not the noise in which we’re all engulfed. This seems a proper antidote to chaos. In “Half a Loaf” I sing, “When it gets too noisy to hear/ I take a walk outside”. So, I do.
Busy, busy, busy fall – I was away from home almost all of it, and when I finally got back, the week before Thanksgiving, I immediately got knee-dragging, belly-aching, fever-running sick, like my body was just waiting for me to let my guard down. But…I had a great time, seeing so many people, so many schools, so many stages. Some really wonderful festivals with a great array of tellers (Ojai Storytelling Festival in California, Cave Run Festival in Morehead, Kentucky, Athens Storytelling Festival in Alabama and the Lititz Festival in Pennsylvania), reminding me that I have a tribe and that speaking words out loud have a power different from anything else. I still love this work, although 2018 will mark a slight pulling back from performance to focus on writing. But don’t worry - I still do love performing!
Further Around the Bend – I, and everybody here at Round River, are delighted and excited to announce the release of Further Around the Bend – More News From the Town Around the Bend. I recorded “The Town Around the Bend” over fifteen years ago, and while it hasn’t sold millions, it is one of the recordings that people have spoken of time and time again. New songs, new stories about the quirky little town I’m constructing in my imagination. Kids lose their teeth and learn to read, parents watch their children grow up and still sing lullabies, and twelve year olds understand they might be too old to be in charge of saving earthworms. I love these stories, and hope you will, too.
I am in the editing stages of the last Charlie Bumpers book, tentatively titled “Charlie Bumpers vs. the Evil Jerzollies”. Charlie and Tommy define “Jerzolly” as a jerk, bozo, and bully all wrapped up into one, so maybe you can see where this is headed. A little wistful, but it’s a good thing. The plans are for it to be out in the spring of 2019.
Over the past five years, I’ve been lucky enough to work with the Graustein Foundation and the Community Leadership Program in New Haven, Connecticut, running workshops on story, change, identity, and personal and group narrative. This work has been really gratifying and interesting – a chance to work with people who are working on the ground to make positive changes in their community. In the process, I help bring out the stories of the people and their work, and we find common ground and encouragement to grow and change. To hear the personal stories of these people is inspiring to me, and I’m honored to be part of this work. I hope to do some more of it in the years ahead.
One of my favorite books this fall has been, The Invention of Nature: Alexander van Humboldt’s New World, by Andrea Wulf. While I’d heard of Humboldt, I had no idea of the width and breadth of his life and work – he set a course for our understanding of the natural world and our place in it that has resonated for over 150 years. It’s a beautifully written book, and I really recommend it. I also really liked The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud, a story told from the point of view of the “Arab” killed by Camus’s main character in The Stranger. It’s an incredible work of imagination, and made me think a lot about our concept of “the other”, as if the people we don’t know are all nameless and faceless, without hopes and dreams and lives like ours.
And for fun, Stormy Weather by Carl Hiassen. Truth is, my work is closer to Hiassen than Camus, since “what happens next” is part an oral storyteller’s concern. Plus, man, he’s funny, and I like funny.
What are you reading? We love hearing from you.