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I know I’ve lost some of my self-consciousness when I can sit (at dusk no less, that glorious time of peering into lit windows) at the dining room table, mere feet from the sidewalk, with my headphones on, recording a story.  You can’t tell a story without making faces.  And gesturing.  Even when you’re just recording your voice and sending the file to your professor.  People walk past and look in and there you are, clearly talking to yourself, except with a microphone/headset and, mama, why is that lady talking to herself?  Because she’s taking a storytelling class, silly child.

I’m in love with all the ways that stories start.  Once upon a timeMore years ago than you can tell me, and twice as many as I can tell you…Once there was and was not a poor peasant…Here is a tale, how old I cannot be telling…Long ago and far away…  Once, in the golden time…Once upon a time what happened did happen, and if it had not happened this story would never have been told…Pure magic, I tell you.

I find it surprisingly difficult to pick stories after reading them.  I’ve got a heap of collections from the library, and I can read through them and think, “great story.”  But I end up picking the ones that I’ve actually heard.  Small wonder, considering it’s an oral tradition.  They call it oral for a reason.   I just did The Peddler of Ballaghadereen for class.  I’m sure you’ve heard it, or one like.  It’s one of those stories where you reach the end and think, “aha, this story.  Now I know it.”

So this is the quick version.  There’s a peddler in a tiny village, and he has a garden with a fabulous cherry tree.  Remember the cherry tree, it will be important.  But he’s simple and foolish and he lets the rabbits and blackbirds eat up all his fresh, local, seasonal produce.  And he gives away most of his peddler stuff to the kids, who love him.  So he ends up poor and hungry in the winter, when St. Patrick comes to him in a dream and tell him to go stand on the bridge in Dublin, where he will hear what he’s meant to hear.  Of course it takes three dreams to get the peddler on the road (we all know better than to listen to just one dream, come on) and he stands there all day in the cold, nearly dead from hunger.  And this innkeeper asks him what he’s doing, and it turns out the innkeeper had a dream, too.  To go to a village called Ballaghadereen and dig under a cherry tree and find gold.  But of course the innkeeper is too smart to do something like that.

But I’m not letting the birds get all the cherries.  We can share.  I’ve just finished reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle  and now I’m chomping at the bit for the farmer’s markets to open and the cherries to ripen, and the raspberries and strawberries and blueberries and tomatoes and yes, even the zucchini.  I started the book feeling like they were preaching to the choir, but a few chapters in I got up to examine the contents of my fridge.  Sure, I try to buy local produce, and I like my organics and my raw milk and trying to have a garden, but I ended up realizing I was not the choir and it was a lovely preaching.  Kate, you’ll love the bit about turkey mating.  There were several things I wanted to write down & quote, but I was too busy speeding through it to stop.  You’ll just have to borrow my copy and read it for yourself.

I was also hungry through most of the book: consider this your warning.  Good thing it wasn’t released in the middle of winter.  At least now those fresh things are starting to pop up.

May 2007

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