Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Heard an unusual story from a Children's Librarian today. She said that storytelling had actually saved her from death... I was instantly intrigued as among storytellers there is always much talk about "The Power of Story" This sounded like the real thing!
As we stood amidst the stacks of books she told me this tale...

"I was walking around a reservoir. It was a cloudy day and no one was around. Suddenly a huge man - six foot tall jumped out and cornered me. He had a terrible expression on his face and a long knife that he used to hold me hostage. As I was confronted by this life threatening situation I remembered a story my Polish grandmother had told me about being in a dangerous situation herself. She was out on a country road when someone approached her and tried to grab her so she clubbed her attacker with a great Kielbasa Sausage and so was able to escape. 'What do I have with me, I thought.... I'm not carrying any Kielbasa even though my Polish grandmother did advise me to. What do I have?' Then I remembered I had a golden key with me that I was going to use as a prop in a storytime for my library children the next day. I pulled out my golden key and began telling the story. I just kept telling the story no matter how frightened I was because I had read recently in Ladies Home Journal that in situations with an attacker it is important to keep talking. It does not matter what you talk about but it is important to talk. I told the story of the Golden Key. The story has a refrain which is 'I have a golden key and it has magical powers' Over and over I told the story and showed the magical golden key. I don't know whether he repented or whether he really believed this key had magical powers but he let me go. He said to me, "Walk away from me but if you look back or run I'll kill you." "That was the hardest thing I ever did,turn away from this madman holding a knife."

That - I said to this brave little children's librarian - is truly an example of the Power of Story.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Henna Night

In late May I was invited to Henna Night for my Kurdish friend Gulcem. I didn't know much about this ancient tradition for the bride to be. All I knew was that it would be a gathering of women and that Henna would somehow be involved. We arrived one by one. Everyone looked so modern- and why not - we were modern! There was a huge amount of delicious food prepared and casual conversation but then in a small back room the shining red veil was brought out. It had been brought by her sister from her home in Turkey and was an important part of not only the henna night but the wedding itself.
Her sister and close Kurdish friends prepared Gulcem for the ritual, draped her in the beautiful red veil the same red lace veil she will later wear walking down the aisle at her wedding. They mixed and placed dark circles of henna on a plate. Danced and sang around her, mixing the henna into her hands and then offering henna to all of us. We opened up the palms of our hands and they made deep circles of the henna mixture in them. Later when we washed off the henna mixture there were the richly colored circles still there. Linking us to the bride and to her journey to a new home. Wishing you well dear friend!!

Thursday, April 1, 2010


I was hundreds of miles from home on a Florida beach cradling a wounded seagull. Its head was bowed by two fishing hooks that tethered its beak to its foot. Almost unable to breathe, it had been dredged back and forth in the pounding surf till I scooped up its limp body, carrying it to safety.

The hooks were in deep and I was despairing. “Do you have wire cutters?” I implored of all until at last, a man with a crew-cut and wire-rimmed glasses stopped before me. His jacket said “Coastal Conservation Association” and my heart leapt at the sight.

He knelt down, gently, “What have you got there?”
“It’s hurt,” I said, “I think we can only free it with wire cutters.”
“I knew I should’ve brought my truck.” He turned to the dark-haired woman behind him.
“I think we have some at the office,” she said, “I’ll go.” She set off, determined. We huddled over the bird as an evening storm approached. Its eyes were dark and liquid with pain.

“A group of girls came by,” I blurted out indignantly, “they said ‘Ewww!’ and took a picture for Facebook!”

“Maybe it will inspire more to help,” was his thoughtful reply.

“Why don’t they help?” I asked, “Why does it seem so few care?”

“They don’t want to sensitize themselves; then they would have to slow down.”

How true his comment was. I remembered my first reaction to the struggling bird. I was torn between my compassion and my fears that my Florida vacation would be spent nursing a wounded animal.

“We’re here to take care of them,” he said quietly, “Genesis tells us that. In Genesis we weren’t created first, nature was first and we came after, to be its guardian.”

I was hearing a Christian homily delivered for the first time by this kind man. His faith in Genesis and his interpretation of its meaning were giving him strength as he worked for the preservation of nature.

“This is all I could find.” The dark-haired woman handed him a pair of wire cutters, but they were too thick for the delicate work needed to free the gull.

“I’ll take it home,” he said, “I know what to do.”

He lifted the gull and tucked it under his jacket next to the warmth of his chest.

“Have a blessed day,” he said.

As I walked back to the rented condo, a fierce rain fell. I wished that I too had a sacred narrative that would cradle me in the palm of its hand as I fought to keep hope alive in these crushing times. His sacred story was giving him strength. Mine was a mystical view of nature that tied me to its livingness but, unlike him, did not give me the directive that I was ordained to help. Perhaps sometimes that weakened me. I glanced one last time at the pounding surf that an hour ago had been battering the bird into submission. Despite its beauty, nature seemed cold and indifferent. That’s true, I thought, the elements of nature are indifferent. We are the saving grace.