Posts Tagged ‘storytelling’

The oldest trees in town
are now mostly gone
those that stood
in the hey-day of
the best of times

Grew with the first streets:
Oak street, Pine Street, Elmwood,
Maple town, Mapleton

They shaded the shiny promise
of bustling new businesses
when we sold three colors of tractors
and all the autos offered by Detroit

Willows lined the tortuous fairways
of the rich bottomland along the Maple River
trees aligned to foil the failed golf shot

Tall pines in the city park attended the
a perfect playground: branches
that would shelter our children in a safe haven.

Trees for ball parks, the swimming pool,
a Main Street with a bakery, a soda
fountain and a movie theater

Trees that stood watch over
our bastion of churches
where we learned of the next world
and gained faith in the good
to be found yet in this one

Red and yellow leaves in autumn
would swirl about your feet
as you walked with the ones you loved

In spring the tree planters would
kneel down again and mix the new roots
with the soil’s stuff of living and dead

With hope, love and a belief
that the trees–and this town–
would live forever.


—John Walter

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IMG_9064Photo by Pamela Paulsrud


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…is the first Lithuanian word I heard my two year old daughter say. She pointed to the small fir tree my father planted in the front yard that day. “What dat Pop-Pop?” “Eglé, Marija,” was his reply. Marija came to me, took me by the hand and brought me to see the fir tree. She fondly touched the tree with those small baby hands, gave it a kiss followed by a giggle, since it tickled her face and said with a radiant smile, “Eglé, Mommy!”
(a small fir tree, personified, through the eyes and imagination of a child).

pronounced egg-le

Contributed by B. Gudauskas, Philadelphia, PA

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IMG_5474Artwork by Rosie Kelly


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Another story told to and recorded by the Court Reporter


2 In 1996 I was — I was pregnant with a baby. And she

3 and I got sick. She passed after she as born. And

4 we moved shortly after to a new home. We had to

5 move. And in order to heal, I found myself trimming

6 underneath this huge evergreen tree that was in the

7 very front of our yard. It was very close to the

8 house. And in time, to recover, I was really sick

9 from it. It took about a year. And I stayed

10 underneath the tree. And just no one had ever

11 trimmed it, and it was just huge (indicating) and

12 tall. So I would just climb up and trim the dead

13 branches.

14 And then we moved from there, and eventually someone

15 bought that home. And then I saw that that tree was

16 up for an option for the Botanic Garden. They were

17 looking for a Christmas tree, and they had their eye

18 on three different trees in the area. And they ended

19 up choosing that tree. And so it was like in the

20 newspaper. They cut it down. It was very close to

21 the house. And so they brought it to the Botanic

22 Garden. And they put, like, 10,000 Italian lights

23 on. And it was the Christmas tree for that year

24 And I called up the woman who ran it, and I said



1 that’s a really special tree to me. And I told her

2 my daughter’s name, Zahava, and she called it

3 Zahava’s tree. And we visited, and we took a

4 picture.

5 Then many many years later, as I was working with an

6 intuitive, clearing different things, she said to me,

7 “Well, I know that you are Jewish, but there’s this

8 Christmas tree, an evergreen tree, crumpled in your

9 spine, energetically speaking.” And she said, “Does

10 that make any sense?” And I said, “Yes, it makes a

11 lot of sense.” So, I told her what my connection was

12 to that, and we cleared the tree, the tree — all the

13 gifts the tree had given to me, and its connection to

14 that event and to that time together that we spent

15 together.

16 There’s more to the story, but basically — I mean, I

17 have poems about it and writings about it. But

18 basically that’s one of the stories of being

19 connected to the tree, and that it says in you, you

20 know, you don’t go far. They don’t go far.

21 Oh, I know what the connection is. Then there was

22 Yom Kippur coming up, and Day of Atonement. And I

23 went to a river, and I played the flute, and I think

24 I tossed some kind of prayer. It landed on a leaf on



1 the river, and it floated down. And then I went to

2 the person’s house where this tree was. And I

3 knocked on the door. And I said I need to just

4 connect, make a connection with the place where this

5 tree had been. You see that dip in your — you know.

6 She said yes. They were the same couple that donated

7 the tree. And I went to that spot. I think I

8 brought flowers and I brought water, and I played the

9 flute just to make our connection with the leaf full

10 circle. That was it. That was the story for me.


Contributed by Leslie Schechtman

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When I was eight or so I knew a spectacular tree. It green in a large open field where multi acre lots all converged. No one seemed to own it. I loved this tree the most on windy days, where high in its branches I could move in unison with its dance to the wind. Sitting way at the top, it was as if the rest of the world melted away and all that existed was unlimited blue sky in which to dream.

Contributed by Barbara Palmer

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Wanted to share my final project for a course I took this term on Humanist Bookhand from PSC member Christine Colasurdo .   I have loved to draw trees ever since high school art, but rarely incorporate them with my calligraphy.  The trees are done in walnut ink with a fine point pen.  The color is all Prismacolor pencils,which I was introduced to by another PSC member (and teacher at CNW), Kristen Doty.
 Photo and artwork by Marianne Nelson 

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Photo by Pamela Paulsrud

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Photo by Pamela Paulsrud

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Photo by Lindsey Pennecke

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When folks come together around a campfire…there should be time to just sit quietly and listen. For the songs of the fire are sacred!

Those songs come from the spirits in the wood. They sing about the sun blinking on and off… they sing about the wind and the rain…they sing about the seasons. Their songs are part of the sacred songs of the Earth…given to us as a reminder of days gone by.

The history of the wood is in those flames and in those songs…stories of the Earth…which will not be told again in that same way. And that smoke in the tree giving its body back to the Earth…its work is done…and its Spirit rises to leave this place forever.

Watch that fire…there are Spirits in there…some you know…and some, you have never known. But they are like messengers and are there to explain things to you.

Campfires give us that opportunity to listen…and to hear those special stories again. Ordinarily we don’t have the patience to understand the way trees speak…the way they form their words…the way they use gestures. Such things are foreign to us and we might be frightened. So they send their messages up with the smoke…and it is sacred…and it is part of our oral traditions.

So when you are sitting around the campfire with friends…share this wisdom. Encourage others to listen to the songs of the fire; that they might feel that sacred message too…and find that deeper understanding of Earth Mother’s ways.

Ho Hecetu Welo!

An unknown Elder

This story was by Rob Miller at the flute circle/Mitchell Indian Museum

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Shovels & Wheelbarrows
-Part 1

Certainty knows no bounds when it comes to understanding my grandfather’s time with the soil, his shovels and his wheelbarrow.

This was indeed a man who handled his shovels as if a prize on a shelf, a badge to shine on his shirt. His wheelbarrow was a piece of magic, the size of which seemed far too large for its travel in my grandpa’s car trunk. But those gleaming shovels, clean and free of dirt, and that larger than life wheelbarrow, seemed to go with him everywhere he and his Olds ’98 traveled.

I imagine that coming from Ireland, from a land of rocks, and hills, and farming – with green misty views reaching to infinity – that he grew up with the land in him. So it shouldn’t surprise me to wake in the morning (usually some Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m.) to find my grandpa in our backyard. He would be planting his second –or perhaps even third– blue spruce (another thing I am certain was his favorites).

My brothers and I would hear his wide deep digging shovel grip the gravely dirt – then would come the drag of soil to the surface – the thud of the earth meeting the mound he had formed. We would lie in our beds half awake, half asleep, knowing our grandfather was doing the thing he was most alive doing…digging in the land. More importantly, our backyard!

My Dad and Saturday Mornings
-Part 2

Now mind you, it’s a great thing to be so connected to the land, but it’s another not to tell someone you’re feeling connected to “their land,” “their yard.” Oh yes, of this I am also certain — there were days that my dad would have loved a notice posted of:

Collectively us kid’s, we would know our time of half-awake and half-asleep had ended — and when fully awake had arrived — when we heard my parent’s bedroom door open. First would come the light step of my mom in the hallway heading towards the kitchen, minutes later we could smell the sweetness of cinnamon rolls and icing baking. I am convinced now that this was my mom’s way of signaling a kind of “chore-warning.”

Confirmation of this alert was given when my parent’s bedroom door opened for the second time. My dad had a way of opening their bedroom door – which pushed a gust of wind under each of ours – along with a way of stepping out into the hallway that declared a litany of chores that lie ahead on any given Saturday.

Door Opening Sounds
-Part 3

There existed several proclamations within each of my dad’s door opening wind gust:

1. The “let’s clean the garage” – door opening sound
(of which the stories are so great in length & quantity – they would best be left for another day and another book entirely of its own).

2. The arbitrary, “let’s all wake-up cause it feels too late to still be asleep” – door opening sound.

3. The “you stayed out to late last night, so get your butt outta bed” – door opening sound.

4. The “let’s have a party and invite lots of people – so get up and clean every dish & glass, mow the lawn, wash the floors, clean the garage, and oh by the way, let’s redecorate” – door opening sound.

and of course…

5. The gust of wind and sound combination of: “your grandpa’s here planting trees and I didn’t know anything about it…but you’re all gonna get up and help – before he digs up all the trees we’ve already planted and moves them” – door opening sound.

– Final part

Each of these particular door-opening signals would be followed up with the triple knock on each of our bedroom doors and the somewhat military-ish delivery of “rise – n – shine.”

Indeed as time has passed, the years have provided me with rich recollections. There were important messages there for me – this was a lesson in learning about my grandfather’s time, which created my father’s time, which in turn r-e-i-n-c-a-r-n-a-t-e-d into something totally different in each of my five brothers and my own time. And in the end, regardless of our bodies calling for sleep, it was tree-planting time; for my grandfather, with my grandfather, about his love of shovels & wheelbarrows, of trees, the soil, and most importantly us.

Yes, of this I am truly certain, it was about his time – with us.

Short stories written by Linda Marie Barrett
(Submitted in honor of her grandfather Michael R. Barrett, who arrived in the United States of America from Castleisland, Ireland – via Liverpool, England, UK, — aboard the ship Cedric on February 28, 1920.)

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Contributed by Linda Hancock

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A Children’s Story

It is told that hundreds of years ago there were small mountain folk, the Alyphanties, who inhabited the rocks and boulders of Backbone Mountain in Western Maryland. They were seldom seen, although local legend has it that on several occasions around sunset, right after the evening breeze had been put to bed and the air was still, you could see the mountain trees––the  hickory, elm, oak, poplar, maple and hemlock all dance and sway to the rhythm of a high-pitched musical instrument.

It was the music from Nephod’s flute that drifted across the mountain. He always sat under his favorite old oak tree each day, and his melodies floated away on the winds, wrapped themselves around boulders, and brushed over the plants and flowers. The trees would pick up his rhythm, lift up their branches and then bend to and fro to the tempo. Even the birds would sing along with each new melody, and it is thought that even today they sing the songs learned from Nephod’s flute.

Each spring Nephod would wander through the forests, stopping to play for the new trees that had sprouted, plants as they pushed up from the soil, and for the new flowers as they opened. He paused by animal dens to play for the arrival of new babies. Birds came out of their shells and butterflies emerged from their cocoons to his music. It is thought that Nephod’s gentle music was the reason the Alyphanties lived safely and harmoniously with the wildlife.

One day one of the children, a 12-year old girl named Zinta, who was a strong-willed restless child, decided to wander off into the forest and down the mountain. She was tired of being confined to the mountain top. She hid behind trees as she went so no one could see her. Zinta knew she should stay within the boundaries where she could hear Nephod’s flute. Surely, she thought, it couldn’t hurt to explore the land below. After all, she could always find her way back home.

The trees down on the slope squawked and moaned at her, encouraging her to continue down. “Go down, Zinta, go down,” they seemed to say. At last there was no music. Zinta had passed into the forbidden new world.

She grinned and clapped as she looked all around her. There’s no reason I can’t be here, she said to herself, it doesn’t look any different down here than it does at home. But Zinta had no more time to explore that day. It had taken her longer than she expected to travel this far and until now she hadn’t noticed how late it was. The sun would soon settle behind the far mountain. She knew she must hurry back home before it was dark and her family missed her, but she also knew she would come back tomorrow and stay longer.

She turned around to retrace her steps, but she saw no trail behind her. Was she facing the wrong direction?  She turned in a deliberate circle. There was no trail anywhere. Where could it be? She had just been on the path.  She took two steps forward. The ground softened under her feet and she began to sink into the earth.

As she sank she watched the shrubs and vines move towards her. She was now up to her knees in mud. The forest crept closer and closer. The trees creaked and howled with laughter, their branches reaching out to touch her. “Now we have you!” they screeched. Zinta looked wildly from side to side for a way through to the trail, but not only was she already surrounded by trees, she was still sinking and would soon be buried up to her waist.

“Mother, mother!” she screamed. Her cries of horror pierced through the forest. The Alyphanties looked around in confusion as her shrieks found their way to the village. No one had yet realized Zinta was missing. Some of the men rushed into the forest, hoping the screams would lead them to this person. Others worked their way down the slopes. It was Nephod, however, who knew what to do. He ran to the edge of the mountain and played his music as loud as he could in the direction of her cries. The music sped through the forest on the mountain winds down into the forbidden land. The trees down there, which had never heard music before, stopped howling as the melody brushed against their branches. They moved away from the path and then offered Zinta their branches to grab onto. They pulled and pulled, lifting her up until she was free from the mud. Nephod’s music then wrapped around her and guided her back up the trail to the safety of the mountain top. She knew that this visit to the forbidden land was to be her last.

It has since been told that from then on the trees down on the slopes would listen to Nephod’s music. They, too, learned to dance and sway to its rhythm that floated down on the breezes. They, too, learned to live in harmony with the rest of the forest.


Excerpt re-written from:

The Great Cavern of the Winds:  Tales from Backbone Mountain

by Denise Hillman Moynahan

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Photo by Pamela Paulsrud

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Contributed by Aga Williams

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©Chicago Botanic Garden 2012

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©Chicago Botanic Garden 2012

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Contributed by Joanna Zdzienicka

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