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The Auk story is done! I've worked three years on THE SPIRIT OF
THE GREAT AUK, formerly called TELL THEM. It's the story of Dick
Wheeler's 1500 mile kayak voyage from Northern Newfoundland to Buzzards
Bay, on Cape Cod.
Dick Wheeler had heard THE HERRING SHED on the radio and came to me before his journey thinking I might want to do a story about it.
I grew up with the sea. The sea is one of the wonders of this planet and I would venture to say this universe. As a child, some of my happiest times were spent leaping into waves at Cape Cod and Maine. After college I steamed the Pacific on a navy oiler.
One difficult thing about the story was that I'm drawn to the sea so forcefully that when I heard Dick's story I got mad. What he discovered about our misuse of the sea and the planet shook him. And infuriated me.
Slowly I realized I had to put that aside and just let the listener experience what Dick experienced. And he experienced a great deal! Not surprisingly his journey became a spiritual adventure.
My son Ted called one June day saying, "We're at 10,000 feet. We
had enough power on the emergency cell phone so we each decided
to make a short call. We got to 19,700 feet." They spent 5 weeks
climbing Mount McKinley now called by its native name, Denali.
Ted had only two days to get to Wyoming where he, as a NOLS instructor (National Outdoor Leadership School), was taking ten, fourteen and fifteen year old, youngsters into the wilderness for a month.
Our daughter Laura is working with Karen Glickman this summer. Karen is giving programs about deaf awareness throughout Massachusetts. Laura is voicing for Karen who is deaf. Laura is searching for the best way to become an interpreter and work both with storytellers and with deaf teens in outdoor experiences. Laura is living at home this summer. She's got me trying to play the piano. What fun to have her to spark Linda and me up!
I write this newsletter in July. Yesterday I swam in the saltwater marsh. It is the place I am happiest in the whole world. I leap into the creek and the water's chilly. It tastes salty. The ocean tides come in twice a day filling the creeks. Above me is the blue sky, the sun a great yellow presence--a mighty friend. All around the banks of the creeks is tall green marsh grass. There are ripples in the water, birds fly near my head. When I am floating on a planet there are no worries, no cares, just color and wonder.
In May I performed at the Clearwater Festival on the Hudson River.
Pete Seeger started the festival twenty years ago to clean up the
Hudson. It's largely a music festival, but the storytelling grove
is the best spot. It's shaded, full of plants and good listeners.
Louise Kessel and Davis Bates have spent years creating this magical
grove. This year John Basinger ran the storytelling grove with grace
and great warmth. What a treasure John, Louise and Davis are.
Louise told a story about a little bird trying to put out a forest fire all by itself. The bird flies to the lake gets water and flies back. The bird is getting tattered and worn. It is an impossible task but the bird keeps on. The bird is laughed at by the gods. But the bird keeps on. The story moved me and gave me courage.
At times there is a loneliness and hardness in life. Storytellers often feel alone, isolated. But each of us, like the bird, keeps on. The water we gather, the stories and images, feed a deep thirst. Keep on. Keep on. Keep on. Bravo storytellers! Bravo listeners!
My wife Linda said to me, "Wouldn't it be fun if every mini van came equipped with a Jay O'Callahan cassette." I said,"Linda, we'd need a genius to accomplish that." So genius, give us a call!
Birds goin fishin
In my cherry tree.
Fishin for red cherries,
In my cherry tree.
Branches are a bobbin
Cuz a red breasted robin
Is fishin for some cherries
In my cherry tree.
This summer I've been trying to mow the lawn with an old fashioned
push mower. It's quieter, exercise for my arms, and seems to be
faster. I not only become part of the process, while fantasizing
10 million people mowing their lawns with a push mower.
The great wonder of science in the 20th century, is the discovery that the universe has been expanding, changing, experimenting for 15 billion years. It continues to do so. Out of that long expansion we humans came. We are the universe aware of itself. How stunning!
What's tragic is that we're living another story. Or at least we in the West are. We are still living the story of industry and "progress." A story that says we humans are separate from nature. Nature is something to be developed and made useful for us humans. It consists of objects that we humans give value to. The story we're living is outdated and destructive to the earth and ourselves.
A sad state of affairs. We must renew our intimacy with the earth. Thomas Berry in THE DREAM OF THE EARTH writes of the Omaha Indians. When a child is born, the Omaha declare its newborn presence to the entire universe. They address the sun, moon, stars, air, winds, grasses, birds. "Into your midst has come a new life. Consent ye, we implore! Make its path smooth!"
Is that not beautiful? I can remember living at the edge of a saltwater marsh when my children, Ted and Laura, were two and four years old. One summer evening the children and I started into the cottage and Ted and Laura turned and waved good night to the stars. The moment struck me deeply. Ted and Laura knew they were part of the universe.
Just this summer a two year old friend, Mark, was jumping up and down on our lawn with such joy that I could feel the earth laughing.
When we adults acknowledge our kinship with the earth and universe we will claim a new story. Our stories and our myths help us gather the energy to accomplish things. With a new story we will begin to live in communion with the earth.
Beware mowing the lawn with a push mower. It gives rise to such thoughts.