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is a time of adventure. In the fall I went to New Zealand to perform
at a lovely theater in Hastings, and then to the Storytelling Festival
in Masterton. Doug Lipman was there and did great workshops as well
as performances. Puti Lancaster, a poetic Maori storyteller, touched
us all as did Makia Malo from Hawaii. The storytelling was a marvel.
The train stations in New Zealand are hauntingly beautiful. Monsieur
Poirot was at one of them sipping hot chocolate.
My son, Ted, spent ten mighty cold days in January, including his 27th birthday, climbing Mount Katadin with a small group. In late May they plan to climb Mount McKinley. That's 20,000 feet. Send prayers.
My daughter, Laura is headed off to Arizona to hike and then on to Mexico.
And our cat Pumpsie is thinking about venturing out maybe late May.
Ten years ago, a young woman came into my
office in response to an ad I placed in the newspaper. Carolee Brockmann
said she was a musicologist from Yale and would be interested in
the job. Now ten years later Carolee and her family are off to New
Jersey. We'll miss them sorely.
Carolee has drive and vision and daring. It seemed a waste of time to me to apply to the National Endowment for the Arts for a grant, but Carolee said, "Let's do it", and amazingly we got a grant. Because of the grant, I found myself wandering the compesinos, the villages, in Chile.
Carolee said I should attend the Hollywood Literary Workshop. I went and Leonard Nimoy very nearly did a movie of the Pill Hill stories.
The Wall Street Journal called and was charmed by Carolee, so they featured me in a story.
Carolee played a part in most of the tapes and books I've produced. Carolee Brockmann is filled with talent. We'll miss you, Carolee.
A couple of years back at the Northern
Appalachian Storytelling Festival, I saw a tall handsome man in
a butterscotch cord suit, approach. It was the legendary Utah Phillips.
Over the next few days, molecules inside me were altered by that
Utah was curious about absolutely everything. About people, flowers, stories, peace, hoboes, rain, the earth.
When I told one of my stories, called Glasses, Utah said afterwards, "It was poetry." Another time I told the story, it bombed. And it provided a chance to walk and grumble with Utah. He told me then he was a pacifist, and that every day he had to struggle to be a pacifist. That made great sense and startled me. It made me realize that pacifism is active and vital and requires complete engagement. On Saturday afternoon Utah said to me, "I'm troubled." Utah took the stage and began to talk about being a pacifist. He told stories about himself and other pacifists. Stories of his family and life. It was of the moment and totally alive.
After the Saturday night concert, I was exhausted and went to bed. Not Utah. Utah went off to seek out the college students who were drinking beer and carousing. He made friends with several of them and talked to them about their lives and their hopes and their discouragements.
I left the festival realizing I had met a real poet of this land. I had met a man Walt Whitman and Emily Dickenson would have had a wonderful time with.
Several times since I've last written, I've been
part of wondrous events. A Friday night olio of storytellers in
New Zealand, creativity workshops, attending Pat Schneider's Amherst
writing retreat, and walking under the stars in Nantucket after
performing at a coffee house. Each of these reminded me of the beauty
So I want to say this: Do not doubt the power of love and beauty, tears and laughter. Do not doubt yourselves. There is a cacophony in an advertising world that tells us we should be somebody else. Not true. We are wondrous as we are.
So get up on the roof and dance. Juggle the stars. Tickle the wind and wink at the universe.