Pumpkin Appreciation Society: Hodja No. 7

It’s Fall here in Washington State.

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It’s so good  to be out walking as the leaves drift from the trees and carpet the ground. It’s not just leaves dropping…

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There are pumpkins sitting everywhere in all shapes, sizes, and forms.

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Late one autumn afternoon, Hodja lay resting under a shady walnut tree. He had been working in his vegetable patch all day. He unwrapped his turban and a cool breeze sprang up to soothe his glistening bald head . He slowly breathed to the rhythm of the swaying branches above, marvelling at that majestic trunk and branches soaring above him.

“How stout and strong you are! ” he whispered to the tree. Spying the many nuts that would soon be harvested, he then wondered ” Why did God give you such paltry nuts?” Casting he eyes over his watered garden, he spied the rampant, spindly vine,  with glowing pumpkins ready for picking. “Why don’t you have large fruits like pumpkins? You could take the weight! You deserve larger bounty.”

Just then, one walnut dropped and hit him hard on the forehead. Rubbing his brow he looked up at the sky and said, ” Forgive me. Thank you for letting me know.”  He put on his turban and bent to pick from the spreading vine. Praising such a wise god, he carried the pumpkin home to his wife, shifting it from arm to arm, as he walked cheerily home.

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Photos and text by Meg. This Hodja story is adapted from the many versions I have read eg in

Downing, Charles. (1965) Tales of the Hodja.

Kelsey, Alice Geer. (1958) Once the Hodja

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“You’re a storyteller?”

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I was taken aback at this question. I can rattle off the Scots proverb as someone who tells selected stories to listeners … eye to eye, mind to mind, and heart to heart.

Holding all the stories that I have ever heard … to put that energy into the present one I’m telling, to entertain a particular audience is a challenge.

I carry stories I tell inside me. They make a growing list. Scenes from them can ‘flash on my inward eye’ when I’m searching for a particular theme to tell to.

I have to get better at thinking on my feet and responding to a question like this … with how I feel at the time.

Mostly I’m in a warm, ordinary place connected with a story – the one that I’m working on is usually working on me, as the teller.

I do a lot of walking and take my time. I’m learning to retell stories to myself aloud, more. I draw story maps to get the sequence down.

As a visual learner, I see stories as spirals and I’m getting better at mapping them.

Being a storyteller is an ongoing journey towards every telling.

Then I give it away, let it go.

Today I’m heading to a storytelling festival and when I looked at my elephant-shaped, perpetual calendar, not only did it show the day I leave, but also the day I return! I be like an elephant as I tell … and never forget!

I can’t forget all the storytellers who have encouraged me, helped me and supported me in my learning to tell stories. I have, on occasions when my audience felt daunting, had the reassuring sense that they were all standing behind me!

NB August 2018

(This post, first posted in October 2015,  is in the process of being updated.)

Story Twigs the Imagination © MegPhilp