Finding Your Treasure

Searching for stories that appeal and that I’d want to tell is like hunting for treasure. Lately, I’ve been searching for stories and images about treasure.

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I’ve had loan of a carefully wrapped 1919 collection of Hindu tales that Anne’s mother used to read aloud to her sister and she. They would talk about every story afterwards.

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This one is about a Brahmin, a much- revered holy beggar, who hoards the money and jewels he is given and then, to keep it safe, buries it all in the forest. When he discovers it’s been stolen, he announces he will starve himself to death, unless his treasure is returned! His treasure is returned when the king of that district cleverly finds the thief, whom he then pardons but whom the Brahmin will not. The story sets up the need to talk about it more by ending thus –

Every one who has read this wonderful story would, of course, want to know what became of him after that, but nothing more is told about him.

Stories need to be talked through, mulled over, repeated and given to someone else.

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Many a good story is shared over a cuppa. What a pot! There is a story there.

As I was walking a treasure to school on Wednesday, she talked about how, as part of Book Week celebrations,  a teacher had come dressed as a pirate. “She had lots of gold in a box, “she said. “Of course, it wasn’t real,” she added, sounding a bit disappointed.

Remember being excited as a kid by the notion of a treat kept in a special place you weren’t allowed to go?

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I used to be impressed by these cars … never drove one!

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A ‘Leaper’ bonnet mascot from an older Jaguar car.

A 13th century poet, Rumi, told of a poor man of Baghdad who had the same dream on several nights, telling him to go to Cairo where he would find treasure in a certain quarter, at a certain spot. He followed that dream, made the long journey, only to be captured by the night patrol while begging for food. He confessed to his captor why he had come to Cairo, who then admitted he’d had ignored a similar dream. His dream had told of treasure buried in Baghdad, in a certain street, in a particular house yard. As he listened, the captive realised it was in  his garden! As soon as he was set free, the poor man hurried home to find his treasure. What did he find?

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Plovers’ eggs which did eventually hatch, grow and fly the nest in a local park.

There’s a more recent (2007) Palestinian version of that ancient story called The Farmer Who Followed His Dream in a children’s collection by Sonia Nimr.   (I included this map of it in my last post.)

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It was when I told my version of the story again to a live, adult audience that the ending changed. A stranger came up and said how much they liked it. A regular  grinned and whispered across to me as I sat down, “Vintage Meg!”

The meaning made hangs on the storyteller’s intonation.

Without changing the final words,  I’d said them differently, for I was feeling and seeing what his treasure truly was when he reached home – family and children.

Treasure, for me, is the same  … and includes my extended family – the dear people I have as friends.

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A new grandson for a longtime friend.

References:

In Cairo Dreaming of  Baghdad, In Baghdad Dreaming of Cairo in Delicious Laughter: Rambunctious Teaching Stories from the Mathnawi of Jelaluddin Rumi. Versions by Coleman Barks. Athens, Georgia. Maypop Books, 1990.

A Royal Thief-Catcher in MITRA, S.M. (trans) Hindu Tales from the Sanskrit. Adapted by Mrs Arthur Bell. London Macmillan, 1919. pp 30 – 45.

The Farmer Who Followed his Dream in NIMR, Sonia. Ghadder the Ghoul and Other Palestinian Stories. London, Francis Lincoln, 2007. pp23 – 27.

All text and photos (except last one) by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is Copyright © under Australian Law.

 

 

 

 

Edinburgh Revisited: To see ourselves as others see us

I visited Edinburgh with friends recently and have revised my knowledge of part of its history. The Old Town looked the same…

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As ‘unofficial tour guide,’ in the Thistle Chapel of St Giles Cathedral, I pointed out the defiant, Latin motto of the chivalrous Order of the Thistle which means,  Who dares meddle with me! (Such fighting talk! I had to put such defiance into a historical and military context – See Sources at the end of this post)

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I regularly had to explain signs or spoken expressions or customs that I have long taken for granted. Not only the Scots accent, but words themselves baffled my American friend. However, songs often work where speech fails, so I sang a favourite Burn’s song ‘John Anderson, My Jo’ and explained what it meant.

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Brought up surrounded by Lowland Scots vernacular, at school I had to be careful not to use it. The Scottish Education Board insisted that children like me, from a working-class family, had to  be taught to speak, read and write ‘Proper’ English. It wasn’t till high school that I was given my Lowland Scots dialect in print, to study.

Robert Burns (1759 – 1796) was one of the significant literary figures of 18th & 19th century Scotland. He wrote literary forms, crossing his local dialect with English – a ploughman with more education than most and a way with words. He reinvigorated our Scots’ national identity at the time and continues to do so. A contemporary of Voltaire, Goldsmith and Goethe, he wrote poems and songs which became, and are still, a expressive part of Scottish culture.

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Here’s my friend Naomi striking the pose in The National Portrait Gallery. (She too has a prodigious memory for songs from her childhood.) The success of Burns’ first compilation, Poems, Chiefly in the Scots Dialect, made him the darling of Edinburgh society in 1786. He lived here for two years before returning to his native Ayrshire.

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Before he died in 1796 aged 37, Burns had written hundreds of songs and set many to old tunes. These made him even more feted across Scotland and internationally. He was the ‘Pete Seeger’ of his day and thought, for example, ‘There is a certain something in the old Scots songs, a wild happiness of thought and expression.’ (Letter to Mrs Dunlop of Dunlop 1790)

Many of the poet’s ‘pithy’ phrases had that certain something, are still used like proverbs. I’ve heard conversations closed with a summary quote from Burns like “Aye – the best laid plans o’ mice and men …!” Auld Lang Syne is sung the world o’er.  Many think of Burns still, as ‘Everyman’: a typical Scot, working-class, humanist, lover of Nature and Freedom: a champion of common sense, astute and yet romantic: always imagining a better world.

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One of the bard’s gentle rejoinders comes from the poem To a Louse“Oh would some power, the gift to give us, to see ourselves as others see us.” (i.e. The first line of the last verse in English … for the complete poem in Lowland Scots, click here)

As a saying, it pulls me back to reality. It’s a hard phrase to beat – as is my fellow traveller’s blog post about her Edinburgh experience.  Please click “A Guid Crack” to read Naomi’s impressions of a first visit to Scotland’s capital city.

Blogs really are a good way to express different points of view and entertain readers at the same time. They are a gift that can help us see ourselves as others see us.

Thanks, Naomi. Here’s to Wild happiness and more singing!

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All text (except links) and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Sources : For more info, click these links

The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle ( Wikiwand)

Mull, Brett, “Construction of Culture: Robert Burns’ Contributions to Scottish National Identity” (2012). Undergraduate Honors Theses. Paper 271. University of Colorado.

Nemo me impune lacessit ( Wikiwand)

Robert Burns“. Poetry Foundation. Chicago, 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.

Scots Language (Wikiwand)

Todd J. Wilkinson, Robert Burns and Freemasonry. Alexandra Burns Club, 14 November 2016. Web

Allan Woods, Robert Burns – Man, Poet and Revolutionary . 22 January 2009. Socialist Appeal International Marxist Tendency 14 November 2016 Web.

Oops! I fell : Weekly Photo Challenge

MSCF2578I was walking along, minding my own business a couple of weeks ago when, at my feet a flurry of colour made me side-step. “Oops! What is that?”

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A fledging was staggering about beside me … probably got a bit too cocky looking down from a hollow, high up in that tall eucalypt nearby. My … there was a lot of squawking going up there.

Instant dilemma. (Thinks: I shouldn’t pick it up. How will it get back up to safety? It can’t fly! Is it hurt? What can I do?) While I worried, the creature took action.

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 It finally got started after two floppy, failed attempts and began to climb. I could hear my grandmother saying … If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. I shakily took photos.

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“Breathe and hold, ” I muttered to myself and the bird, then pressed the shutter.

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The fledgling was a young Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, in a punk phase, totally unfazed by my presence. Other lorikeets were making a racket from bushes on both sides of the path. It’s not for nothing that the collective noun is a “pandemonium” of parrots.

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As the fledgling gingerly climbed higher, its feathers settled when it sat. There was still a way to go to get to safety.

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This all took about 5 minutes. The bird took a breather every so often and preened. There’s the tree I think it fell from, on the left. That pandemonium of lorikeets squawked continuously until the youngster had climbed out of my reach.

I stepped out, heartened by that plucky little bird’s persistence and determination. Boy, that bird taught me a thing or two! It wanted to fly … it was learning to fly! It wasn’t going to quit.

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I need to acknowledge a traditional Aboriginal story and popular children’s picture book here, called How the birds got their colours which features a Rainbow Lorikeet.  Pamela Lofts created the book of this story, which she heard from Mary Albert of the Bardi people of Western Australia. It was published, illustrated with children’s responses as paintings, in 2004 … a classic, widely used in schools and still in print,

This recent YouTube video (Don’t be put off by the 10 sec ad. at the start), directed and filmed by Teagan Spratt and Alannah Bryne retells this Aboriginal legend, as part of a Media Arts assignment in 2014. A significant feature is the explanation by Aboriginal elder Bill Buchanan, as he answers questions about the cultural significance of such stories, told to children.

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All text and photos, except where indicated, are by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

How The Birds Got Their Colours. Dir. Teagan Spratt and Alannah Byrnne. YouTube. YouTube, 1 June 2014. Web. 12 Dec. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93UIsjYz75k&gt;.

Adult Scaly-breasted Lorikeet

Adult Scaly-breasted Lorikeet

Updated _ Scaly-breasted Lorikeet: Basic Information from Birds in Backyards. Web. Downloaded 3 Jan 2017.<http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Trichoglossus-chlorolepidotus&gt;

Oops!