Passing Through: Weekly Photo Challenge

In,

over,

through,

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(Oops! Missed some.)

and out.

Read this many years ago. Presume it’s from the Sufi tradition of teaching stories.

Years ago, a young backpacker set off travelling to new places.

Arriving in an distant city, he learned that a famous sage was speaking that night in the great hall. The young man decided to go along. An audience of over a thousand people heard the sage talk and many were as inspired as he was. They gathered outside in the square to talk late into the night about what they had heard and to plan their future.

Over the next two days, the traveller asked everyone he met how he might meet the sage in person. Three days later, he was taken to the place where the man had lived all his life. He rang the bell tentatively.

Stepping in the doorway, the young man noticed the home’s bare walls and basic furniture. The sage came forward and greeted him warmly. Together they sat by the fire to drink tea and talk.

After some hours, the traveller stood to thank his elder and bid him farewell. His host was curious to know what was had surprised him the most.

“You are so famous. People shower you with gifts. I expected you to live in grand style. ”

“You arrived with only a backpack!” retorted the sage.

“Yes, but I am only passing through,” muttered the young man.

“So am I,” replied his host.

Transient
All text and photos © Meg Philp are protected by Australian Copyright Law. If you wish to use any images. Please contact me thru Comments. Pass the story on. Thanks.

PS. And then there’s the song a Canadian teacher sang to me on the verandah of the Migrant Hostel in 1975 – the chorus is stuck in my mind.

 “Passing through, Passing through, … Glad that I ran into you, Tell the people that you saw me passing through.”

Google now tells me it was written by Richard Blakeslee and sung by Pete Seeger! … Learn something new every day!

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

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

Walking Your Way: Hodja No. 6

Story characters often set out on a journey. Like many in Scottish folktales, they announce their departure. “Mother! Bake me a bannock and roast me a collop. I’m off to seek my fortune!” As Dick Whittington, Red Riding Hood or the Three Little Pigs they have a task, a goal to accomplish, in the hope of a better life. Even nursery rhymes set us up for the road.

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I had a friend, a people – watcher, and on sunny Saturdays, as we sat on the beach together, we would make up stories about people as they passed by, based on the way they walked.

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Often I do the same myself when people catch my eye This man was walking away after throwing keys into the Seine. I saw them, flung from his hand, and curve in the air. The back story (now a fad, thanks to a TV program) is that lovers have their names inscribed on a padlock. They lock it onto a bridge and throw the keys in the river as a symbol of their eternal love. ( My brother tells me that they’ve had to cut all the padlocks off one particular bridge in Scotland – the weight of so many was endangering the safety of the structure … so much for the stereotype of dour Scots!)

IMG_4698 Yet, here in Paris, he was on his own. Where was his partner? And he was plodding along, not strolling. Had they argued? Was he going to catch up with them. When you love someone, you can pick them out in a crowd by the way they walk …There must be another story here. What do you think?

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Everyone walks differently. Actors know this. They can alter their body shape to add to their role. As a storyteller, I tend to gloss over the way a character walks in a story.

Let me see …  age would have to be a factor, as well as …

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what’s on their feet.

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or the ground underfoot could be tricky.

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Even the time of day can influence the way we walk our walk. When there’s no rush and you can stroll, saunter and enjoy the scenery.

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I have loved the freedom of walking since I was small. In this amazing world of ours, I am so glad I have feet and legs. Yes. Wings might have been handy. But to get from one place to the next you just step out putting one foot in front of the other, slowly, faster, softly, nimbly, steadily, appreciatively … and the world moves on as it does.

Once long ago, Nasreddin Hodja was working in his garden and a passer-by asked him, “How long will it take me to get to the next village following this road?” The Hodja didn’t answer. The stranger repeated the question but the Hodja just looked him up and down, a couple of times, and went back to his work. The man shrugged his shoulders, turned away, and continued walking. When he had gone a little way, the Hodja shouted after him, “You’ll get there in about two hours!” The man stopped in his tracks, turned and yelled back,“Why didn’t you say that before?” To which the Hodja replied “I couldn’t tell you how long it would take, until I’d seen the way you walked.” (Adapted)

PS. The last five posts have featured a Hodja story –  one more to go in my set of seven!

Source for walking tale: Özdemir, Nebi The Philosopher’s Philosopher Nasreddin Hodja.  Trans: M. Angela Roome. Ankara: Ministry of Culture and Tourism, 2011. Philosopher’s Philosopher: Nasreddin Hoja

All other text 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





 

Tea and Truce: Hodja No. 5

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There’s nothing nicer than catching up with a friend for tea and cake: a time for stories, news and reassurance.

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It’s been my experience that drinking tea together has been responsible for many a revitalising conversation. In times of crisis, real or unreal, putting the kettle on for a cuppa has heralded a joint confab to solve a problem, salve a ‘wound’ or have questions answered: a time of friendship.

I’d say, I inherited a genetic disposition to drinking tea from my mother. Here she is as a five-year old, dressed up, having tea with her dolls.

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Coffee just doesn’t have the same effect on me – all that pressured steam and long instructions pitched against the machine like  “Half strength cappuccino with some water on the side.” Ordinary black tea, with its ritual stirring, slow sipping and relaxed breathing has been a mainstay in my immediate family and circle of friends. Being offered the best china, or guest’s cup make’s it all the more pleasurable. (Oh no! Is that orange juice?)

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Of course, tea is not for everyone and that’s fine. We all have choice – of what we drink and who we have tea with.  I remember my mother’s anguish in her forties when her only brother told her that his religious beliefs forbad him taking tea, or socialising in any way, with those who were not a member of his sect. My widowed Gran lost much contact with her son, daughter-in-law, 5 grandchildren and their children: my mother lost contact with her only sibling: one of the two branches of my mother’s side of our small family gone!

Hard to imagine …  Tea is social and inclusive. It is a time to ponder, calm down and gather strength for what’s ahead.

Of course, I do have a choice of teas. Making such a cup last week, I was surprised to read this on the packet. Didn’t it make me daydream! Go on! Put the kettle on!

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You know, Hodja was fond of a glass of tea and good stories in the teahouse. One day a tall man entered who was not from the district. Everyone in the place stopped talking and turned to watch.

The stranger smiled when he caught sight of Hodja, nodded and came over to his table. “You probably don’t recognise me … but I remember you. I was in charge of the border guard at … .”

Everyone listened.

“Ah yes!” affirmed Hodja, looking him straight in the eye. ” It must be twenty years since I earned my living as a trader.”

Hodja invited him to sit down and called for more tea and turned to look at his guest quizzically.

“I’m retired now,” said the tall man, “but I’m glad to speak to you … I know you outwitted us everytime.  We were all convinced you were smuggling something over the border. But all your donkey ever carried was paniers of hay! We always searched and even sifted it. But we never found anything.”

Hodja smilled.

“Tell me now, after all this time,” begged the stranger,  “how did you make money trading hay?”

Hodja shook his head and replied “To tell you the truth … I was smuggling donkeys.”

At this everyone in the teahouse roared laughing, including the stranger.

All photos by Meg.

Hodja’s story adapted from one I heard Ben tell at our local TellTales story circle. (Yes, we drink tea there and the cafe opens up for coffee fans.)

Story Twigs My Imagination: blog by Meg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Stories in disguise: Hodja No.3

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Why do I notice somethings more than others. Of all I choose to see on my daily walks, why do I register particular images. Is it the clash of messages that interrupts my day dreaming? Does it remind me of something new? Is it the shock of the unexpected?

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 This caught my eye and made me react from “Oh” to “Ah” to “Aha” to “Haha” and then, “Nah!”  I took the photo from the road, outside a large army barracks.

The story,  that popped into my head at the time,  ran from “lamentations of swans” in my last post, to love, to loss, to funerals, to escape,and finally to how soldiers might feel driving past and looking up at this sign!

Other signs evoke memories.

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 For a few years I used to run miles in a country town with the Hash House Harriers on a Monday night. Arrows marked the route we had to follow.

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I was stopped in my tracks recently when I spied this source of a shrill, chirping sound. I never knew cicadas had such big eyes!

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Sometimes, one glance and I’m transported into a story I have told over the years. This is the red earth of Africa under the ” Udala Tree” in a story of that name in a collection by Margaret Read Macdonald.

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Sometimes what I see raises questions I can’t answer. It’s not my question. Whose is it? Who is she?

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And I can’t help wondering why they painted this here. Who did? What does it mean?

Perhaps Nasrudin Hodja can throw some light on this …

Late one night, Hodja was slowly walking back to his village. Suddenly, he was aware of the sound of galloping horses. When the moon came out from behind a cloud,  He saw a troop of horsemen heading towards him at speed. As he stood there, he saw himself, in a flash, being captured by slave traders, sold in a land faraway … never to see his family again.

Turning swiftly, he clambered up and over the nearest wall. Finding himself in a graveyard, he ran up to the nearest hole and lay in it very still … hardly breathing.

The men, who’d seen him bolt, were puzzled by this and came to find him. As they peered down at him, they saw Hodja was shaking.

“Are you alright?” they asked. “Do you need help?” No reply. “What are you what doing in that grave?”

“Just because you ask a question,” stammered Hodja, “doesn’t mean there’s a straight-forward answer!”

Realising they were honourable men, and that he had been a bit over-dramatic, he added that a answer depended on how you looked at the question.

The real truth, he explained, was simply this. “I am here because you are, and you are here because I am.” (Adapted from Shah 1996:16)

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All text, except those so marked, and photos by Meg

MacDONALD, Margaret Read. Twenty tellable tales: audience participation folktales for the beginning storyteller. H.W. Wilson, 1986.

SHAH, Idries. The Exploits of the incomparable Mulla Nasrudin. London, Pan, 1966.

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