A ‘Good’ Match : WPC

This week’s Photo Challenge gave me too much choice. I scrolled thru my photos and mulled over my choices for a while. ‘Good’ is such a loaded word.

The colour of my neighbour’s ‘Tilly’ (Utility Truck) is pretty close to the blossoms on my Illawarra Flame Tree. Reds are hard to match.

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Last year I was keen to get a photo from the train going over my favourite railway bridge. Continue reading

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Story Told on a Tree of Life.

Here are images of a story carved in Western Red Cedar that’s not mine to tell. It belongs to the Coast Salish People. You will have to use your imagination, Dear Reader, as you look up the pole to piece a story together which makes sense to you.

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The tale starts and the bottom and ends at the top.

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The characters, human and animal, are in the order they appear in the narrative …

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… from the diligent warrior, all the way to the runaway couple at the top.

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The images of frog, heron, the Creator, octopus, and a canoe are split so they wrap around the pole and can be seen from both sides. That frog’s split/shared tongue symbolises a betrayal – the failure to keep a secret / a broken promise.

This story pole or legend pole stands in the grounds of the University of Victoria. (The label ‘totem’ is incorrect for it is an Objibwe word.) It marks the territory of the Coast Salish People of the Pacific NorthWest.

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I was in Victoria BC. for the conference ‘Narrative Matters 2016.’ My first session was right here on the UVic campus- “Vertical Narrative: Reading History in a Coast Salish Pole” – led by the Director of the U.Vic’s Legacy Art Galleries.

The pole was completed in 1990 by master carver Charlie Elliott, of the Tsartlip First Nation, in negotiation with local elders. It faces east, towards Cadboro Bay because this traditional story is set there.

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The warrior has his arm around his wife to protect her, but to no avail.

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Look up at the top. Can you see a black stone, a type commonly found in Cadboro Bay, embedded between the pair? This gives a clue re the couple’s fate.

This cultural message is regarded by the First Peoples as a true story. They regard Western Red Cedar as the Tree of Life.

…..

All text and photos by Meg Philp.

Curve
Look Up

For more info see
https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Charles_W._Elliott

http://royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/assets/2009-11-17-Coast-Salish-Fast-Facts.pdf

http://www.firstnations.de/development/coast_salish.htm

 

 

 

Just a Whisker

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“He came back from the war a changed man. I don’t know what to do. He hardly speaks to me. He doesn’t listen. He’s angry all the time … hardly touches what I cook. When he storms out of the house for no reason, I don’t know where he goes.”

*****

There’s an old story from Korea, where a young woman describes her husband thus. In desperation, she travels to a distant mountain to get help from a famous hermit who has a reputation for magic potions that work. She truly wants her husband back to the gentle, loving man he used to be.

Everyone needs potions! Can we cure a sick world with potions?” the hermit declared.

However,  he listened to her complaints and offered to make such a brew, provided she supplied one essential ingredient – the whisker of a living tiger! The woman gasped and shook her head. She had always been afraid of tigers.

After many months she overcame her fears, persisting with her task. Night after night, she brought food to a tiger that lived near her village. She was able to get closer and closer to that wild creature. She always spoke gently to him and never reproached him. She gained the tiger’s confidence till she was able to rub his head and smile with him. He didn’t even notice when one moonlight night, she finally snipped off one whisker.

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When she gave the hermit that whisker, he inspected it and then tossed it into the fire. The woman cried out that now she had lost that which she held most dear …  the love of her husband…  it all had been for nothing.

When she was quiet and while the fire crackled, the old hermit replied,

Is a man less responsive to kindness and understanding? If you can win the affection and trust of a wild and bloodthirsty animal with gentleness and patience, surely you can do the same with your husband.”

*********

All photos and text by Meg (except quotes highlighted in italics).

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

Sources.

I’ve read this story in many folktale compilations. Here, I have abridged the tale and quoted text  from this version –

CROSSLEY-HOLLAND, Kevin (ed.) “The Tiger’s Whisker” in The Young Oxford Book of Folk Tales. Oxford, OUP, 1998: 15-18.

There are many other versions available on the www.

 

 

 

 

 

Giving a Fig for Storytelling

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Ooooooh fresh figs! Some years ago I planted a Brown Turkey fig tree just so I could celebrate February with this tangy, moist fruit. Right now, the tree’s laden with more figs than ever, which darken as they ripen. I’ve been giving figs away to neighbours.

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Once, a long time ago, an old man was planting a young fig tree when the king of that country rode by. He reined in his horse and asked why all the youngsters in his family weren’t doing such heavy work, planting trees. “After all,” he added. “They are the ones who will eat the fruits?”

The old man bowed and explained that he’d learned about growing trees from his father, and his father’s father. “Now it’s my turn to plant trees so my grandchildren will enjoy them.”

The king agreed that figs were a most delicious food and thanked him for his work. As he turned to ride on, the ruler suggested the old man might bring some to to the palace, if the trees bore well.

IMG_8749It was some years, after careful pruning and tending, that the trees flourished and yielded a crop of ripe brown, pungent globes of fruit. While his doubting wife shook her head, old grandfather filled a small basket and set off for the palace.

The guards refused to believe that their king had asked for this crazy old man’s figs. When he pulled back the cloth and lifted the fruit to their noses, explaining, “Just say, that the old man he saw planting the fig tree comes bearing the fruit of his labours,” he was brought before the king.

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The monarch remembered their meeting and so enjoyed eating those figs that he had his Royal Treasurer fill the basket with gold coins. Beaming, the old man bowed in thanks and wandered home with a full heart. On the way, a nosy neighbour spotted a shiny coin as it fell from the basket. He rushed over and held it up to him. Aghast at the old man’s good fortune, he quickly invited him in for tea. There, he learned of the king’s fondness for figs.

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Just after dawn next day, the man had his wife fill her biggest basket with figs from their garden. When it was full, he staggered off to the palace gate and demanded to see the king. The shouting that ensued attracted not only a motley crowd but also the king, who was about to ride out.  The Gate-Keepers stood smartly to attention, and a hush fell over the curious. All listened to the fig bearer and their king, with shocked faces moving from each in turn. When king realised that the man wanted a reward for his figs, he drew in a deep breath, shook his head and gathered up the reins.

“No,’ he said, turning away from the demanding citizen. Then he declared, “Unlike you, the old man gave to me wholeheartedly, expecting no reward. Guards! Let him have his figs. Stand him against the wall and have the people throw them at him!” With that, he and his retinue galloped off, leaving the crowd scrabbling for their fruity missiles.

The greedy neighbour returned home a sad, sticky, splattered mess.  His wife giggled helplessly at the sight of him, saying that all he gotten for his figs, was figs!

“Enough of this, wife,” he muttered as he sat down. “I’ve been a fool … but a lucky fool…  lucky because it was soft figs they threw at me … not beetroots.”

Within the week, his story had spread through the city. His wife, meanwhile, boiled what figs they had left with sugar and made jam. As she spooned it thickly on her bread one morning, she sighed and looked husband up and down.

“Ah yes, dear husband,” she mused. “The taste of fig jam will always remind me of what a glorious mess you got yourself into!”

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 Sources:

Adapted from “The Figs” in Schram, Penninah. The Hungry clothes and other Jewish folktales. New York, Sterling, 2008: 22-4

http://museuconfitura.com/en/historia-de-la-confitura/

All text and photos © Meg Philp

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

 

 

 

 

Inside a Circle: Weekly Photo Challenge

This week’s challenge about circles had me determined to look from a different angle. I ended up on the floor, looking at a light fitting!

There’s an invisible, inspirational net inside a circle.

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Look closer.

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… and closer…DSCF3093

more circles inside a circle. This reminded me of a story –

An ancient Hindu myth tells of the all-powerful god Indra, the greatest creative force in their mythical world, how he lived in a magnificent place in the heavens. Stretched above him and reaching out into infinity, was hung an exquisite net, skilfully crafted. At each node, a multi-faceted jewel sparkled. Since the net was infinite, the jewels were too. And each jewel reflected all the others. Thus the smallest movement flashed throughout the net, glittering like stars across the heavens,  and on into infinity.

The first time I heard of Indra’s Net was at a workshop on “Science and Stories” at a National Storytelling conference in USA in the 90’s. It’s been at the back of my mind for a long time. My search for stories about sustainability have brought it forward again.

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As an storyteller, the story I choose to tell needs to have caused a similar net of connections in my thinking, to be meaningful to me, before I make a commitment to it.  As I tell it, later, orally, the listener can be making their own private connections. One image of a character, one action, can set off a chain of reactions in their imagination.

Now I see why it takes me so long to find a great story to tell. It happens when it makes lots of flashes of connection in my imagination!

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The story of Indra’s net reinforces the interconnectedness of all things, in nature, in this world and beyond, even in circles and especially in stories.

All text and photos by Meg.

Reference sources:

The Indra’s Net :What is it? Downloaded 01012016 by M.Philp

RAMSDEN, Ashley. Jewels on Indra’s Net in GERSIE, Alida et al. (ed.) Storytelling for a Greener World: environment, community and story-based learning. Stoud, Glos. Hawthorn Press, 2014.

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

Circle

 

 

 

 

 

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.

…………

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!

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

Characters: play with the details! Hodja No. 2

“In traditional tales like “The Enormous Turnip” from Russian folklore, we’re introduced to settings and characters through the barest of details. Often the characters are nameless.

Once upon a time, an old man planted a turnip..

I wonder what he looked like and what his wife called him – “Husband,” “Dearie,” or “Thomas?”

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© Meg Philp

What was he wearing? Did he have a favourite shirt that he wore all week?

What was he good at? What other hobbies did he have?

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What was his favourite food? Was he fond of cooking?

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Did he have a favoured pet? What was its name?

Up until the turnip appeared, what was he most proud of in his garden?

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© Meg Philp

Did he talk to the plants, or sing to them all? (Did they talk back?) Did he have a favourite garden song? He did? He taught it … to a friend?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u90qRE2F7CM

Answers to questions like these make characters real. All those kinds of details add up. These invented answers don’t go into my telling of the story. While I may have them in my mind’s eye and in my looking out into the audience … I try to hold a sense of that personality there. As I begin to tell, they’re there, ready for the story, as large as life.

Of course, Nasreddin Hodja (a tricky character to understand, I’ve found) had heard the story of The Enormous Turnip. He liked to tell it dramatically in the school playground, extolling the virtues of vegetables, and engaging the audience in the action. The children re-enacted the tale over and over again. One afternoon, after one such telling, he went home for a sack. Then he climbed over a neighbour’s wall, for he’d seen into their abundant home garden, with its row upon row of leafy greens – beets, cabbage, kale.

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“Come to me, my beauties!” he cried, as he started filling the sack he’d brought with him. As he bent over the stalks, his neighbour suddenly appeared at his back door shouting,  “What are you doing here!”

“That Shamal blew me here!” protested Hodja, holding his sides as he straightened up.

“I hear or see no wind! And who pulled up my vegetables?”

“Didn’t I have to grab what I could … to stop me from being blown away?”

“Oh yes? So how do you account for your sack being full of my vegetables?”

“Funny you should ask that. I was just pondering that myself … when you startled me by shouting so loudly.”

All of a sudden, Hodja took to his heels and vaulted over the wall – no mean feat for a man of his age. He looked back at the wall in amazement, unable to move.

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One of the children walking home from school, spied him lying there and ran up, calling, “Hodja! Here! Give me your hand and let us pull you up!”

[Adapted from Strange you should ask …  In Shah, Idries. The Pleasantries of the incredible Mulla Nasreddin. Picador. 1975: 44.]

Shamal: a summer northwesterly wind blowing over Iraq and the Persian Gulf, often strong during the day, but decreasing at night. http://windlegends.org/windnames.htm

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

Counting the Waves: Hodja No. 1

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Despite the heat, I clutched my find to my chest, as  I sauntered among Saturday market stalls. The thin book, a collection of Turkish “Hodja” stories (published in English) made me smile. Then, while I was dithering about what to buy at another stall, a clear voice cut through my indecisiveness.

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“ Ah! I see you have the Hodja with you. In Turkey, we love Hodja’s stories. Some say he was a fool but others say he was wise.“ The stallholder was an older man, amber eyes, grey moustache, wiry, my height. He shrugged his shoulders. I nodded in response.

 

“Yes. I love those stories too,” I mused and when I began to move off, he threw back his arms and began.

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“Did you know that Hodja was sitting like a statue at the beach one morning, facing the sea? People, passing by, became curious when he was still there hours later. Eventually a crowd gathered and one villager called out “Hodja! What are you doing?”

When there was no reply, he added “You have been here so long!” and the crowd edged forward to where Hodja sat.

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“I am counting the waves,” he announced, without looking up. The crowd laughed.
“So, Hodja, how many are there?” someone shouted from the back.

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“One”

The crowd laughed harder. Eventually a tall man asked, “How can that be? The tide is coming in and there are so many of them!”
“No,” said Hodja. “There’s only one. Look. There’s one. There’s another one, and there’s another one.”

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 We laughed together, the teller and I. He had given me a new story and I made my purchase in return.

Remembering this story helped me out of a writing block a couple of weeks ago. All I had to do was focus on “one wave” and not be swamped by a sea of ideas. There’s a lot more to Hodja stories than meets the ears!

NB. There is a protocol which says that if you tell one Hodja story you have to tell seven … so there are six more Hodja stories to come … when the time is right.

All text and photos by Meg

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