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Seeds of Kindness

Seeds from a Writer's Garden

Telling a Story

Here I am - Little Red Riding Hood at the Fairy Tale Festival (Sherburne Library, Killington.) So much fun to be a participating library at this celebration of Vermont libraries. I am representing Jeudevine Memorial Library.



     My first public performance as a storyteller was in my first grade classroom. I remember sitting on the floor playing a game with my classmates when my teacher, Ms. Foster, came over to remind me that it was my day to read aloud to the class. My heart skipped a beat. I'd forgotten my book. Was I in trouble?


     Trying to be helpful, I offered a solution. "I forgot my book but I remember the story. I could just tell it."


     Ms. Foster wasn't the least bit upset. She smiled. "Yes, you may tell the story."


     She dragged her teachers chair to a spot where the other children had room to sit in a semi-circle before me. I scooted up onto her roomy wooden chair and sat, my legs dangling back and forth, and I began telling the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Having read the book so many times, all I had to do was to look into my mind's eye and there were the illustrations and I could see the words printed on the page. I actually read the book, pages turning in my mind. Every one of my classmates listened, no one talking, no one fidgeting.  


     As a grown woman, a grandmother now, I am in wonder of that child's poise and ability to do such a thing. I was a shy child. Yet that day I confidently told a story.


     Something happened to me recently that reminded me of that day in first grade. I was visiting Wonderarts, a summer program for kids in our community. I'm the Youth Librarian at the village library and I was asked to come and read stories. Since the theme changed each week, I had brought several books with me that I thought would fit. The last class for the morning was 4th, 5th and 6th graders. I showed them the book I was going to read but before I even began, one of the children piped up. "Can you read us the story you read last week?"


     I was so surprised at this request. When I had read the story the week before, I was thinking that it was too simple for this older crowd. Now, here I was getting a request.

"Well, I didn't bring that book with me today, but I remember the story. I could just tell it to you."


     That's exactly what I did. Everyone listened; no fidgeting, no talking. They had fallen into story. One boy in the back, leaning on his elbow, being his cool self, surprised me by exclaiming, "And then he …" and I said, "Yes, that's right… " and continued on. Toward the end of the story, a girl in the front said, "And then he made the little mouse." I couldn't help but smile. All the while that I was telling this story, I was in a state of amazement that this older group of students were so into this story.


     When the story came to an end, one of the counselors spoke in a soft voice. "That was a good story."


     Well, this was a wonderful moment - for me and for those listening. For a little while, we were no longer in this world. We were in the story. For a time, we all journeyed together. I'm certain I will hold this memory forever.


ps. The story I told was based on the book, My Grandfather's Coat by Jim Aylesworth, illustrated by Barbara McClintock.

pss. I still love the story of Little Red Riding Hood

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Planting Good Seed

Shasta Daisies in golden late afternoon light

     When I think about seeds of kindness, I am reminded of a time several years ago when I planted Shasta Daisies from seed. These tiny seeds, maybe 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch in length, were placed in the soil in little containers during the last cold month of winter. Next to a window that received morning and afternoon light and not so far from the woodstove, I expected them to grow fast and to look hardy in only a few weeks, maybe a month. The seeds germinated and rose up out of the soil in only about a week and then the growth stalled. They reached a little over an inch in height and never grew taller. I couldn't figure it out. Not sunny enough? Not warm enough? Is the soil healthy? Are these energy-efficient windows not letting in UV light?

     Whatever the case, I was not one to give up so I continued to care for these fragile seedlings. When spring came and the soils in my garden warmed up, I planted the tender shoots and nurtured them like a mother hen, watering them gently and often. They were my babies.

     That first summer they did grow - not much but enough that I was encouraged. The following summer they were healthy and strong and by mid-summer, it was apparent that they would soon take over the entire raised bed, a bed I needed for growing vegetables. So, I began to transplant.

     Look at them now. My goodness. They border the flower garden. I transplanted again, and daisies bloom in a garden of their own at the end of the stone wall where they thrive in part sun, part shade near the Maple trees. I transplanted some to the front yard which is filling in nicely with all kinds of plants- a space we've been creating for pollinators (and will soon be a no-mow zone, an important goal for my husband especially.)

     Seeds. What seems insignificant at first can become magnificent. I think about this when writing a story. An idea sparks a few words on the page. That first burst of enthusiasm brings about the beginnings of a story, and then it stalls. Now what? Does it mean my idea wasn't good? Will this story even resonate with a reader? Should I give up?

     This is when I remember we need to nurture tiny seedlings. For you who is reading this blog, I want to remind you that no matter what art you are working on (or better yet, playing with) keep at it. We have to nurture our art in its beginning stages. We have to believe that our creativity is a beautiful and wonderful thing, and that the practice of our craft is where we find joy.

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