The Odyssey Storytellers presented “A Garden of Earth Stories” at Guy Nearing Summerhouse in the Plantations yesterday afternoon.
The storytelling opened with a chime and an introduction from Kevin Moss, community outreach coordinator for the Plantations and a member of the Odyssey Storytellers, who organized the event. Moss told the audience that he had decided to focus the evening on nature but to only instruct the storytellers to discuss “our connection to earth … [and] stories that spoke to them”.
The Odyssey Storytellers consists of both amateur and professional storytellers.
“We have a very diverse group of storytellers here today,” Moss told the crowd. Most of the audience consisted of members of the Ithaca community. Moss began the storytelling with an 800-year-old poem by an Asian poet named Rumi. “Storywater” described the mysticism of storytellers. As part of his introduction, Moss spoke the words of Jim Bosjolie, an amateur storyteller and former stand-up comic to the crowd: “Stories can not only entertain but educate and inspire – all in a very short time.” Bosjolie told a Thai story about a freedom bird that can never be killed.
Reggie Carpenter, a professional storyteller from Tompkins County, travels around the country performing. She tells a variety of stories but tends to focus on tales about women and girls. Carpenter, who has been telling stories since 1993, told The Sun, “I went to hear a storyteller and fell in love with it.” Carpenter performed her story, an Iroquois tale called “Sky Woman”, in honor of the beauty seen throughout Ithaca in the late summer. This story describes the creation of the earth, the sun and all living creatures. “Sky Woman” also explains the occurrence of winter, death, the desert and bones inside animals. “That reminds us we have two choices in life: we can be gentle or we can be hard,” Carpenter said as she finished telling the story.
Ida Mary Warren, a chaplain at a local hospital, told a story about three sister plants that revolved around the change of the seasons. Warren’s story was an adaptation of William Wingering’s “Lilly”. Warren’s story assured the children in the audience that, regardless of how cold winter becomes, “I [the Sun] will come again.”
Lee-Ellen Marvin, a professor at Ithaca College, told a portion of Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Marvin has been involved with storytelling since 1980 as a producer, an organizer, a teller, a teacher and a scholar. Marvin recently earned a Ph.D. in Folklore from the University of Pennsylvania. The section of Metamorphosis Marvin told came from book eight; the story illustrated a prince who cut down trees from a temple to Demeter, an Earth goddess, in order to build a pavilion for feasts. Demeter cursed the prince by making him insane with hunger.
Following a short intermission, a raffle was held. Prizes included a talking stick made by Blue Jay Woman, one of the storytellers and two prints of storytelling artifacts from India and Indonesia.
Carol Dentist Wilhelm, a third-grade teacher and Ithaca native, began the storytelling after the break with her version of a Greek folktale named “12 Months”. The story told how a poor widow took care of her children and finally found some help from twelve wise man-gods in a tent. The men represented each of the different seasons. Wilhelm’s heroine said, “Each [month] is good for each has its purpose.”
Blue Jay Woman, an amateur storyteller, told an Iroquois Story called “What the Ashtree and the Mapletree Learned”. Her story told of Mother Earth’s responsibility in the functioning of nature.
Kevin Moss, who began the event, finished the storytelling with “The People Who Hugged the Trees”. Moss, known as “the Green Man,” has been involved in storytelling for fifteen years, since working at a nature center in Western New York. The center ended nature walks with campfire programs of music and storytelling. Moss focuses his stories on nature education and occasionally uses music, particularly the guitar and the flute, as part of his performing. Moss’ story told the tale of a young girl who saved her village by convincing a ruler not to cut down a sheltering barrier of trees around the village. Moss’ stories “teach about – our own role as stewards of the Earth,” he said.
The Odyssey Storytellers was active in Tompkins County until about twelve years ago, when many of the members left the area. Several of the current members resurrected the organization a few years ago. The organization works as “a support group” for storytellers, according to Moss.
Archived article by Rebecca Shoval
Sun Staff Writer