Today it is pouring the rain and I am sitting right next to the window. . .
I love a rainy day. For one thing, it speaks of thirsty plants. They love the rain and they show the world their appreciation for this heavenly shower. They will dress the world in color and everyone will be oohing and ahing. Naturally all the young poets will fill the waste baskets with attempts to find words where there are none. The older poets smile benignly at their attempts while they don the raincoat and venture forth where the trees drip and there is refreshment for the mind and spirit. They commune with nature and if a poem forms it is from the insight received..
Now on a rainy day, such as this one, I can call to mind many such poems.They bring refreshing breezes when I’m searching for something that lies hidden.
Just recently I remembered a song that my mother and my Aunt Lucy would sing when she paid a visit. That song was “By Erin’s Green Shore.” By the title you can see that it is an Irish tune. When Mother and Aunt Lucy were young girls there was an itinerant Irish poet who came visiting once in a while. His name was Pat Kenney, He was always welcomed with open arms in the homes because he brought news of the outside world, and he was full of humorous tales of other places, and fantastic songs that he sang for them. A trip from “Uncle Pat” was a treat for the family.
He was visiting America and going about visiting in the homes. He would return to Ireland at the end of his stay and write about the Irish people of the Appalachian Highlands. He was interested in the way the culture had developed in those years. He gave Mother one of his published books, “Wayside Thoughts.” She gave it to me and I lost it in the moving process. I really treasured it.
I also have the acrostic poem that he wrote for Mother and Aunt Lucy. They learned that beautiful song from “Uncle Pat” as they affectionately called him.
ERIN’S GREEN SHORE
One evening for pleasure I rambled
By the side of a cool flowing stream,
I sat down by a bed of primroses
And gently fell into a dream.
I dreamed that I saw a fair damsel,
Her lips like the mantle she wore,
All bound round with garlands of roses,
As she strolled along fair Erin’s green shore.
Her cheeks tinged with dawn of the morning,
Her teeth when she smiled pearly white,
Her eyes sparkled bright as a diamond
Or stars twinkling on in the night.
Gold was her hair in the sunshine,
And queenly the dress that she wore,
Her hand was in mine as we gamboled
Along by fair Erin’s green shore.
Entranced in that joy I awoke then
To find she was gone, and no more
Will I see my sweet maiden who left me
To stroll alone on Erin’s green shore.
In those olden, golden days when we lived on the top of a West Virginia mountain the hiatus of a rainy day was a way the Lord provided pleasure for busy farm people. The pitter-patter of rain on the roof, the sight of it splashing against the windows was a sign that we had a day of leisure. We hurriedly cleaned the kitchen and the boys filled all the water buckets then hurried away to the barn to play, or when older to clean and oil the saddles, bridles and harness.
There would be no need to cook a big dinner in the middle of the day. On those drizzly days the hired men did not come, and our boys were satisfied with a pot of beans and a pan of cornbread! Mother might go in and stir up a blackberry or apple cobbler just for the fun of it. Sometimes, on rainy days such delectable smells would fill the house and that would be one of her creations! She loved to spend a rainy day in the kitchen. Her apron still on from the breakfast hour, she headed for the kitchen as soon as we finished the dishes. You could hear the beating going as she creamed the butter and sugar for cup cakes with chocolate frosting. She might bake a big pan of ginger bread and a vanilla sauce for it, or maybe apple dumplings to drown in rich Guernsey cream!
My sister Irene and I would take the stairs two at a time where we would get on the bed and read our books.
Bing! Bing! What was that sound? A sure sign of rainy day fun for us was the bing, bing, bing of the strings on the instruments, when Charles tuned his guitar with John’s violin and they would cut loose on their fabulous music! “They’re getting tuned up, Irene! Let’s go down and dance!”
Now we are talking about the Appalachian Highland clog dance called the “clog.” All of us learned this from our father, who could never sit still when the fiddle was singing out the great tunes that we loved to hear such as Paddy on the Turnpike, Turkey in the Straw, Soldier’s Joy, Ragtime Annie, Pop Goes the Weasel, Arkansas Traveler, The Irish Washer Woman, Forked Deer, Sally Ann and hundreds more that brought a tickle to our feet. My mother never joined us in our dance but she loved to watch us perform it. That was a fantastic way to spend the rainy day pent-up energy.
After a while I learned all the chords on the piano by ear and I played along with John if Charles was away. Josephine brought the piano home when I was eight years of age and I could not leave it alone. I fooled with it for hours at a time picking out tunes by the sound of the notes. Mother wanted me to have lessons but there was not one available to us on the Dundon side of the river. A bridge at the upper end of Clay was under construction, but there was no way for me to go to Clay by myself. It was not possible to have lessons.
I have a good ear. Some of the chords I discovered and others I learned from a piano chord book that my sister Jo brought to me. We had music as a subject in elementary school and the teacher came once a week for the class which lasted an hour. We wrote all of our lessons in a composition book and when I came home I would sit down and play the notes on the piano. Because I loved to play, as long as I was entertaining myself that way my Mother was careful to allow me all the time I wanted to practice. By age twelve I could easily play all the chords as rapidly as Johnny could play those fast fiddle tunes. He loved to play with me and mentions it in his book, Rosin for the Bow. John F. Johnson. Amazon- Create Space. c.2004.
So now, it is 12:34 p.m. and I am using my rainy day in writing a blog. Of course, it will only cover part of the day. That part must cover not just the time passed in writing this, but how rainy days affect the mind and spirit. Look! It has brought on all this remembering. This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Ps.118:24) We can never be sad when we think of that. I know that He made it for a special reason, and that was to allow all of nature a time of refreshment. To give someone like me a chance to think of all sorts of pleasant things, and being a storyteller, naturally, that is where my mind lingers.
On a day like today my thoughts turn to a time when I drove in the pouring rain all the way from Richmond, Virginia to Tappahannock, Virginia, where I was to tell at the local high school Home Economics Department. The director called and said, “The librarian at St. Margaret’s School called and said that you are a storyteller, and that you also teach storytelling.” Then she went on to ask, “Do you tell stories as part of the class you teach?” She explained, “I guess what I am trying to say is, that I would like for my Home Economics classes to have a workshop, and to see the technique demonstrated as part of it.”
What ensued then was a lengthy conversation with her in which I described in detail the type of workshop we would be having and the time necessary to include the stories with discussion and feedback. I asked questions and she answered with all the information I needed to see how to approach them..
This memory is one of my favorites. The title of the workshop was, “Decorating the Mind of the Child,” because of the insight I had from talking with the teacher about her reasons for wanting to include this workshop in the training of future Home Makers.
From my friend at the village children’s bookstore, where I told stories regularly, I was allowed to borrow several of her framed posters of famous children’s book titles. I was able to use these as a backdrop for the instruction which included what to look for in selecting a story to tell, preparation of the story for telling it, and the actual techniques involved in the telling. I chose stories to tell from the large, colorful posters of favorites.
These great stories are ones that most children have read or have heard read and as I showed the posters and called for response they would all spill it out together! I doubt if even one of them could not respond.
I showed why I had chosen these particular ones for this occasion and audience. I had handouts and we had time to discuss the techniques I had used in the telling. The handout spoke of certain elements, and the discussion was especially effective on the heels of hearing the story told. Then I held up for them to see my own copy of one of the stories—of the words I had lined through, and the one I had chosen from the oral language. I passed the paper around and allowed each to look at it carefully and see how the “telling” is the same story as the written but the language is different, and we talked about the written speech and the oral.
I was invited to a luncheon that they had prepared, and at the table we had further conversation. During that time several said they wanted to pursue this subject further, and asked the director if I could come back. From there it developed that I had a four session series of in depth storytelling classes. This was one of the most rewarding experiences of my years in teaching storytelling. I saved the letters from the girls until I moved to Texas and had to turn loose of so much memorabilia.
And the rain never stopped all day long! As I drove along home in it, I stopped at Stuckey’s and bought a pecan log. I opened it and munched on it happily as I recalled every bit of the day and planned eagerly for my return visits. Now I would be able to have class response for telling and for review and analysis. It was exciting to prepare all these lessons periods and the teacher and I agreed that I could do these follow-up classes in the regular class period time.
Are you thinking of learning the skills of the storyteller? It is most rewarding in itself, but greater, higher and more fulfilling, is laying it all on the altar and offering it to the Lord as your living sacrifice! That has always been my desire, and the dear Lord honors any such humble gift. If you will do that, then he will come in and join you in heart and mind to give you joy unspeakable and full of glory!