Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Blessing of the Christmas Purr

Blessing of the Christmas Purr

According to an ancient myth, there was a mother cat present when the baby Jesus was born. There, in the dove-cooing softness of the manger, kittens were born and a cat did purr. And, it is said, that this sound has been a blessing ever since.

There are many stories about Jesus and his love of animals - especially cats. In one such tale, Jesus finds a young cat upon the road. She suffers from neglect, but Jesus speaks soothing words to her, and carries her to a village where she is fed. Afterwards, he gives the cat to a disciple, a poor widow. It is she, the story goes, who is blessed by this cat's peaceful purr.

The widow then asks Jesus, "You care for all creatures - are they not your brothers and sisters, that you love them so?"

He answers, "Verily, they come from the great household of the Father, and they draw the same breath that you draw. And whosoever cares for the least of these, and gives it food to eat, and drink in its need, he shall do the same unto me."

Such a thought touched the famous explorer, Lincoln Ellsworth, in 1935, as he flew over Antarctica, some two thousand years after Jesus' birth. Traveling across the frozen tundra of a world untouched, and even unsought, by humanity, Ellsworth wondered what fate had brought him on such a lonely mission.

As he soared above the glittery waste, unfit for man or beast, he wondered, "Why am I here on this Christmas Eve?"

Yet over the airplane's steady roar, he seemed to hear a gentler noise. It was the solitary purr of the cat he'd carried with him on this, the first 2,300 mile, single-engine airplane flight over the Antarctic.

"Yes," he confirmed, "I brought along the right mascot for the trip, a cat that has given birth to kittens this very night."

So it was, that another wayfarer was blessed by the solace of a purr on that most holy of nights, Christmas Eve.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Bill Worrell: Sculptor, Painter, Writer, Songwriter, Philosopher

If you love storytelling the way we do ... if you love the Southwest ... if you love mysteries and often ask, Why is that? Well, you've come to the right book: Places of Mystery, Power & Energy by Bill Worrell.

That name should ring a bell, by the way. Worrell is very well known in all the areas listed above, but he is also as down-to-earth accessible, funny, and biblically wise, literarily informed, and just generally fun to be around and to listen to. Anything he writes including brief emails and spontaneous poems is funny-bone wonderful.

We ought to know, we published Worrell's latest book, and we're so glad we did. This is our 14th year publishing Irie Books and selecting what we consider to be some of the best of the best, of which Worrell is definitely one. Imagine a campfire on the Llano River, then visualize some old timers sitting around it. When I close my eyes I see Will Rogers, Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, Rod Serling, and Dante, just back from the shadowlands, but, look, over there, the one who's entertaining them is none other than Bill Worrell, and he's no shade, hant or shadow, he's the real thing, a cowboy philosopher with a bit of Bret Hart, John Billings, J. Frank Dobie ... there I go again! That's because I just love the way Bill Worrell spins a good tale, and this new book is filled with nothing but laughs, ruminations, and rummages in the dustbins of folklore and science.

He covers such miracles of nature as the mystery of the Lubbock Lights ... the search for man's beginnings in the caves and cliffs of the Lower Pecos ... the vortexes that surround the red rocks of Sedona ... the picky little editors who inhabit the author's historic house -- they turn out to be nibbly house mice ... the ghosts in the walls of his guesthouse, Medium Cotton (we've already booked our visit!) ... the rattlesnake whisperers and bridge jumpers and all-around geniuses that Mr. Worrell calls friends, and he's got a lot, let me tell you!

I would buy this book just for the pictures and the philosophy. When you see Midge wearing a rattler for a hat -- not a hatband, the whole rattler -- you just have to read the story:

I have a photograph of a young man named Midge Davis while he was in front of the store with a rattlesnake coiled upon his head. Midge died of a rattlesnake bite a couple of years later. He was playing with what is called a "high striker". It got him in the arm two times as he was attempting to remove it from a toolbox to show it off. "Let's get you to a doctor," said one of his friends. 

Let me have a beer first," he replied. After a few sips, he said, "You boys better get me to the doctor. He got me worse than I thought. I'll be dead before you can make it, but try anyway." He was dead before they got him to the doctor.

Bill Worrell writes like it was as natural as breathing, so I would recommend this book to anyone interested in how to make sentences pull you in and keep you there. If you don't read, I would recommend that you join Bill around the campfire ... who knows who you'll meet there.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Great Flood

"A Great Flood is coming. Soon it will cover the land. I sing so you can save yourselves," said Spotted Frog.

No sooner than we did our first performance at MBFI, the rain came, sudden and soon and washed over the streets, hitting us slantwise, topwise and every whichway wise. We entered the Hilton soaked to the bone, to the marrow, to the heart. The words of the prophecy ringing true. And the rain didn't stop there. It lashed the windows through the night, wailing and moaning.

I remember as a child listening to Carl Sandburg. "Be careful what you say, little girl. Words have proud boots and walk loudly." That is what I remember. The power of words whispered in the wind. The enchantment of words whorled across skeins of rain. In Miami. Word, sound and power!

Monday, October 28, 2013

John D. MacDonald: Thriller Master

I was remembering this morning one of the things that drew me from the mesas of New Mexico to the pine flats of Florida. A friend of mine Jonathan Huntress gave me a book by John D. MacDonald.

The interesting thing is that, at the time, I was no mystery fan. And I wasn't very much interested in Florida. I was sitting under a turquoise sky looking out at miles of chamisa, pinon pine and wide empty space.

But Jon Huntress was a very good friend and if he thought MacDonald was good, I thought I'd give him a try. I did. Forty novels later I was packing for Florida. There were daughters to see, an empty nest to get out of, and many beaches to jog and tides to swim.

This morning I picked up a well-thumbed copy of The Lonely Silver Rain by John D. MacDonald. I turned randomly to page 43. Was that old magic still there after 20 years of being a writer who lived on a barrier island myself? Was Travis McGee, Mac's hunchy and hunky hero, still as cool as the day I first met him on a mass-market page of faded ink? I shrugged. We'll see. And glanced at page 43 wherein McGee, the old salvage snoop, was going to inspect a boat tucked into the mangroves:

"At first light on Thursday morning I headed out from a place named Faulkner's Fish Camp on Ramrod Key in a wooden skiff with a 20-horse motor, beer cooler, fly dope, tackle, tackle box, ten power binoculars and a bait pail full of apprehensive shrimp. I pushed it as fast as the rig would go, and when I got to the area I got lost three or four times among the wrong islands before, at high noon, I found the channel into the little bay protected on one side by the horseshoe island and on the other by a long narrow mangrove island. There was a gentle breeze from the north, just enough to riffle the surface of the bay. She was there, and the closer I got to her, the more disreputable she looked -- like an elegant lady who had stepped into the wrong bar on New Year's Eve."

I was caught, stuck, apprehensive like those trapped bait shrimp. MacDonald had me and he was going to have his way with me for another 277 pages. It's simple, really. The reason why the guileless reader reads on. As E.M. Forster once said, it's all about turning the page.

In that moment of spellbound reading I was sent back 20 years into a turquoise day in New Mexico when, crazy as it seemed to me then, I would even consider moving to Florida. What was the old magic? 

Well, it's page-turning stuff about fish camps, mangrove keys, tackle boxes and shrimp that don't want to be in a bait pail. "I got lost three or four times among the wrong islands before, at high noon, I found the channel into the little bay ..." 

Even if you aren't interested in anything Florida has to offer, there is a universal understanding among men and women that the words "lost" and "high noon" and "channels" and "little bays" are intriguing, and you have to ask yourself that age-old question -- what happens next?

There's "gentle breeze" and "riffle", softly reassuring, but the boat McGee's looking for is "like an elegant lady who had stepped into the wrong bar on New Year's Eve." All of these got me. They got me wondering, so I read on and came to the part about the turkey buzzards we know so well down here and the carrion flies. The lady is of course the missing boat, what's in her is startling ....

"It is one thing to look at a mistreated boat and another to look at a tomb. The silence of the bay seemed more intense. And I could see the glint of the carrion flies."

I read on. I had to. Mac had me. If you were to ask me why, I would have to revert to type -- the creative writing teacher that I once was, the recovering teacher that I now am. The detail! The exactitude! The essence of place! The sense of something's going to happen but we don't know what it is. We want to know. But we can't ... unless we read on. And that is the secret. Each line must lead to the next. Each paragraph must fulfill its promise and lead to the one after that. And thus we ride the wave all the way to the final shore.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Mike Gleeson, Most Interesting Man in the World

Four years ago the most interesting man in the world passed into the "next experience" as he sometimes called it.

Some 25 years before, the two of us were horseback riding on a hilltop in Questa, New Mexico above the hacienda where he and his wife Michele lived. We, Lorry and I, were staying with them. I was on a leave of absence from my teaching job at Santa Fe Preparatory, and it amazed me to think I was not in the classroom. The leaves were turning, it was October, my birthday, and I was riding the range with my friend Mike Gleeson, the most interesting man in the world, and I was free as a bee on the back of a horse. How was this even possible?

Mike was a mind reader, as everyone knows who knew him. He looked over at me, saw the gleam in my eye and said with smile, "Hey, Gerry, no one said you couldn't do it." By which he meant more than I could've said at that moment or any moment, even now, but I'm going to try.

He followed this up with, "Just think, you could be stuck in some office somewhere bent over a ledger book like Bartleby the Scrivener!" And so saying he learned over the saddle horn, reins in his lap, and pretended to do some ciphering. Then he exploded with laughter and his horse whinnied and both of roared in the gold blaze of that lazy autumn afternoon.

"Now let's get some war paint," Mike said. And I suddenly remembered our mission -- to go the  secret cave where the Taosenos actually got the red rocks that, when you wetted them, made war paint. It was a mission of holiness that I was sharing with the most interesting man in the world.

God bless him, and may he be riding steeds on the heavenly mesas right now.

Ride in peace.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Too Wet for Words

This bucolic yard scene doesn't tell the tale. But sitting on the dock in lawn chairs after days of torrential rain we watch tiny bass swim over our feet. The dock's under water. And this was the dock that the builder said was built for the Unsinkable Molly Brown. Now it's sunk. The shell road in front of our house is once again a highway for fish. Our neighbor says there's a bunyip in our pond. That's a mythological Australian monster. In reality there was a bunyip in our toilet and another one in our shower. I am not not kidding. I pulled one gorgon head out of the toilet line and another out of the shower drainage pipe. Each head was thick, ugly, knotted and large, and I had to pull hard to get it out. Each grew from the water-greedy, succubus root of a shefflera tree. No bunyip this -- but monster, yes! Indeed. And more to come -- cockroaches galore hunting for dry land. Giant toads hunting for cockroaches. Bee eating Cuban tree frogs gobbling African bees.
Paperwood trees unpeeling their scrolls of white newspaper bark. Acacia trees drooping to the pond's edge covered in bright yellow blossoms. Dark tannic water, the color of molasses. Thomas Edison's banyan tree  shrouded in green fox grape vines. (Yes, lightbulb man actually planted it and the one who built our house took a cutting and it has grown taller than our roof.) The yellow-crowned night heron tree is bowing into the tannins, the bees are whistling Dixie, the alamanda bush is popping purple fuses, and everything's out of control too wet for words.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

the man with the panama hat

He reminded us of the Curious George books. When our electricity was down during a bad storm, he came and inspected the electric box. There was something different about him. There was, in a manner of speaking, light coming out of him. An energy of soft-spoken, kindly goodwill. As if he'd already fixed our problem before he'd begun to look at it.

After he left, the lights came on inside the house. I went outside and cautiously lifted the electric box hatch. There was a piece of paper pasted to the metal on the inside of the box. It said: "God bless the people who live in this house."

The hurricanes that season were Bonnie, Charley, Francis, Jeanne and the following year, Wilma, Katrina and others I can't remember now. We got through each and every one. Thanks to the man in the panama hat ... and the man upstairs ... he's still there, they're both there ... haven't you read their messages?

-- From the one-page novel, A Raga for Ragga Island, published by Longhouse, one of the oldest, longest-standing-still-printing alternative presses in America.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Miss Manners and Mr Sloppy

Have you noticed she's not around but he is?

What a pity.

I remember a very proper Jamaican lady telling me not long ago, "We have lost a generation or two."

By which she meant, Miss Manners was on vacation. Anyone who has been on a country bus in Jamaica may have an inkling of what she meant. But what about America?

I would say it's much worse here. Public rest rooms are light years away from when I was growing up.

I'm not talking about small children making mistakes. I'm talking about sloppy men who  know better and don't care. We used to say, Excuse the pigs, the hogs will be along later. But that doesn't work metaphorically. Pigs are actually very clean. Humans are not. 

There was a sign in the main hall of the grammar school I attended in the 1950s and it said -- THMINK. There was another one that showed the picture of a doofus with a goofy grin. He was saying, "Last year I could not evun spell Enjuneer, and now I are one!"

Maybe there's a lot more enjuneers running things.

My mom was a stickler for detail. She instructed me to put the toilet seat down after use. There was a great maternal thing going on in the fifties. Women weren't running things as much as they were informing and shaping them. My mom was anyway.

My mom's gone. But I would still like to think Miss Manners is out there. Or that Mr Sloppy might wake up to the Golden Rule. I saw a sign in the restroom of a local restaurant that gave me some hope. The sign said -- "We aim to please. Will you please aim?"   

Sunday, August 11, 2013

From Dreamer To Writer To Award Winner

It always starts with a dream ...

And then with a pencil, pen, marker, chisel, awl, crayon, wet finger on dry wood,
chalk on blackboard ...

It begins some where on some thing ...

Now let's speak about the lovely smiling writer, Frances Bonney Jenner, who was recently awarded a Bronze Medal for Juvenile Fiction by Independent Book Awards and a Silver Medal from the Colorado Independent Book Awards in the Juvenile and Young Adult category.

Let's mention her dream -- to tell the story of a young girl going West in a covered wagon. This was her dream as a writer and she wrote it by hand at first, then by PC, then by hand again, then by PC, and so on and so forth for six years until she had the story down. It's a story you want to read because of the voice of the narrator. And that narrator stands before you holding her book because after much travail -- and, literally, travel on the road her ancestors took to the goldfields of California. Yes, she camped, this author did, on the trail, not once but several times that her family followed in the long ago. And, then, in the writing, she made that long ago seem not so long ago, so that the reader is there, right there in the dust and the sun and the sickness and betrayal and river crossings and hungry longing for home, any home, anything but the trail going West.

For me, as witness to Fran's triumph in prose and verse (the book is made up of both), the book has special meaning. And maybe that can be summed by poet Gene Fowler: "Writing is easy: all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead." My father used to say, "If it were easy any damn fool could do it."

Well, now lots of damn fools are out there trying, and I have to admire them for that. No doubt they are all equally good at the dreaming part, the pencil part, the typing at keys part. But as author Andrew Lam (Saving Sight) recently wrote about writing, "It is not a sprint. It is a marathon."

That is why we take our hat off to Fran Jenner. She may be wearing a medal around her neck, but she's still running. There she goes round the bend of the 25th mile. Read her wonderful book, Prairie Journey which is about writing, and life, and a lovely girl named Savannah who learns about these things on the California Trail in 1850.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Who Cast the First Stone in Sanford?

In most human conflicts the question is asked, "Whose rights are being violated?"

I like to go farther back in time, biblically speaking, and ask: "Who cast the first stone?"

In America we have always "enjoyed" the right to bear arms, use force, if necessary, and this goes back to the first stone thrown at the outset of the American Revolution. This happened on the evening of March 5th, 1770 on King's Street in front of the Custom's House in Boston.

That fabled stone, encased in ice, was thrown by a bunch of rabble rousers, as they were called by the King. They were actually patriots who were soon to resist taxation and, amazingly, overthrow the British government that ruled them.

But who got hurt in that first encounter? And who died?

The men who were injured by snowballs, iceballs and rocks were British infantrymen, Lobsterbacks they were called, hirelings of the empire, but nonetheless innocent of any real crime other than guarding a building which they were assigned to watch over.

Who was killed?

One of the first Boston citizens to die in the Custom's House encounter was a man named Crispus Attucks. A black man. The English soldiers got away without serious injury. Attucks became a symbol of colonial rights, and his death was significant. He was a free black who was also part Amerindian. And he was both dead and "dead to rights", the people said. As a martyr no one questioned his pedigree -- who or what he was at birth meant little or nothing to the patriots. He was a fallen soldier in the fight for freedom from tyranny shot dead by two bullets from a British musket.

What really happened?

A revolution happened. After which it became law that a citizen of the U.S., could stand ground, if need be, and protect himself against the threats of the State, the government. Upon this rests the question: Who cast the first stone?

The lobsterbacks? They had the guns. And they were ready to use them. The people with the iceballs? They were ready to use them too. To this day no one knows who cast the first stone in Boston, which, it might be said, was cast in the mind not the gun or the hand. We do know that the lobsterbacks were exonerated. It was none other than John Adams who defended the British soldiers successfully and somehow convinced a jury to acquit his clients.

And it is that way today in Florida.

So who cast the stone in Sanford and who had the gun?  Who is the martyr and who is the murderer? Who is alive and who is dead?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Zora's Story, A Runaway Rests In Peace

Zora was a runaway. A rescue dog from Hurricane Katrina who, during the storm got run over by a truck. Hip-shattered and in the road, she was picked up by a vet, operated on, healed and put up for adoption. Some nice folks from Pine Island, Florida adopted her. But Zora had a habit of running away. She ran this way and that, got lost in the mangroves, ran down the road that links St James City to the south with Bokeelia to the north. Lots of people knew Zora -- a dog as big as a small horse trotting to who-knows-where isn't invisible.

I met her at the Pineland Post Office, which I believe is the second smallest PO in Florida. There she sprawled, all seven feet of her, head to tail. And when someone new walked in, her head popped up, she looked, and lay down. It was as if she were searching for someone. We adopted her from the people who had adopted her who got her from the vet who saved her from being run over more than once.

One of our first days with Zora she slipped through the front gate and ran down the white shell road, turned right and headed for the old runway for small planes. I jogged along after her for about two miles or so. She's not going into Matlacha Pass, is she? Yes, she was. And did. I swam after her. The water deepened as I got hold of her collar and turned her about and sort of hauled in to shore. We were both out of breath. She looked me in the eye. "Is this the way it's going to be?" I asked. She looked up at the sky seeking a rift in the clouds. She studied the solid wall of mangroves seeking a break in the leaves.

That was nine years ago. Zora did settle down, mostly on my lap as you see in the photograph. That was her favorite place to be when it stormed, and it storms a lot in the summer on Pine Island. Sometimes when the thunder was thunderin' and you happened to be sitting on the toilet, she bumped open the bathroom door with her nose, came in and sat down on your knees.

When Zora wasn't running away or sitting on you, she was stepping on you. How I miss, now that she's gone, that reminder of how heavy a big Great Dane is. She weighed anywhere from 150-160. And when her full weight was on your bare toes, you really felt the presence of that dog. Another thing -- her head was always at perfect level with your dinner plate. Once she sunk her teeth into a block of Spanish smoked cheese from BJs. She liked the block so much she didn't eat it, just carried it proudly around the kitchen. That enabled us to disengage it and shave it where she'd slobbered, but her tooth marks were always there.

Now all these things weigh heavy as I type. Her teeth went deep into that cheese, but her love went much deeper into my heart. I wish she'd come and stand on my foot. I wish I could run down the landing field to find her swimming to Cuba: I wish she'd come sit on my knees. A wish is a wish. But a dog is a dog.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Mackie McDonnough, Rasta poet & songwriter

mixed media art by Mariah Fox


 A new review of Rastafarian Children of Solomon from Culture Magazine:

If your knowledge of Rastas begins and ends with your worn copy of Bob Marley’s Legend . . . then, my friends, you need a culture bomb thrown at your front door. No, dear friends, the ideas and concepts behind the Rastafarian movement that took root in Jamaica during the 1930s go way beyond reggae music and giant spliffs—though they are connected. Here, author and storyteller Gerald Hausman tells the stories of Rastas, or the “Children of Solomon,” in his and their words. From farmers to healers, to Rasta elders and fisherman, Hausman uses colorful words and first-hand experience to powerfully describe his subjects: “Mackie [McDonough] knows his history, his story; and his face is a finely carved mask of inscrutable character. He can stare down a stump, as the expression is, and he fears no man or woman . . .” Or in the case of Horace “Winston” Churchill: “His twinkle-eye and easy smile could charm a snake, and probably have.” Hausman’s Rastas leap beyond the confines of any mere album cover. Even Bob’s.

They reason they do, if they do, is because the people I have written about are real people leading their normal, irie lives on the North Coast of Jamaica. Some are gone now because I began writing the book in 1985 and a lot has happened since then. When we first came to the island the currency was one to five. That is, one "Sammy dollar" as Tosh put it for five Jamaican "smalls." Now it is one U.S. for 90 JA. If you do not understand the politics of grinding poverty, you cannot begin to understand the love of blinding vanity that separates rich from poor, haves from have nots.

In spite of the economic crisis in Jamaica, the Rastafarians have, in general, risen above it as Bob Marley and many others said they would. Their message -- how to break the mental chains that bind us -- is the substance of this book.  As they still say in Jamaica: "Walk good!" For walking for something, as they also say, is better than sitting down for nothing.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Saving Sight: An eye surgeon's look at life behind the mask and the heroes who changed the way we see

In his new book Dr. Andrew Lam says so many remarkable things about human eyesight that I believe all writers and readers should put this on their must read bucket list. I, for one, have read it twice. First, because it I found it so well-written and second because as a writer my eyes are the primary tool of my existence. 

Lam's narrative covers the lives and inventions of doctors who have literally changed the way we see -- but not without extreme difficulties. 

It wasn't their invention, generally, that troubled them. It was its reception. 

I always thought critical reception was hardest on visual artists and experimental writers. Wrong. I didn't dream that doctors with ideas that run contrary to current medical opinion had it much worse than Vincent Van Gogh or Mr. Poe. 

Take the case of Harold Ridley, knighted at the age of 93, after a total lifetime of opposition in the medical field. The knighting came a bit late but at least it came along with the other honors that he deserved for his groundbreaking surgical technique and his invention of the intraocular lens. 

Ridley's discovery began with the injured eye of a WWII fighter pilot, who had bits of plexiglas from a shattered airplane window lodged in his eye. What Ridley found curious was that the human eye had made peace with the plexiglas. This led to Ridley's invention of an artificial lens made of the same material. After this, cataract surgery was not the same. It was, and is, quick and effective.  

Dr. Lam has written what I would like to call a "medical thriller" wherein we learn just how hard it is to advance inventive science. As an extra bonus he cites his own behind the mask experiences that are often edge of the seat mini-dramas. There is a world of wonder in this informative book about the men of science who would do almost anything to overcome the complacency of a tradition that accepts illness as a given.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Children of Solomon

To the old time Rastas of Jamaica, King Solomon was "the wisest man on earth." If legends hold true, Solomon was as singular as the Bible says he was. And it is in these legends that surround the man that we see the clearest picture of him.

This was the man who called a halt to a hundred horseman so that each horse might weave a path around an anthill. He could speak to birds and other animals, and was kind in all ways to all things great and small. And just as the Buddha meditated under a Bo tree, Solomon the wise sat in the shade of of an herb tree. They also say that smoke did come from his mouth and nose.

Myths and legends have been called by historians the intimate link with our human past. Myths, in particular, are cited by some as "the sacred history of humnakind." Not the secular account but the spiritual truth. For this there is no better place to go than Jamaica.

In the course of many years while our family ran a small outward bound, creative writing school on the north coast I gathered the stories of Rastas and rootsmen, bush doctors, preachers, and elders of the Rasta community.

I met a man who had known Marcus Garvey. I met another who listened, personally, to the upliftment of Haile Selassie I when he came to Jamaica. I met members of the Marley family. All of these informed the rich fabric of tales and lore that I gently folded into The Rastafarian Children of Solomon: The Legacy of The Kebra Nagast and the Path to Peace and Understanding.

The book, begun in 1985 and completed only a year ago, was my own path to peace, the teachings of which changed my life, the life of my family, and the lives of others who lived and worked and studied at our little school in Castle Gordon by the town of Port Maria in the lovely old parish of St Mary, Jamaica. 

The review below is from the March issue of Publishers Weekly.

Rastafarian Children of Solomon: The Legacy of the Kebra Nagast and the Path to Peace and Understanding

Gerald Hausman. Bear & Company, $14 trade paper (152p) ISBN 978-1-59143-154-1
Hausman first went to the north coast of Jamaica in 1985, and for 10 years he led an outdoor-experience summer school there. He came to know Jamaica from the “inside out,” developing deep friendships with an intriguing cast of Rastas, who trace their lineage to King Solomon, “the wisest man on earth.” Hausman skillfully connects the lives and beliefs of these peaceful and resourceful people—fishermen, wicker weavers, Rasta preachers, respected elders, and wise men and women—through heartfelt conversations that arise spontaneously while sitting under the shade of a pimento tree, in a dusty yard, or by firelight in the cool evening ocean breeze. Rastafarian spiritual wisdom, recounted here in authentic Jamaican patois, emphasizes equality: an unwavering faith and hope in the holy spirit that lives in each human being. As followers of the Kebra Nagast—the African gospel excised from the King James version of the Bible—these Rasta “old ways” are epitomized by a statement from Jesus: “According to your faith, be it unto you.” (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/11/2013

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

On the Storytelling Trail

We are just back from one week on the road visiting libraries in Miami-Dade and Broward. As always it's a little tiring to be in motion all the time, especially when you have a Walden Pond all your own and do daily meditations in front of it while the herons and eagles fly by or drop in for a chat.

But the beauty of storytelling is that it's one of the best ways we have of touching the smallest members of the tribe. I am thinking of two-year-olds, and on occasion, babies.
Moms are nice too, always in synch with their little ones.

I can't help it: I am all over the place when I tell stories. My face is all over the place. When I see pictures of me telling stories I scare myself.

A little girl raised her hand and said, "Can I ask you a question?"


Then she said, "You have a mustache."

That's the kind of question I like.  There are no non-questions in storytelling. And maybe what my small friend was really saying is, "Why do you have a mustache? What does it do for you? Does it feel funny?"

My father had one, and my grandfathers on both sides of the family tree.

I am not sure having a mustache helps me to tell a story: I'm not sure it doesn't.

I know this -- kids don't have them, unless it's Halloween.

In the parking lot after this storytelling, Lorry found a bright shiny dime. I took two steps beyond her dime and found a new minted quarter. And then -- oh, my gosh! -- I saw a mustache.

Now if you're not surprised by seeing a mustache unattached to a face, I would like to know why.  We stood there staring at it for a few minutes.

I felt my upper lip. "Not mine," I said.

Lorry laughed. "Nor mine," she said.