Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Feather at the Miami Book Fair International

We have a Blue-fronted Amazonian parrot named George who's been a part of our family for thirty years.  George sheds his feathers, one at at a time, and we save them and give them away. 

I give them to children at my storytelling events.  At the Book Fair -- in the schools and at the storytelling tent -- George's feathers were a hit.  I asked a question, and for a good answer, the listener got a good luck feather.  

One small boy got a feather for dancing.  I asked him to come up on stage and make some SSzzounds with me and he declined, so I drummed and he started dancing a nice little rhythmic dance.  He was rocking, softly shuffling his feet to the drumbeat.  For a while, he just hung, floating like a bee.  I don't think he knew the entire audience was cheering him on.  He got a nice feather for that!  

My grandson and grand-daughter came up on stage, too -- that's Taj you see in the snapshot.  He would've been on stage the whole time if I'd let him.  Anais has never come up with me before and she surprised me by making a great growl into the mic.  I asked her if she'd do another one.  Her eyes drifted upward to the top of the tent.  Then her eyes met mine and she said, "No!" 

That's kids -- you always get the truth.  Like the boy who gave me the hug and said, "Thanks for the stories" and the other boy who scowled at me and said, "Get away old man."  But he got a feather too.  Why not, George wouldn't want it any other way.   

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Just Magic

We have been on the road for ten days.  Sacramento, San Francisco and Sonoma.  First, the writing workshop in Sacramento where we met some fine writers, enjoyed the company of Alice and Jim Carney and the whole Carney family -- wonders all! -- and saw, on Halloween night a small white angel toddle up the walkway while her mother, a large woman with a booming voice chanted, "C'mon Mama, C'mon Mama" and the barely bobbling youngster teeters up the walk with hands scribbling in the air, grasping for candy.  Of all the costumes and pranksters, this is the best.  But, then, it's no costume, it's just magic.

Next morning, an email from my old and dear friend Fred Burstein, reading coach extraordinaire, poet, woodsman, carver, builder, man of big shoulders and wide interests, well, this fabulous Fred sends us a poem from one of his students, Jennifer, and it goes like this:

Over Halloween we were walking back
to Grandpa's, and a cat started following us.
We walked up to a different person.
We asked if this was her cat.
She said, No, but she does know that cat.
His name is Heath.  The cat stayed out
on my grandpa's porch, and Grandma Lill
brang the cat inside, and fed it.
And now Grandpa is angry cause
he don't want to be responsible
for the cat, that's why.


The whistler is one of those gifts you sometimes encounter when you wake up at 3 AM.  We were in San Francisco on Nob Hill in Jim and Alice's guest suite which was the kind of place Jack London might've written a story in, and I was lying in bed thinking that life is sometimes so magical you can't put it into words, and right then, this whistler comes along and I try to get it down --

A solitary whistler, part swallow, part sparrow
toodling between the tides of traffic
and suddenly the traffic quits, disappears
the whistler wanders on, whistling
a person with no name, no face, no listener
in the whole sleeping city but me.


And then, this morning, a daft raccoon staring into the sunlight with whiskers long as broom straws.  Sitting there, staring out of dark eyes, winking in the sun, saying: "I have every right to be here, the people feed me and I waddle around and look at things and take my time as I please."  The dog next door ignores the raccoon, and when we pass by again, a half hour later, the masked fellow is sitting in a flower pot, as if he's a furry flower planted there.   So life goes -- magic!