Monday, November 25, 2013

Diane Edgecomb's In the Groves

In the Groves 

Stories performed by Diane Edgecomb, accompanied by harpist Margot Chamberlain.  Winner of a Parent’s Choice Silver Award! $17.00 (includes shipping and handling) from
Reviewed by Linda Goodman

            In the introduction to this charming yet haunting CD, we are told that trees are first and foremost teachers, and, if we listen closely, they will share their secrets.  While listening to this CD, one does indeed feel likes a confidant, hearing the secrets of the groves for the first time.

            The Dancing Spirit of the Birch, a Czech folktale, tells of a young girl who knows happiness, in spite of being poor and having to work all day spinning flax into thread. Who is the mysterious woman in white who seeks to draw the girl from her work for a day of dance and levity? Will the girl allow herself to be lured from the work that supports her hungry family?

            From Cornwall England, Three Green Ladies is a story centered on rituals related to trees, and three men whose late father taught them to honor those rituals. Only one brother heeds their father’s wisdom, however, leaving the other two to reap the consequences of their own selfish actions.

            Kansakura – Sacred Cherry Tree features a cherry tree so beautiful that a shrine to the God of Love is built near it. This story from Japan tells of a young girl who resents her father’s plan to marry her to someone she does not love. How will she extract herself from this arranged marriage when she finally meets her true love?

            Australian Aboriginals say that the land needs us as much as we need the land. One of the things it needs is to hear the old stories told in a sacred manner. The Voice of the Creator is just such a story; a tale of lazy humans who take the presence of the Creator for granted until it is too late. The Creator, however, is benevolent and cares enough for his people to send an emissary to lead them back to him, though not in the way you would imagine.

            Evergreen, from the Cherokee People, is a pourquoi tale that explains why some trees keep their green leaves all year long, while others lose theirs. It is a story about the rewards that follow steadfast endurance.

            Each song and story on this CD is thoroughly researched and expertly performed. Diane and her accompanist, harpist Margot Chamberlain, create sweet harmonies for songs from the Shaker, Russian, and Japanese traditions. Margot beautifully sings a Welch tune solo and underscores each story with traditional music from the cultures represented. Listeners will be captivated with the musical ebb and flow that Margot has created to follow Diane’s telling from tale to tale. The result is elegance so enchanting that it makes story magic.

            Diane’s skill at shifting from character to character within a tale is amazing. No blunt transitions here, only a subtle change of tone or pitch, or quickening of pace, is necessary to guide the audience from one character to the next.

            Story lovers on your Christmas list will cherish this CD as they listen to it again and again. Do not let its soothing tone fool you, however. For all its beauty, there is justice in the grove. Sometimes that justice is harshly dark; but Light lingers on the edge of the darkness, beckoning all to journey forward.


Monday, November 18, 2013

A Story for Thanksgiving

by Linda Goodman

©Linda Goodman 1996

     When my family lived in the Appalachian Mountains of Wise County, Virginia, the food that we ate at our Thanksgiving Day meal was the same as what we ate on any other day: soup beans and cornbread. Occasionally, there would be meat, if Daddy had been out hunting.

     What made the meal different was a ritual that my Daddy insisted upon observing on Thanksgiving. Before eating, each of us sitting around the table would, one by one, give thanks for that for which he or she was most grateful. Not having much in the way of material possessions, our thanks usually were given for treasured relationships. One year, after I had recovered from a severe bout with pneumonia, I was surprised to hear my brothers give thanks for my survival. It changed the way I felt about them, and their constant teasing was easier to take after that. I gave thanks for my new baby sister. Mama was thankful for well-behaved children, and Daddy was thankful that he had been blessed with children who were thinkers. If you use your head, you will come out ahead, he always said.

     When we moved to the city, Thanksgiving remained the same. My parents refused to assimilate into the city culture, and so our meals and rituals never changed. We children eventually adopted city ways, but Momma and Daddy held to the old ways until their deaths.

     The Thanksgiving after they passed away, my sister and her family came to spend the holiday with me in Connecticut. I fixed a traditional meal of turkey, dressing, and various side dishes. Before eating, my sister and I decided to reinstate the old ritual that we had taken part in so often. One by one our children gave thanks. My daughter was thankful for the new dress she had gotten for the Christmas dance at school. My nephew was thankful for his Nintendo. My niece was glad that her allowance had been increased. No one mentioned family or friends.

     I abandoned the ritual after that. It just was not the same with its new emphasis on material possessions. On Thanksgiving day, we have a bountiful meal and good companionship. Everyone seems happy. But I always make sure to take a few minutes alone to give thanks for the wonderful man who taught me that it is not who you are, but how you live, that matters most; and that anyone who has a loving family is rich indeed.