There is an old saying that goes something like “Never judge a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes.” Wise words, indeed. Why is that true? Is there a story behind where those shoes have been? Does knowing that story make a difference? Perhaps more importantly, where will those shoes go next?
On a lighter note, you can learn a lot about a person by the shoes they wear.
When I was in high school, I had a crush on my senior year English teacher, Mr. Curtis. He didn’t stand up front and lecture to us. Instead, he would sit on one of those plastic, bright-colored classroom chairs – you know, with the mini table attached to it. He sat all hour in a circle with the rest of us. He used to lead us in fascinating discussions about literature and the world from whence those words came. He taught me many things. He was kind, fun, and creative. He wore black Converse shoes to school. Every. Day.
Also, when I was in high school, I had a crush on my senior year boyfriend, Ben. (Much more appropriate, don’t you think?) We used to go to our favorite place, St. Edwards State Park. We would hike down to the lake and find a spot to sit beneath the great evergreen trees and listen to the water lap against the shore. We sat together and read stories and poetry to each other. We would dream about our lives after graduation and the adventures that were waiting for us. We talked about many things. Most of all, he was kind, fun, and creative. He also wore black Converse shoes. Every. Day.
Fast forward 15 years or so, and guess who I still think of when I see black Converse shoes? Mr. Curtis and Ben, of course, two of the most kind, fun, and creative people I have known.
Last week, when I first saw Josh Goforth play his fiddle at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, it didn’t take long for me to notice his shoes, as he sat up on the stage, stompin’ his feet to the rhythm. You guessed it – he was wearing black Converse shoes. Through words and music he led us on some adventures back to his home in North Carolina and inside his heart. I had a chance to speak with him a few times, and I realized he too is kind, fun, and creative.
It all sort of comes together, doesn’t it? It’s no wonder I get a good, warm feeling when I see Converse shoes.
What do you think of when you see Converse shoes? What about your shoes? Is there a story behind where those shoes have been?
MINI QUIZ: Who else came to the Festival wearing black Converse shoes? Do you know? Can you guess?
If you had been sitting in the River Trail tent at Thursday night’s “Look Who’s Talking,” you would have seen two small children riveted to the stage. These children were Syd Lieberman’s grandchildren and this was the first time they had seen their grandfather perform on stage.
A few months ago, Syd sent an email with some exciting news. His daughter, Sarah, and her family were coming to our festival. Even though their Illinois home is closer to other festivals, Syd said there was no other one as family friendly as the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. Sarah was bringing her two young children, Ezra and Zella, to see Syd on stage. He had often told them stories at home and at pre-school, but they had never seen their grandfather perform on stage. Syd couldn’t think of a better or more friendly place to have them come.
When they arrived at the park for the first time, Syd told Ezra he would be telling his stories on stage. Ezra exclaimed, “On stage?!” When Syd began telling his story, Ezra and Zella’s faces lit up. They clapped and smiled and loved hearing Grandpa Lieberman tell a story about their own mom when she was younger.
Besides hearing their grandfather, Ezra and Zella were very excited to hear Ed Stivender in person. They had listened to his CDs several times and when their mom told them Ed was going to be there, they couldn’t wait. Sarah said it was like meeting a celebrity when they met Ed.
What an honor it was to host Syd’s family and create that amazing opportunity for Ezra and Zella to see their grandfather perform on stage many times and be loved and cheered by the wonderful people that attend the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival.
Geraldine Buckley is new to us at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, so we thought we would reach out to the storytelling community to get a little more information about her. Many thanks to national storyteller Kim Weitkamp for providing the following introduction:
Geraldine has left her mark all over the world! From England to Holland to South Africa and beyond, Geraldine has given audiences the gift of laughter, insight, and adventure.
Her vibrant and colorful stories give the listener a glimpse of the wide range of experiences and roles she has lived: a minister in a London church, a food critic, a magazine editor, and an award-winning poet, just to name a few. Geraldine has the ability to shine a light onto the ordinary in’s and out’s of daily life; illuminating them and making them appear almost magical.
Her album “Destination? Slammer!” is the result of her adventures as the chaplain of one of the largest men’s prisons in Maryland. She has performed these stories as a one–woman show that has received rave reviews, and her album won a 2012 Storytelling World Award.
Her latest works, “Devils on Horseback and Other Odd Journeys” (2012) and “Tea in the Slammer” (2013), continue to delight listeners of all ages.
Geraldine is a whirlwind of energy. As she takes the stage she invites you, through story, to join her on her roller coaster ride of life. Buckle up! I guarantee you will enjoy the ride!
One word comes to mind when I think about Kim and Reggie Harris: joyful. These two have a special zest for life, stories, and music that enlightens, encourages, and enlivens in a way that is quite simply contagious—I mean, honestly, just take a look at those smiles.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, Kim and Reggie were exposed to just about every type of music possible. From jazz, rock, gospel, pop, and classical music, they heard it all and incorporated the best of each genre into their own music. Now, thirty years after the two first met at summer camp during their college years, Kim and Reggie have perfected the art of performing together using the mediums of song and story.
Of particular note, and not to be missed at our Festival, is their acclaimed work in the areas of the Underground Railroad and the modern civil rights movement. Like so much of their work, Kim and Reggie employed their creativity with research that has resulted in serious contributions to the body of education and understanding of these topics. More than that, though, their use of song and story will draw you into a vivid world of daring, courage, and quests for justice and equality that is sure to inspire. And while these topics may be sobering, their stories dig deep inside to spread the message of faith and hope about the best in each of us and in the world at large. All this is done with an absolute joy for life that radiates so beautifully in their every word, strum of the guitar, and sway of motion.
Plus, they have a song that was featured on NPR’s Car Talk—and as someone who grew up with the guys from Car Talk hanging out in the background of every Saturday morning, this is nothing short of the coolest thing ever!
So come spend some time with Kim and Reggie at our Festival, and let them sweep you away with their harmonies, rhythms, and pure joy that is sure to motivate you, like it did me, with a desire to clap and sing along (and considering my utter—and I’m not using the word “utter” lightly here—lack of rhythm that is kind of saying something).
Every year a few of us from Timpanogos Storytelling travel to Tennessee for the National Storytelling Festival. We do this for two reasons: first, we like to do a little scouting for new tellers; second, it’s nice to listen to stories during a storytelling festival—something that not all of us get to do during our Festival. While at the festival, we make a special point of attending Exchange Place (an event for new tellers who have been invited to tell a single story). Since we first saw many of our favorite tellers at this event—think Bil Lepp and Antonio Sacre—we are always on the look out for our next Festival favorite. Last year we were introduced to Josh Goforth and his fiddle.
Josh was raised in what some might call the hillbilly area of the southern Appalachian Mountains; however, we will be polite and just call it Sodom (no, really, that is the name of the community he comes from!). In describing his own youth, Josh says that he grew up 50 years behind the times. Rather than playing video games, he fished at the local fishing hole and trailed behind his granddads while they plowed their fields using horses.
Raised in a family of storytellers and musicians, one might suppose that Josh has simply followed in the family tradition. That is true, but it is also only half the story. You see, Josh is something of a musical boy wonder. He began his musical journey by playing the piano in church at the ripe old age of 4. As a young teenager, Josh was given his first guitar, then came the fiddle, and then, oh, about 10 or so other instruments that he sort of just picked up. But don’t be fooled, Josh doesn’t just piddle around on all these instruments. He is admired for his skill on several of them, with the fiddle generally regarded as his best. In fact, he collects honors and acclaim for his fiddle playing just about everywhere he goes; but, you know, just minor stuff like Grammy Award nominations and the like.
When we first saw Josh walk on stage, though, he did so without his fiddle. Stepping to the mic, he began to tell us about his granddad, his granddad’s big wad of ‘baccer (tobacco for those of us not from Sodom), and one of his granddad’s latest projects all while switching back and forth between his own charming southern Appalachian accent (fingers crossed that he drops a “golly” or two at our Festival) and his granddad’s nearly incomprehensible ‘baccer–filled twang. Afterward, Josh picked up his fiddle and played a song dedicated to his granddad. We were sold!
Below you will find a short clip where Josh shows off his skill on the guitar with fellow musician Laura Boosinger. (You’ll have to catch him at our Festival to see just how good he is on the fiddle).
Oh, and don’t miss Josh’s FREE concert at the Riverwoods Gazebo Wednesday, August 28, at 7:00 p.m
I first heard Laura Pershin Raynor at Laughin’ Night during the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival in 2000. She told a short story, and I remember thinking, “That was great! I wish I would have gone to hear more from her.” Then in 2009, my husband and I got the honor of participating in the “What’s Your Story” project on Ocracoke Island with Donald Davis. I heard that Laura and her husband Kenny were going to be a part of it, too. I was excited to get to know her better.
Laura and I were placed in one of the first sharing groups together. She was very kind and listened with genuine interest when I didn’t think anyone could be interested in my experiences growing up in Idaho. I had just mentioned “spud harvest” in passing while I was talking about something else, and Laura heard that phrase and was fascinated. She asked so many questions that suddenly my mundane story felt important. Obviously, I liked her right away! A few days later she shared a heart-warming story about meeting and holding her baby sister for the first time. She described the place, the feel, the new baby smell, and I was transported. I was taken back in time to my own childhood and felt like I was meeting my own newborn baby sister again. It was magical.
I can tell you from experience that Laura Pershin Raynor can use her gentle voice and validating manner to make your own memories wrap around you like a favorite quilt, and I am happy that Laura is coming back to the Festival this year. I hope you will take the time to hear her and let her voice work its magic on you. You’ll be glad you did.