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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Thursday Storytellers

The first Thursday of the month. That means it was the Ottawa Storytellers Story Swap at the Library and Archives. Pretty good stories told all around. John (yes another John) told a story from his youth (1973ish) about his family and the time his uncle and cousins came in from Red Deer, Alberta. He called his story, "The Good Old Days". He was moved to silence at certain points when he shared his memories. It was nice, in a familial way, to listen to him recount the day of celebration with his mom, uncle and older sisters and brothers. He told his story with obvious pride.
I have talked to some people who don't particularly like going to the storytellers because there is sometimes an element of the 'fantasy' or 'fairy' story that certain people like to tell. Sure, you can't escape from this genre. There was indeed one or two like this tonight: The ogre who lived nearby who needed to be chased away, and ultimately done in a skillfully sly way. Not my cup of tea really, but done well it, too, can be enjoyable.
Ruth-Ann told one moving story called 'The Mustard Seed'. It's essentially about one mother's grief and how she comes to a self-realization moment. You may have heard it before. Here it is in a nut-shell (or mustard seed if you will):
As her son is near death in her arms, the poor mother desperately seeks help from anyone willing to listen and help out with some medicine. Some take pity, some ignore her pleas. It's all to no avail. Finally, she sought an ultimate solution from the local Buddha. He tells the distraught mother whose child was seriously ill, dead really, to gather some mustard seed from a house and bring it back to him - but she was to gather only seed from a house that had not experienced grief. She then goes from house to house, town to town, finds the mustard seed everywhere but, unfortunately, she is frustrated in that all the people have experienced grief. She finally realizes the point of the Buddha's lesson and returns to him without any mustard seed. She explains that she now understands his lesson in that she is not alone and finally buries her son to get on with her own life.
I googled the mustard seed story and came up with this link which is waaay better than my hack-job of a summary. You'll see it's quite a very short story anyway. The title is Skinny Gotami and the Mustard Seed.


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