Sunday, January 18, 2009

Busy Week Did Not Help My Absent Mindedness

Well, I just this moment discovered that I did not blog on Wednesday night. Why? I have no idea! I proudly announced at Writers Guild on Thursday night that I blog twice a week, and I thought I was telling the truth. It did not occur to me then or until now that I somehow missed Wednesday night. What was I doing Wednesday night? I have no idea. Probably surfing. Or maybe I went to bed early. I cannot even remember. Ah well.

As I have written before, I have been absent minded all my life, and unfortunately aging has not improved things. Well, that is not quite true. I use a lot of tricks and techniques now that I did not know to use as a younger person. I write lists and mark off tasks accomplished. I try to keep everything on a calendar. I establish routines and know to do certain things automatically. (Writing on Wednesday night is one of those certain things, which shows that technique is not fool proof.) Enough of this nonsense. I just called myself a fool, and I totally disapprove of that, so I will be quiet about my failure and get on with tonight’s blog.

It has been a busy week. My daughter Katherine’s aide had finally gotten back her car from being repaired and took her children to school Monday morning. Then a semi-truck driver ran a stop sign and plowed into her and totaled that car. She was very grateful her daughters had already been dropped off when the truck slammed into her car. She was injured too much to work again until Friday.

As I mentioned, we had Southern Illinois Writers Guild on Thursday night, and it was great to hear Harry Spiller speak again. We’ve missed him since he retired from the college last spring, and we recognized him with a plaque and a life membership in the guild, which he sponsored from 2001-2008.

As a former English teacher, who always considered myself a linguist as opposed to a grammarian, I enjoyed again hearing him confess how he had always failed English and was considered hopeless by those who taught people how to write. Of course, none of those discouragers have ever written a book, and Harry has published twelve now and is read by scores of people, who would never had read the English teachers’ books if they had written any. Having a story to tell beats correct grammar anytime in my opinion. I felt the same way about public speaking. I used to tell students that having a good speaking voice and good delivery was worse than worthless if there was no content there worth delivering.

Speaking of stories to tell, Gerald and I took the three grandkids here at Woodsong this weekend—Trent, Brianna, and Sam—down to Vienna this afternoon to hear Tony Gerard’s newest one-man enactment. That is not quite accurate. Perhaps we should say one-man and one-dog enactment. Gerard was accompanied by his huge beautiful dog Pelo, who was very important to his impersonation of an 18th century American hunter.

His fictional character Jean-Baptiste was the son of a French man and a Kaskaskia Indian mother. Fortunately, before his father drowned when Jean-Baptiste was a little boy, his father encouraged him to learn English in addition to the French and Kaskaskian. And though he struggled with this third language, he was able to communicate with us in his heavy accent as he struggled for the right English vocabulary. Jean-Baptiste was an excellent story teller.

Gerard said he collected those stories from others’ tales in his reading of history and from his own experience. Without mastery of the English language, Jean-Baptiste was nevertheless quite compelling. He had great ability to help us visualize with his hands as he acted out his adventures.

Pelo’s sweet gentle nature was apparent as he wandered amongst us and charmed us. Yet we had no trouble believing Jean-Baptiste that Pelo was friendly with people but vicious with bears. Gerard’s knowledge of history was amazing as he answered impromptu questions from the audience.

Of course, I had to admit to Mary Ellen and Brian when they came back from their weekend trip tonight that my own knowledge of that era is so limited that I would not have recognized a factual mistake if I had heard one. But part of Gerard’s talent is to make his character so believable that you do not doubt that Jean-Baptiste was being accurate in his account of his life in the 18th century here in our part of the state.

We understood that he did not know what year it was nor did not understand why the Fench missionaries said Jesus wanted him to only have one wife. We also could clearly see that here was a man who knew the woods and the animals and the people who roamed them with first-hand knowledge, and he did not need mastery of the English grammar to share those stories.

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