|Thomas J. Mazur - District 8
JULY 7, 2009
STORY TELLING: AN ART TO KEEP ALIVE
My wife's great aunt passed away June 7, just shy of her 89th birthday. For me, she is the last of my local elderly relatives that I would have the occasion to sit and have long conversations with. With her passing comes not only the loss of a loved one, but also the loss of the oral tradition that helped form me into the person I am. I love stories. I love listening to them, I love reading them and I love how stories allow for my imagination to slip into a reverie. For me, it's the reverie in the imagination that helps me construct my world.
I am so glad we have an excellent library system here in Erie County. Libraries are almost sacred shared space where people of all ages and cultures can comingle, to search and seek and even take home with them a nugget of valuable information. This nugget can also come in the form of a CD or a video or a computer screen. But libraries also assist society in keeping the oral tradition alive. They allow for us to transcend the simple one-line sound bite that's so prevalent today. Mark Twain once described a sound bite as "a minimum of sound to a maximum of sense." On the contrary, I would argue that today without a discerning imagination, sound bites can be akin to propaganda. In this way, libraries are an excellent place for us to discover, discern and expand our imagination and our world.
For what it's worth, I would like to share with you two books that I will be reading this summer. The first book is "Little Heathens," by Mildred Armstrong Kalish. It is a book chock full of anecdotes, snippets and even some recipes from Mildred's childhood memories of life growing up on a farm in rural Iowa. She grew up during the Great Depression with a mother, siblings and aging grandparents. Although no one says so, Mildred assumes through "whispered references to bankruptcy, bootlegging and jail time," that her father was forced out of town by the grandfather. And even though I've never been to Iowa, I still would like to see how Mildred's stories of the Depression would meld with those I've heard from my own parents and relatives.
The second book I want to read is actually a book that I read once before, in 1970. "A Sand County Almanac," by Aldo Leopold, was referred to me by a physician when he noticed that I was about to take down a fabulous bush with a chain saw. Before I cut the thing down, he yelled out to me and asked me to stop. Then he came over and asked if I would first read a book that he would give me, and only then decide whether the bush was worth cutting down. The author Leopold had such a beautiful reverence for our natural world, which made me realize that we do have a relationship to our land. This summer I wish to rekindle those thoughts.
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