Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bird, Turtle, Fish, Rattlesnake Story Stone

I wanted to get this up before the bird stone talk "flies away." I have one - sort of - but just have never been able to photograph it well and these photos are no exception. Anyway, there was a hundred year type flood that happened back in the middle of the 1990's (1994?) when a locally heavy thunder storm hit in August. In the Nonnewaug Floodplain the water level reached that of the ancient glacial lake shore, a one in a life time visual I'll probably never see again. In the photo above the river is in the distance and the end of this cornfield closest to it was flooded, seconds after I witnessed a huge wall of water rushing and roaring down into the valley.   When things dried out, I walked over there looking to see what might have washed in or eroded out, possibly to find projectile points or anything interesting. I found no points (not that I've ever found any there ever) but did find a curious stone.
It did sort of look "birdy" but then from another angle it looked rather "fishy."

If I remember right, I puzzled about it off and on, and then one day went up to the Institute for American Indian Studies at the suggestion of Shaghticoke Elder Trudie Lamb-Richmond to see a presentation by this guy John Cucinello on "Story Stones and Other Interesting Rocks." I'd been pestering her about my stone finds for a few years and I guess she figured to distract me by introducing me to this other crazy white guy who sees things in stones.
Turns out that "Cooch" has thousands of stones he's collected, just over the state line in New York. I recall in particular one of the stones that he presented, not telling the audience what it was, but asking us to just shout out what we thought it was. A couple kids said "Cobra!" but this Grizzly Adams looking guy and I said, "Eastern hog nosed snake." Cooch looked surprised and asked us to explain that one, never having gotten that answer before. So we hicks told the New York City School Teacher that there is a local snake whose other "common" name is "Puff Adder." Turns out both Griz and I had been both been scared as young boys by a hog nose protecting itself by puffing up and posturing not unlike a Cobra. Another stone was very small, a polished little mammoth that turned just right was also a hunter with a spear, which led into talk about story stones, complete with so many examples in stone that it makes me dizzy to think about.
Anyway, I thought of that stone I found after the flood and thought about it as a Story Stone. I eventually saw more suggestions of forms and developed a story that I have actually performed in front of various groups in a couple schools, a library or two,  and Scouting groups. I'm out of practice now, but could do it fluidly when in good form, the illusion created that I'm changing the shape of the stone before the audience's eyes.
So let's say that one morning, a guy named "Big Belly" was sleeping in late...  
He got up and yawned:

Nobody was around, off to work, busy a'hunting and a'gathering and all. He saw one of the dogs (image I'm waggling that index finger like a doggy tongue, my thumb like a doggy ear) and said "Hello Dog!"...

...but the dog ran away. (I'd bring the stone behind me and change it's position, making use of what feel like "finger holds" pecked into the stone)  Looking for someone to talk to, Big Belly saw a bird on it's nest over in a tree by a pond (and I'd bring the stone forward and pan the audience):
(Actually, my fingers should be interlaced to better imitate a nest, and then I'd swing the bird around behind me and say, "But the bird flew away," again sweeping the stone behind and changing finger holds.
Big Belly looks down at a branch, sees a turtle sunning itself, says "Hello," but the turtle glides into the water:
Looking into the water BB sees a fish (the view in the 4rd photo from the top):

 and the same thing happens and the fish swims away too, bringing the stone behind me again.
"Nobody will talk to me this morning," Big Belly says, but then, grabbing my turtle shell rattle with my left and shaking it, while changing grip and bring the stone forward once again, pointing the stone at the closest person paying closest attention and saying:
"I'll talk to you, little boy," says the Rattlesnake in an evilish tone - and Big Belly runs away!
  

1 comment :

pwax said...

I've seen your presentation. It was neat and memorable.