after a morning coffee at City Perks
with a colleague and friend, Eileen Klassen Hamm.
To: Darlene Klassen
Subject: why do we tell stories
Darlene, your question has been playing at the edges these days ...
why do we tell stories
an exquisite taste
a tender touch
an enchanting voice
who we are
can't hold the laughter
can't contain the pain
need to breathe
to speak splendor
among the shadows
to grasp life
from the edges of hell
to forge beauty
out of sharp shards
we must tell stories
Darlene, February 13
This is a gift. A friend who responds to a morning visit over coffee
with a poem. A woman whose name tells a bit of a story.
My mind kept going in the trajectory of your note ... and the line of initials for your name
My name story is Darlene Gloria Krahn Driedger Klassen. By the time I
knew how important these last names were, I had let one slip away, and
didn't know if I should hang onto the second. Apparently I might have
been a Valerie if mom's younger sister hadn't just finished naming her
Why do we tell stories, indeed.
To capture fleeting shadows
And speak them back into the light
to travel well-worn paths
and stumble into the brush as we wander through the wondering of parts
untold, and pieces that cannot fit
My second given name is Mae, after my auntie Clara Mae. She was the oldest in my Dad's family, and she died of cancer when she was 13, making my Dad the oldest living sibling. As Dad and my uncle and two aunties become old, wise, generous souls, I am struck by the task of grieving someone I never knew. But surely, Clara Mae would have also been a wise and generous auntie. And all I received was her name.
we tell stories
to re-member ourselves
Darlene: (Somewhere in the midst of these conversations, I was reading
Rudy Wiebe's "Big Bear", from the Extraordinary Canadians series ...)
There once was a baby boy born at Jackfish Lake, near present-day North Battleford, Saskatchewan, who would grow up to receive the Cree name Mistahimaskwa, Big Bear. His father was Mukatai, Black Powder, a Saulteaux who had long been chief of a Plains Cree band, and his mother was either Cree or Saulteaux. Her name was perhaps too powerful to speak aloud, because no one can remember it. Her name is simply given as None.
...Mistahi Maskwa. Maskwa meaning “bear,” but mistahi in particular, so together meaning “Much ... or A-Whole-Lot-Of Bear.” Which, upon contemplation, could shape-shift into More-Than-Enough Bear.
Darlene, March 15
Randy took me to a wonderful concert at the Broadway last weekend ... April Verch is a fiddling dancer whom I had never heard before, but Randy is great at discovering live music that feels like we are in someone’s living room and gives us a taste of travel to a different world.
I’ve listened to fiddlers before, but have never been struck by the stories of the tunes… not the stories that the words tell, but the stories of the tunes themselves. April talked about sitting for hours on the porch with one of the old fiddlers in her life so that she could learn his tunes. His tunes were the ones he had played all of his life, and when he left this world, his tunes would go with him. Her band discovered a treasury of old fiddle tunes that one of the universities in the deep south had recorded, and they sit for hours listening to the tunes and learning them. They played fiddle, banjo/stand up bass, and a mean guitar.
Sometimes they sang –a rich celtic treble trio, sometimes she danced. She said it was an Ottawa valley dance, born in the halls of loggers that came from Ireland and Poland and several other countries who eventually danced together to the same violins till their feet created whole new dance stories with a flavor of the Ottawa valley.
And I thought to myself – we never danced. Thought it was wrong.
Was it wrong to not tell stories with our feet or our fiddles?
My dad did dance though. In our kitchen, sometimes when he was happy. Stamping his feet with his arms raised in the air – and singing “ hey a ho”. And he would dance with the grandchildren on his shoulders … through the hall and the kitchen. Come to think of it. I had forgotten that. And he danced at his son’s wedding, when his grandchildren pulled him onto the dance floor.
... telling stories with our dances, our names, our lives ...