Author Archive for huewoman

11
Jun
09

Storytime!

Hello Pamela! Glad you’ve come for a visit.

Yes, it’s been a long while since I’ve posted anything, however, this morning I feel inspired. I uploaded 3 short videos of my storytime in Treasure Beach, Jamaica that I held on Jamaica’s Labour Day, which this year fell on the same Monday as Memorial Day here.

At any rate, I arrived with Chris and Maati to set up an hour before showtime. Benches, chairs, display books, post words for songs on bulletin board, as well as inspirational posters, drink some coconut water. It was another beautiful afternoon, sunshine and a constant breeze blowing through the bright, high-ceilinged room. A National holiday and a beautiful beach day – who would come to storytime?

Twenty-three people (about half adults and one 4-month old) turned up to listen to me read stories, and joined me in singing songs, making rhymes, and in general getting what I call down-silly. I read ten books, sang a dozen songs and nursery rhymes. Ninety minutes later (where did the time go?) we were clapping ourselves — a roomful of smiles. Everyone went home with a book, and a storytime glow. I listened to one pair, (a teenage aunt with her 3-year-old niece) as they walked through the gate, grownup and child helping each other remember the words, “Gobble, gobble, gobble, gobble, quack, quack, quack…” they sang together. I couldn’t tell who had more fun — the children or the grownups.

11
Jun
09

storytimes in treasure beach jamaica

11
Jun
09

Hush, Little Baby

03
Apr
09

a long caress-yoga on the bluff

windy sky

windy sky

path to silky black sand cove

path to silky black sand cove

Here I am in Jamaica. Today is the morning of day five. It is 7:30 a.m. and I’m sitting on the edge of my bed in my brother’s family house in Kingston. When I stepped off the plane in Mobay, I had a distinct feeling that this time I was really coming home. I don’t recall ever feeling it so keenly. The corridors of the airport felt welcoming and the hard tile was warm under my feet. By the time I got to Treasure Beach twenty-four hours later, I was already 100 percent of the way relaxed; it felt like I’d never left. The South Coast is made up of a series of small fishing villages with silky grey volcanic sand and fossilized rock. The wind (Jamaicans diminutively call it a “breeze”) is a constant companion; you either make it your friend or you’ll find yourself grumbling a lot. I can still feel sand behind my eyeballs.

It’s only a part-timer though which is good because it can start to feel like you’re being bounced around and battered. The wind (Jamaicans diminutively call it a “breeze!) dries out my skin and my contact lenses. At my age one doesn’t welcome dryness easily no matter where it appears.

yoga on the bluff

yoga on the bluff

Yesterday I tried walking using the direction of the wind to guide me. The goal was to keep it at my back.Where might it want me to go? Before long I was overcome with a bolt of optimism and hope, I felt my chest lift and open. The wind had curved it’s way into the hollows of my back and shoulders, gently fluttered around my neck and ears. I was being led, pushed along from behind, all the way to the bluff. Salt water sprinkles pricked my face and arms as the waves pounded the rocky side below. When I stopped, the wind carried on, teasing and playing the fool. I laughed. I sang and felt my words disappear like windswept sheet music.

The wind had led me to a small grassy area, not much bigger than a yoga mat. Perfect.

19
Mar
09

after school

children-and-iris-0341Every afternoon, when the elevator doors open on the third floor at 3:05, children of all sizes spill out wearing backpacks and looking like assorted sized beetles. Today the noisy swarm has arrived ten minutes earlier than usual and I brace myself for the onslaught of after-school combustion. The crowd is energetic having been constrained and monitored, shushed and directed until finally free they explode like fizzy soda pops.

“Keep your voices down! Remember where you are!” Allison, one of the other librarians, shouts, making as much noise as the children. It isn’t that they’re trying to be noisy, but put fifteen to twenty of any size human beings together in the same place and they’ll be noisy even if it happens to be in a library.

“No eating!” she continues. She puts her hands on her hips and stares pointedly at the lollipop hanging out of a mouth. It’s a familiar routine.

“It’s just a little can…” the boy begins to protest.

“Out!” she says, pointing a stern finger to the trash.

Along one side of the vast space of the third floor is administration, called admin, for short, not always affectionately. Sealed off from Youth Services by walls and firmly locked doors, they operate in a pristine zone removed from most of the hustle and bustle of the public. The rest of the floor is dedicated to young people: newborns in carriages or strollers at one end, and would be drivers of cars at the other.

They flock to the cubbies. Some put their belongings neatly into the spaces provided; others throw them on the floor. I hear the usual snippets of conversation: she said, he said, she said, he said, a continuation of the day’s goings-on.

“Shhh…” I say committing the cardinal sin.

“Please take anything valuable with you!” Jan warns. There’s been a rash of I-pods stolen recently. “And put your things IN the cubby!”

Many of the young girls are wearing strings for blouses, skirts so short they dare not lift their arms over their heads or jeans worn like plaster over their shapely bodies. Their eyes are outlined, their lashes long and their lips, glossy. I understand them and can remember my own yearnings to be grown. Yet, I still have to suppress the urge to repeat my mother’s warning: You have many years to be an adult, why rush it?

A little girl, probably five and a quarter years old, (at that age they often make sure you don’t forget the quarter), steps cautiously up to the low public service desk, her eyes wide, darting around before settling on me. My face is level with hers.

She whispers something I can’t hear.

“Don’t worry Love; I don’t bite, at least not on Mondays.” It’s a joke that has worked well in the past to put children at ease. Stepping back, she seems set to run. “I’m sorry, I’m really joking,” I say quickly, feeling remorse. I give her a gentle, apologetic smile.

She looks suspicious but then seems to regroup. She steps forth to deliver her question, standing her ground in pink and purple sneakers and matching socks.

“Do you have animal books?”

Her hazel eyes are deeply set in her dark brown skin looking like beautiful, shiny jewels. Her chin juts out sharply from her face and her dark bushy eyebrows are almost touching, making her look both childish and old for her years. She wears thin, long braids, maybe eight or ten, which had previously been restrained with a pink ribbon. They are now free and seem ready to defend her if necessary.

She and her braids wait for my answer. I half-expect a back up posse of children to leap from behind the display stacks and demand that I produce the book.

“We have many, many animal books.” I keep my voice soft.

I stand and walk around the desk to stoop in front of the small child who smells faintly of Irish Spring soap. I’ve learned that sometimes it’s better to get from behind the desk. “Why don’t you give me a little more information?” I smile warmly. “Is this for homework or for fun?” I can’t help myself: often homework isn’t fun.

Not a muscle moves in her face and she crosses one leg over the other as if she needs a bathroom.

She nods, then turns around and runs into the stacks, returning a few moments later with her friend, another little girl with a long blond ponytail and a pug nose. I’m right, a small posse.

I decide that it’s best not to remind them that running isn’t permitted in the library.

“I want to find out about squirrels. They keep eating our bird seed.”

“Okay! Let’s go!” I say, relieved to be making progress. “I’m sure we can find a book about squirrels, but it’s a long walk! I always need a snack to make it from here to there. Did you bring any nuts or raisins; because I don’t have any today I’m afraid.”

I can’t see their faces, but hear giggles behind me. I turn to face them. “Well, if you don’t have any, we can always sneak some nuts from those squirrels in 599; we’re sure to find some hidden for the winter.”

The first little girl shakes her head, “No, we don’t have any snacks.”

I slap my cheek and turn to face them. “Oh no! The real problem is that I didn’t even bring any water, and we’ll be walking through the desert, you know, over there in the 570s!” I point towards the stacks. They are holding hands now and with the other hand they try to hide the smiles that decorate their faces.

“Well, we’ll have to tough it out. We’re almost there anyway.”

We reach the squirrel books and I show them how to use the index. They select two and seem satisfied.

“Okay, thanks!” they shout happily and run off holding hands. I don’t dare remind them that shouting, too, is not allowed in the library.

04
Mar
09

shame-old-lady

nostophobia1187193960shame-old-lady-plant-3
This sweet, little plant grows in Jamaica and is fondly called “shame old lady” (Mimosa pudica). It grows low to the ground like ground cover (although it doesn’t seem to spread much) and looks like a kind of pressed fern with tiny oval leaves of dark and light shades of green making up the larger leaf with a stripe down the middle. When you touch it, the leaves quickly fold into themselves, withdrawing as though in pain. Your first thought might be that you’ve killed it; in fact, according to its name, you have shamed it.

When I was a child I loved to come across these little patches; there was hardly any child (nor many adults) who wouldn’t take delight in watching them shrivel at the touch of a finger or toe. Even a toddler could wield such power; it was a brief but heady moment.

As an adult it still gives me a thrill. The plant is not found in abundance, however, a few days ago I found a cluster of them on a sidewalk. I was a child again and squealed with delight, “Shame old lady!” I spent a few gleeful moments stooped touching every leaf, watching them recoil in disgrace. It was a gentle thrill, an earthy alternative to popping the bubbles in bubble wrap . However, even as I watched them shrink, the grown-up inside of me wondered how come the name? what would make someone name a plant “shame old lady”? A plant which closes when touched, shrinks rather than resists…shame old lady.

It made me think of shape-shifting, the temporary changes in physical form that people and animals go through in fairy tales, folklore and fantasy fiction. But a shape-shifting plant? Most unusual. A plant growing prostrate on the ground has little chance against a shod foot. This voluntary shape-shifting is her defense. In giving the plant its common name, the namer was likely evoking (and it was very likely a man, woman botanists are rare) an image of the old woman as one without resource, irrelevant and who, by the stroke of a finger, could be reshaped, and largely made invisible.

Is it a shame to be old? shame to be a lady? shame on you lady! old lady, full of shame!

Often used as a plot device: a princess takes on a bear shape to flee; a cat turns into a mouse in order to enter the hole, shape-shifting is often associated with escape and liberation. In real life, some animals’ best defense is to mimic other creatures or change their body shape. There is strength in knowing one’s limitations, wisdom in pulling back and choosing to make oneself smaller and less visible when threatened. As I stooped over the shrunken leaves I touched the plant again, knowing that there was nothing I could do to encourage the return to her original shape. Therein lies her power. You go old lady!
copywright © 2008 by Pamela Groves (p.e.groves)




“If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.” —Barry Lopez
“‘Thou shalt not’ is soon forgotten, but ‘Once upon a time’ lasts forever.” Phillip Pullman