It's hot. Really hot. Summer is definitely here. With due respect to all other season, Summer is my favorite. I haven’t been in school forever (okay, um, 42 years…), but there’s still part of me that relaxes when June rolls around. You can’t get as much done, so you don’t try. Here around the house, Debbie’s bringing in something from the garden every night, the bees are really happy, and the hummingbirds are zooming around, being nasty to each other, which is enjoyable to us, if not them.
Garlic scapes, greens and peas hiding underneath!I had a great Spring – really gratifying visits to many schools around the country, and three wonderful days helping my pal Kevin Kling work on his new piece, “Best Summer Ever”, which goes up this month at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis. Along with the performances I did with fellow storytellers Bil Lepp and Don White, Father’s Daze, I've gotten to spend a lot of time lately with a bunch of people who live in the world of story – it’s a different space, and those who travel in it see the world in a special way. I think about this when I hear from families who have listened to my stories over and over – some know them better than I do. I can tell from the way they speak and the look in their eyes that living in an oral world changes the nature of reality and is good for everyone involved. We see connections and develop an awareness that is really quite special in this fragmented, digital, reactive environment. It’s not flashy, so it doesn’t attract attention, but it is deep. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the South African (Zulu, I think) term ubuntu, which has no exact translation, but means, sort of, I am me because of you. We define ourselves through our connections with others. It seems to me that’s what storytelling is about.
I’m just finishing up the first major draft of a new book, which I’m really excited about – publishing plans are very unclear right now (like, none), but when it finds a home, I’ll let you know. More info when I can share it.I’m getting ready to do a live recording, set in our own performance barn, for July, and plan on having it and another recording out for the fall, when I’m at both the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival in Utah, the National Storytelling Festival in Tennessee and the Evanston Public Library Storytelling Festival in Illinois. It’s nice to be working on performance stuff after this long period of writing for the page.
After a long hiatus after producing the great video for “Wash Your Hands”, I’ve again joined forces with Maria and Scott Saracen at Rhode Island Public Television to produce a video for my song, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Different”. It’s message about diversity and tolerance is always relevant (I wrote the song years ago!) but it seems particularly relevant today, when there is so much hateful divisive language being used in the media and by the President. It was a hoot to make, and I want to thank all the families who happily agreed to participate. The older couple blowing bubbles is my mother and father-in-law, Roberta and Willard Block. We will share this with you SOON – I promise but - we want to give PBS a chance to air it before we send it out into our little world. Stay tuned!
Everyone enjoys blowing bubbles!
When I was at Monticello last fall, I asked a tour guide about Sally Hemmings, Jefferson’s slave and mistress. She pulled me over to the side and told me I had to read The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed. I bought it in the gift shop and just finished it. It is an unbelievable piece of work – hard to synopsize and describe the complexity of Jefferson’s entanglement in the world of slavery. And, not surprisingly, only reinforces the notion that the enslavement of Africans is at the very heart of the founding, and continuing life of our country. It’s a big book. But worth it.My friends Sally Rogers and Howie Bursen gushed about Canadian Louise Penny’s Detective Gamache mystery series. The first book in the series is Still Life. So glad to find out about Armand Gamache. The series is my Summer reading. Let us know what you’re reading – always happy to hear.
I mentioned in a tweet (@BillHarleyStory) how much I’m enjoying Omar Sosa’s music. You can say he’s a Cuban jazz pianist, but it doesn’t begin to touch the breadth and depth of what he does musically – he’s truly a world citizen, and I love what he’s doing.I've got a few Summer concerts planned in the RI/MA area so I hope I see some of you out there. Bring your parents, or your children, or your grandchildren, or your grandparents. I like them all together. Visit the calendar for all of the details.
From the Office