Posted by: storyvulture | November 4, 2010

The Wild Hunt (Part 4 of 4)

Posted by: storyvulture | November 3, 2010

The Wild Hunt (part 3 of 4)

Posted by: storyvulture | November 3, 2010

The Wild Hunt (Part 2 of 4)

Posted by: storyvulture | October 30, 2010

The Wild Hunt (story behind the story)

A friend hatched the idea last year at an arts conference.  “Layne, you perform Celtic tales…and Carolee, you perform Celtic music.  Why not create an evening of Celtic tales to music?  We’ll do it next year for Oktoberfest!”

Scotland and Ireland aren’t the only Celtic lands.  The tiny, relatively unknown land of Wales is also, by definition, Celtic.  When Gneiting taught in London this summer, friends invited him to join them “on holiday” (British for “vacation”) in nearby Wales.  Those sneaky devils planned an arduous hike up what he later discovered was Cader Idriss, the 2nd highest peak in Wales.  According to legend, anyone spending the night atop this mount awakens either a poet, a philosopher, or a madman.

While they didn’t sleep atop, Gneiting was hijacked by three stories.  First he learned that the major tale he’d been musing over, King of the Wild Hunt, was based around that very mount–Cader Idriss.  Digging deeper he found two other Welsh tales that “spoke” to him, and lo, their origins came from the same region!  All three originated near this enchanted peak.  Chance?  We think not.

With musical undercurrent by Carolee and her band, Celtic Mist, these tales made a rousing performance which they performed last weekend in Kemmerer, Wyoming.  The audience raved, and the woman who hatched the idea gushed, “You complemented each other perfectly.  It was, in a word, brilliant.”

Posted by: storyvulture | October 30, 2010

King Herla and the Wild Hunt (Part 1 of 4)

Posted by: storyvulture | October 28, 2010

Rippin’ Education

Posted by: storyvulture | October 12, 2010


Sometimes you’re just not on.  Sometimes you miss the target, and you know why.  But you’re locked in a cell, and don’t necessarily want to share the prison.  That’s the trouble, isn’t it?

This morning I hated being the Toastmaster.  I’ve never been the Toastmaster, and could easily have flogged it off onto someone else, sending them spiraling into a panic, but I didn’t.  Noble?  Not sure.  Proud?  Maybe.  That happens when you try to act tough.

Last night, just as I was settling down with the family after supper, a buddy dropped by.  “Can I borrow Layne?” he asked my wife.  “It may be a while.”

We drove around the corner to catch red and blue lights, the whirr of helicopters, and yellow police tape blocking off the street.  A neighbor filled us in.  It wasn’t pretty.

Soon, with our bishop alongside, we rushed off to the Scottsdale Osborn trauma center, cell phones buzzing with inquiries and updates.  “Is he dead?  Who shot him?  Where is he now?  What can I do . . .”

Armed with a blazing social network, we soon overloaded the waiting area and were kindly shuttled deeper into the listless hospital.

I imagine it feels like a convict in front of the judge, awaiting a verdict.  Good or ill, you just want  to know.  And if they keep you waiting, you scream, “What’s it gonna be, life or death?  Just tell me!”  People paced, fretted, chattered to tug their minds away from the trauma, and made jokes.  “Better not go down there,” one fellow down the hall quipped, gesturing toward the private waiting room.  “Any more of us show up we’ll have to open with a hymn and prayer and have a meeting.”

I’d planned something vastly different for a Monday evening, like typing out the Toastmasters agenda and whipping up something clever for our morning theme: “The Dance.”  Who couldn’t have fun with that?

When morning slapped me, though, I struggled.  Putting on the actor’s mask I waltzed into the meeting determined to fake it.  No sense dragging everyone else into misery!  Sure, they’ll gaze with a jaundiced eye at my hurried scrawls, and think silently, “he’s unprepared.”  Who cares?  They don’t know what just happened.

And therein is the trouble.

Imprisoned in pretense, we ignore the sense of “here and now” and instead wall ourselves into a facade, not realizing that if we don’t let someone in, they can’t help us back out.

My purpose in ‘fessing all this isn’t to elicit condolences.  Nor do I wish to wallow in the bloody details of the feud that silenced a good man.  Rather, I hope to offer regrets tied to our communication.

Communication is communion.  This morning I forgot that.  Now I certainly didn’t need to share the whole ordeal, but if I’d been true to the mental and emotional space of that moment, revealed just enough of the evening trauma to help them recognize a soul in need of fellowship, and pleaded with my fellow Toastmasters to make “right here, right now” a vibrant, pulsating life-force, they would undoubtedly have leapt to the challenge.  Instead, I shut them out.

Wrong or right?  I’m not sure.  A nagging feeling tells me, though, it was an opportunity–missed.

Posted by: storyvulture | October 4, 2010

Living in the Moment

Imagine a world where you’re constantly becoming something, but never reaching.  You are “on your way” to becoming a writer; a dancer; a pilot; a biologist.  But you never “become.”  The fruit is within sight, but always beyond reach.

Fortunately some schools embrace a different philosophy.  Zaharis is one.  Its attitude is not futuristic, preparing students for some distant day ahead when they’ll realize their dreams.  Oh no.  Dreams are pursued today, lived in the here and now.  I lovingly call it the “now” concept.  Instead of saying “we are going to be scientists” they phrase it with immediacy: “we ARE scientists.  We ARE musicians.  We ARE writers.”

Last Friday my good friend Mike (the principal) suggested I read a few of the poems around school.  He said they wanted students to feel ownership of their space.  So they wrote about nooks and crannies around Zaharis, places significant to them.   They then hung their framed poetry in that space.  Some wrote about the drinking fountain, and thirsty patrons found dual refreshment with a drink and poetry.  Others wrote about the piano, the hall, the library.

One 5th grader arrested my attention at the atrium.  I neglected to record his name, but did gain permission to post it here.  This kid isn’t becoming a writer.  He is a writer.

For best results, read slowly and carefully, luxuriating in this fellow’s crisp use of imagery and flowing language.


Look at the hose
Weaving through the courtyard
Like a snake going into a hole

Look at the trees
They seem to wave as you pass by
And they seem so sad
When you go inside
Instead of stopping
To say hello

Look carefully
Then you can see tiny workers
Gathering food
For their queen

Look at the grass
It moves
Is it the workers?
Or is it the wind

The wind seems to whisper
In your ear

Try not to disturb the peace here
Be silent
This is nature’s beauty
Tread softly
You affect the world around you
With everything you do




Posted by: storyvulture | September 28, 2010

Throw me a shoe!

It was as random as it gets.  “You’re Topicmaster, Layne,” they told me last week, “so what topic do you want?”  Topic?  I don’t know.  Friends began blurting ideas: “football,” “autumn,” “computers” . . . but one from behind me tickled my funny bone.  “Shoes!”

Hmmm . . . quirky, silly . . . perfect!  Sounded terrific, so I echoed . . . “SHOES!”

With the aid of my zany family we designed a flurry of questions, with the following ones rising to the top.


1.  You’re headed on a flight, standing in the security line, but really don’t want to take off your shoes.  What outrageous excuse do you give for keeping your shoes on?

2.  Using only the language of gibberish, describe your favorite shoes.

3.  What would entice you to give up your shoes?

4.  What is the most atrocious thing you’ve ever done with a shoe?

5.  What is the most important walk your shoes have taken?

6.  If you could step into someone else’s shoes, whose would they be?

7.  You are allowed only one pair of shoes to wear for the next year, which shoes do you choose?

8.  Imagine having to share your shoes with someone else.  Sharing your shoes is like . . . ?

9.  What do shoes tell you about a person?

10.  If you could be any pair of shoes, what would you be and why?

11.  You have to make a quick $20, and can only do it by selling the shoes you’re wearing.  Go for it.

12.  If you could endow your shoes with a special power, what would it be?

13.  Imagine your shoes could sing, what song would they be singing right now?

14.  What is your worst shoe experience?


Posted by: storyvulture | September 27, 2010

School of the Future

This crew’s ahead of the curve.  With foresight born of inspiration, Zaharis Elementary is a living, breathing, thriving creative workshop.  Want intelligence?  Heed Mike Oliver’s advice:  Enter to Learn – Build Your Dreams.

Read Oliver’s article:

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