Reflections on Camp 2012

Hello Hello! CAMP 2012 IS OVER! Sooo…What happened?

                             BEFORE WE GET STARTED, look over



Talk Story Camp #2 started a week ago. We were 25 adults and 13 children of various ages for the full weekend, and added 40 adults and 17 kids on Saturday. Total: 65 adults, 30 kids. That is more than last year. To clear my mind, I’ve written up my impressions, and I invite you to comment and add as you wish. I will post the comments (more or less) on the website (or you can).



Lyn & Bruce Ford (Ohio), Gene Tagaban & Ruby (Washington), and Linda Yemoto (San Francisco) all arrived in town Tuesday for a dinner which included students from my storytelling class (5th session added at their request). It was a gregarious gathering, with tours of our house and garden. Vivian Lee ended the night with her dragon tale (a delight).


Marc Goldman from Arizona arrived (pitched a tent in our yard). At dinner, Lyn and Gene and I added workshops to accommodate a large kid group along with activities for adults amidst lots of stories and laughter. Mark posted a review of Story Camp:

 THURSDAY 7/19  

Emil Wolfgramm’s story legend driving tour of Windward Oahu was poorly attended. He told tons of history and referred to stories quite a bit. He was needed back at his home in Waihole at noon, so my household of friends took a swim in Waimanalo on the slow drive home (and bought a new battery for the car).


The phones kept ringing and I said yes to all, but encouraged folks to bring their own food at the end of it, and scurried to keep up my notes (I missed getting the emails toward the end). The phones went out (and internet) for awhile (Mark tried to help)- they were working on the phone lines! What are the odds? Lotsa packing and sending off cars: Gene & Ruby (so she could swim at Waimanalo), Dominique and Linda to Costco (took forever!) and I with Mark and Ephrosene (helped in the kitchen), arriving at about 2pm… some folks were already there. A hectic few hours of arrivals, tent set-ups, kitchen opening & organizing, and check-ins in the waning light came together. I was harried. In the middle of it all I took a trip with Manaku the grounds maintenance guy into the bushes to get a load of wood for the fires (it needed to happen- he did us this and many other favors. He and his partner Marcy are just priceless: how they keep so open and friendly year after year with so much traffic and details and cleaning… wonderful people)


We all did ‘begin’ with a potluck dinner (seemed ample). 


The GREETING CEREMONY  started (my sense) a bit abruptly, but the sharings were a valuable way to ‘get us together’ and to publicly introduce ourselves to each other. I mixed my first bowl of kava for the occasion. Elaine and family arrived to find the gate locked, but the guard found them and let them in (my phone kept cutting out). I thought the evening concert was awesome (Lyn, Gene’s runner on one leg- twice, Lyn with a Zulu creation tale, Linda (forget what distracted me) & Jeff (First Day on the North Shore).  Millicent Cummings, a firey guitar star, later told me that at that when she saw Gene’s rabbit running on one leg she ‘committed’ to becoming a storyteller.


The kids wanted a CAMPFIRE, but I was not interested. Apparently nobody else was either (all were all empowered at the opening ceremony). I deflected insistent children, asked the neighbors to turn off their noisy generator, drank wine (Dominique said too much) with Gayle Kit George etc, and fell into a deep sleep. 


I woke to the sound of Charlie’s dobro and the gorgeous view of the Ko’olau cliffs in sun & shadow across the bay. I was in the water the next second soaking in the beauty- such a nice memory- before doing a little dance. Charlie Myers was the official Camp Photographer- you’ll enjoy his shots sometime soon. He came with his blonde son Zack, who impressed me with his intensely active (silent) listening in the front row of kids every session. George Lee also posted two shots on his Facebook page, attached here. George is a photographer for the Star Advertiser.


Breakfast 7-8:30… Kit’s coffee, etc was a joy to find. And Charlie Reppun (bearded local farmer- came for Saturday’s Imu & tells) brought papayas (and Friday night’s corn, and taro for the umu from his farm) and breads, etc… light stuff. I was pleased to see you all brought much of the utensils required and that throughout the weekend, folks pretty much cleaned up and washed their plates, etc. Dominique was proud of the small amount of trash Camp produced. 


LAUGHTER YOGA with Lyn Ford – What a large group we were! What a funny set of instructions! What a goofy group! Wading in the water at one point a little boy wanted me to play with him (expressed by repeatedly throwing limu at me until I bent to tell him I didn’t want to play right then, that this was not fun, please stop)… and later in the shallows I was a wonderful leaping-off platform.


It was gratifying that a) so many Saturday campers came in time for 10am workshops and b) I don’t recall anybody interrupting anything asking to pay me. Nice!

Linda Yemoto’s NATURE STORIES & CRAFTS in Big Tent was packed with kids and parents. What a memory/vision to come away from the tree & Gene’s session to see the meadow full of kids running with butterfly kites! Wow! Happy kids!

ADULT STORYTELLING ACTIVITY The rest of the adults went to the Kitchen Lanai.  My ‘Bird With Hurt Wing’: what a willing group you were! Really getting goofy with me- really fun! I was/we were too loud during my (the first) part, disturbing Linda. Wish we’d have seen that coming. Sigh….  Lyn’s ‘Add the Words to the Motion” (collective creation) produced some pretty big laughter. Amazing to ‘see’ people doing stuff you’d never have expected, right? Again, beginning to see each other more fully.  Gene totally changed the energy with his ‘Mindful Walking’ and series of imaginings under the tree. Delightful exploring with his guidance.



was delayed due to the dead Big Stove and pretty near dead small stove. Caroline was stressed, we all waited- what could she do? Many helped her (including kids James & Holly, on ‘work scholarship’).

BALLOONS with Dwayne Williams came as a wonderful surprise! He told a delightful little story (his first solo telling)(I was beginning to melt down, was distracted) and continued to make balloons and showed the kids how to do it (they sure did!) for a long time. What a delight to have him step in and share this activity with them.

CANOE TRIPS: Two shifts Saturday, one set Sunday. I heard nothing but glee and wows and sighs from everyone. Charmaine and (lady of two who live nearby and brought their own chairs, didn’t sleep over) swam back and discovered their mutual love for Egypt.


JEFF IS MELTING For me, Camp (and all production of public events) is external and internal:  At the end of the day I have to account for my interactions with the world (you) to myself. To do it well, and patiently, is my ‘yoga’.  By lunch I was wearing out. I couldn’t find the sheet so diligently prepared to ease the Saturday Lunch Registrations (it was still in the envelope with the prices on the outside that Mark had taped on the wall as I directed). And everyone was very good about meeting financial commitments.  I snapped at a day camper asking me the same scheduling question I’d just answered (again)- I know this is just a way to ‘make conversation’… I felt bad and apologized to her.  Then I couldn’t find pens for the Shadow Puppet Workshop…. and went through all my stuff in the kitchen (full of activity) and expressed exasperation to Linda (sigh)… who loaned me marking pens…


SHADOW PUPPETS I was a bit uptight getting that activity started (did a shadow show Silver Nose for kids to illustrate on a too-thin table) but once we settled into the crafting and drawing and cutting with this little brood of kids, which is a bit of a juggling act, wonderful interactions occurred. I got to know Zoe, the dark skinned girl (so shy) who made two delicate puppets, but didn’t want to rehearse her story with them (earning a possible chance to perform in the evening). Rasta and little sister Jai-Love are so so so so so sweet and curious and responsive and able to follow the activity. Wonderful kids. 

Jackson is a thin, blonde, hyper, and curious boy we came to know at last year’s Camp (and his mom Shannon and partner John). They were very vocal in urging another Camp and worked to promote it some. I’ve watched Jackson’s frantics die away as stories unfold, and he has a great warm heart. He’s a happy loved kid. I enjoy the X Factor he adds to the event… unforeseeable twists and comments. Telulah made puppet after puppet and soon had a story. I challenged her to rehearse the tale with the puppets for the evening show. She was busy playing and rehearsing during dinner with other kids. I cleaned up my stuff, saving a handful of kid shadow puppets for the night, and went to the tent for a nap.


Simultaneously, the ADULT TALK STORY SWAP with Gene Tagaban went on and on and on, with huge eruptions of applause. I noticed Mara (from my storytelling class) told a tale, which pleased me. She overcame her somewhat shyness about performing. Elaine got a huge applause to a genaology piece with a hula.


Meanwhile, Dominique (a strong swimmer) towed Linda (not a strong swimmer) on a boogie board out to Chinaman’s Hat. On the way back the cute lifeguard came to ‘assist’. Linda accepted the offer, Dominique swam back enjoying the view.


The UMU DINNER was revealed about dusk, 6pm. I heard the announcement and took the opportunity to go for a calm swim & put on fresh clothes. I approached a whole line of people carrying pans of food!  The exciting chaos lead to an improv prayer (seemed appropriate and went OK) – MAN! That food was gone in a flash! You were all HUNGRY!



Of course, TELULAH SKILLING came up with the magnificent original Monsters & Rude Princess story, with her wry and clever dialogues… kept working and rehearsing with the other assistants, adding ‘The End’ sheet, and performed it! She had a very clever ‘Moral’ at the end she forgot to say. I wish I’d of had her come to the front to say it and take a well deserved bow before the show continued (sigh)

GENE I knew the Raven Dancer would appear, but once the cautionary tale (don’t go into the forest or the Skoogie (?) will get you) I was mainly watching to see how he was going to get them together.

LYN The Ghost with One Black Eye- so rich, fun… she’d told me, that when she told that second tale (an original horror- she loves to mae ’em up) at a Festival in Utah she’d told that story and was surprised and the roars of laughter that came when the lady cut off the husband’s head. We all laughed too. I was glad to hear the whole tale… headless guy, head under arms, eyes like headlights. SPOOKY!

JEFF I was pleased with my tells in general- wanted to share the Arabian Night Tale in shadow puppets and that new ‘Snow Woman’ (Japanese Obake tale).

How fun(ny) that LINDA had that SAME STORY on her tongue, and It was a real treat to hear her tell it her way right after! She did it so well!


Now as the ‘host’ I watch the ‘Whole Thing’, EVERYTHING in that tent, unfold, especially anything that ruffles or distracts.  At that concert, I watched a whispering family feud of gestures and hushed exchange unfold. One defiant son kept getting up, moving around, in and out of the stories. He was the only thing moving that was not focused on the story… not quite enough to provoke me to address him, but distracting/ annoying. He finally went to lie spread eagle at Lyn’s feet. She looked down, said, “oh, I’m afraid I’ll step on you, then (forcefully) Sit Up!” He did. 


CAMPFIRE More (but less) wine, sharing, kids burning up marshmallows. I know, they made some noise- they’re kids. I heard a great spooky tale from Kit Grant (Coffee Queen) and enjoyed catching up with Elizabeth K.



The bells no longer worked to call people to the activities. Maybe many were ‘done’ with story stuff. Kids and adults stood to tell jokes and short stories. .. even the shy Zoe (amazing her mother and she got a good laugh!) Race (blonde short haired bare chested tall boy/man) told many jokes well. Some did gather for a planned AM workshop.


‘TALKING ABOUT STORY. I gave up my plan to have folks tell a tale and get feedback, use it to springboard into talking about ideas and styles and issues. Lyn never showed up (slept in, woke late, and just went to the airport). We just sat talking as a loose group. Gene and I ended up answering questions in a free-flowing give-and-take. I asked Gene why he came back to Camp? He spoke of a vision to change the world, and story is the vehicle, and this is a vision to support. … and a gorgeous place. He urged folks to ‘tell your story’. I spoke of the friction as a white man telling stories rooted in Polynesian culture. And to tell tell tell.


Meanwhile, Vicky Dworkin’s KID STORYTIME basically unfolded because she wanted it to happen. I love that. She gathered the kids by the shade of a tree and held forth for quite awhile, holding the kids with hand puppets, songs and tales- very impressive. This was not planned- Vicky saw the need and did it. What a beautiful expression of her own ability and desire to add to Camp! Bravo!


GUEST TELLERS DEPARTURE was quick- leis to Linda, Gene & Ruby, hugs and alohas, and off they went with Ephrosene and made their flights. 

LUNCH: Tacos and talkings, and the canoe folks returned. 


STORY DYNAMICS with Millicent Cummings began as she sang us an original song and got us to sing ‘This Little Light of Mine’. I was distracted by kids messing around: a smaller boy took over Race’s folding chair when he got up for something and would not give it up (ha ha). I was so touched: Race, frustrated, went and sat on the far end of a bench rather than disturb the session, cooled and thought. He then came back centrally on the bench to hear better, occasionally trying to move  the entrenched invader (unsuccessfully). Finally, that chair-sitter was far too disruptive and I walked him to his father (who missed all this). What do I do?


FAMILY DYNAMICS & CAMP Sunday there was a fight between three boys after Vicky’s session. I empathized, and still do, with a father’s difficult situation (reasons later spelled out). We are a community, boys are boys, this is life. These kids need to have a gorgeous space and setting and activities… maybe… but they became annoying, an imposition on the weekend enjoyment of others (and for me). Yes, we’re a community and some kids need to see that WE are more important than YOU. When is too much too much? I feel protective of the exceptionally talented guests who came as well. It’s my call, and this is in my head. We had many more children in this Camp and likely will see those numbers grow as we replicate the weekend next year. And most were a real treat to be with. It is good to plan for the future based on the experience just concluded, yes?


This is not a public event. I can elect not to include some folks (and have from the first camp). I am leaning toward this, stated in the registration sheet next year: if a kid becomes a prominent distraction, I’ll have a brief private talk with both the kid and the parent. It’s a warning. The next time I call them together they have to go. 


CLOSING CAMP was moving for me, as you saw: it was uncomfortable and unfamiliar for me to sit to receive your thanks and appreciations. And yeah, we’ll do it again next summer. 


Then came the cleaning, sorting, packing, and giving away bits of food, the last swim, the reflecting and gossiping and laughing at events and stories of stories and people and things seen and done.  And unpacking and storing and washing… still have puppet stuff on my floor.


Dominique just dug out the Oahu Map I meant to put on the wall at Camp. And I mounted a Linda Yemoto butterfly on the wall this AM.

 Two AWESOME photos from George Lee (Star Advertiser photographer) appeared on his Facebook page. More will come from Charlie. 

  I hope you agree that this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.  We parted a week ago. Life’s moving on, but I wanted to share these memories & reflections.  Aren’t we glad we did this together?  Tell tell tell and tell more.



Jeff Gere

Talk Story Radio (40 pod casts of stories from my radio show)(free)



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