1. Move to Tennessee
2. Get a gig in Kentucky
Done, done, and done. Well, sorta done (I still don't drive on my own). Mary Hamilton and her husband Charles were awesome in many ways: one, they invited me to tell at their event in Lexington, and two, they took a six hour drive on Monday morning to pick me up, and then drove me all the way back, and then on Tuesday, they did it again. Whew! Six hours would be three countries where I come from.
The ride, however, was one of the most beautiful in my life. I love Tennesse to begin with, and I have always preferred mountains to beaches; but crossing the mountains in a radiant spring day was something that sounds awfully corny when written down so I shall stop describing it right now instead of going on and on about how I am seeing dogwoods in bloom for the first time in my life and they are oh so pretty.
I also saw all kinds of fascinating things on the road, like caterpillar tents and bluejays and buzzards and coal mines and the path of a tornado, and bright green endless fields with horses and cows and the occasional sheep. And the mountains all around, remindig me of a thousand stories that I have imagined in a way that they could have happened right on this road...
After a short visit at the grave of Daniel Boone (learning American history here!), I was ready for my performance. It took place in Lexington, in a very pretty house that on the inside turned out to be an art gallery, filled with pictures and sculptures from a Slovakian immigrant artist. We had a tiny, but very sweet audience, and a full two hours to tell. I decided I was going to make the most of it!
First I told the legend of Prince Csaba and how the Way of the Warriors came to be on the night sky. Then, following that path into the next story, I told about Tündér Ilona the fairy queen and her kingdom in one corner of Hungary (the corner where I'm from). Following the fairies I told the local legend of the Fairy Lake, and then a folktale from Transcarpathia about how Tündér Ilona turned mortal to save a man's life. The tale is called the Dream of Tündér Ilona, and is sweet and funny at the same time. I have not heard many Hungarian tales about fairies being silly, curious and easily distracted - let alone saying those things about the Queen herself! But there it is, and I love telling it.
After a short break and some story-swapping and talking, I was ready to do my second round of stories - that only consisted of one tale. It has many titles in Hungarian and I have translated it into many others for my English speaking audiences (currently I think of it as the Sisters of the Mountain); it is part folktale, part literary story, part history, part legend, and all-around an amazing experience for me every time I tell it. It takes place about 800 years ago; I would really love to write more about it, but it would be a spoiler from the third sentence in, so. I will have to record it soon!
The evening was a lot of fun; I saw smiles and eyes wide open from my little audience, and they made me feel like royalty. I was really, really happy that I got to share my stories in another amazing corner of the States, and were received with such open wonder! Seeing your stories appreciated is like seeing your children win a competition.
I am a bit sad I did not get to spend more time in Kentucky (school stuff, mostly, gotta stay on top of everything including my thesis). It is definitely on the list of my favorite places now.
To Mary and Charles: thank you! You are amazing :)