Monday, September 6, 2010

An Oral Tradition

I was thinking about what it means to be a technologically rich society and how that impacts the folklore of our present.  Do we still have folklore if everything is written and accessible to everyone else?  I can answer that with the following story.

My family and I went to Anderson Orchard in Mooresville, IN.  The place has become a favorite of ours for our pumpkin needs in October.  We have a tradition, created when our children were a wee six and three years of age, of wandering the pumpkin patch and selecting gourds to carve for Halloween.  This tradition is the folklore of our family.  It is something that binds us as a unit because it is something we share only among the four of us.  That it lives on as folklore in the future depends on our kids and whether or not they carry on the tradition within their own families one day.  Does it cease to be folklore now that I have written it down?  I think not.  I think that writing it down merely solidifies the description of the event in space and time.  It does not expand the folk group to anyone outside our family unit.  Reading about our traditions does not include the reader in those traditions.  Only participation can do that.

Another folk tradition I participated in this weekend was snapping green beans with my daughter.  Our first trip to the orchard over the weekend did not yield pumpkins (too early for that), but it did yield apples, peppers and two pounds of fresh green beans.  My mother used to cook fresh green beans in a crock pot with ham cubes and new potatoes.  Prior to the beans hitting the pot though, they had to be snapped.  This was done outside with a bowl for the beans and a bowl for the snapped-off ends.

I picked up a package of ham hocks at the grocery to flavor my beans and new potatoes.  I've never cooked with ham hocks before, but something ingrained in my psyche told me this was the thing to do.  Perhaps that, too, is a whisper of a tradition passed down to me that I am only subconsciously aware of.

When it came time to prepare the beans today, I gathered my daughter, the beans, a bowl and a trash bag and headed outdoors.  Of course we could have snapped the beans perfectly well sitting at the kitchen table.  But I snapped beans with my mother outdoors.  She snapped beans with her mother outdoors.  The task of snapping beans has taken place outdoors for generations, and this being my daughter's induction to the process, we were certainly not going to mess with tradition.

Now, my daughter will probably never read this so having this written down in a permanent piece of technology will do nothing to perpetuate the tradition.  It is up to her to pass on the experience to her daughter someday.  What technology will do is provide her with evidence that she snapped beans with me and I snapped beans with my mom and the task was always done outdoors.  Where I, on the other hand, just have to take my mother's word for it.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


This is my blog for W412 Literacy and Technology.  To me, literacy is the use of the written word to convey thoughts, ideas, emotions and opinions to others.  Technology is the compilation of devices that make life easier.  Joining the two together, literacy and technology, means using the written and spoken word effectively on the radio, television and internet.

The title of this blog is one I published under several years ago when I first began blogging.  That first blog underwent various permutations and is still up and running under a new name.  The title comes from a play on my name Erin and the expression used on St. Patrick's Day: Erin Go Bragh (which means "Ireland Forever").  Only throughout my life, cheeky fellows thought it rather clever to say "Erin Go bra-less".

Welcome one and all!