Wild tales

Before she was a renowned primatologist, Jane Goodall was a waitress. She grew up poor in England and couldn't afford college, so she took a restaurant job and saved her money for a trip to Africa.

There she started as a secretary and eventually landed a research position studying chimpanzees, her childhood dream.

I heard Goodall, 76, tell this story two years ago to a gym full of high school students in southern California, when I worked for a newspaper there.

Goodall travels the world telling her stories about working in the wild. She tells the same stories over and over, because she hopes that by telling about her journey, others will be inspired to embark on their own.

Somehow, stories about others help us to see ourselves.

"It's community building," said Mark Yaconelli, who is organizing a storytelling event tonight in Ashland about wilderness tales.

"These are true stories. When we hear a little bit about someone else's experiences, the wall that exists between people in this town falls a little bit. It makes you feel a little less alone. People reconnect because they realize they've had similar struggles or similar experiences."

At the event tonight, Talent resident Carole Gale will tell locals gathered at the Ashland Community Center about her experiences working as a typist for Goodall in 1967.

Gale is one of seven people who will tell wilderness stories at The Hearth, the "real stories by regular folks" monthly event. The theme of tonight's gathering is Into the Wild. Organizers are requesting $5 donations from attendees at the event, held from 7 to 10 p.m. at 59 Winburn Way.

All proceeds will benefit the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and the $5 donations can be used toward the $20 membership fee to join the nonprofit.

In addition to Gale, educator Lorenzo Mussell, poet Nancy Bringhurst, activist Dot Fisher-Smith, botanist Tresa King, environmentalist Laurel Sutherlin and longshoreman Jack Wendt will tell stories.

Gale was just 19 went she went to work for Goodall in Tanzania.

"My story is about arriving as a volunteer typist and waking up the next morning and seeing all these chimpanzees in this camp," she said.

A few days later, as she was delivering something to a researcher, a male chimpanzee charged her.

"It was pretty dangerous," she said. "We didn't want that to happen, because they're far stronger than we are.

"You had to hold your ground. You couldn't try to run because then they would chase you for sure. You had to stand still and face it and then at the last minute jump out of the way."

Gale said she could write an entire book about what she learned in Africa.

"There's somebody there inside each other animal — they aren't just sort of generic beings, like how one car is the same as another car," she said. "Chimpanzees are as individual as we are."

Experiencing nature can help people come to terms with their human nature, Yaconelli said.

"The natural world is always itself," he said. "Trees are always trees. Sugar pines are really good at being sugar pines. All of us are created to be ourselves. There's something really healing about being in natural world."

Goodall spent 45 years studying chimps in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. Now, as a United Nations Messenger of Peace, she travels the world teaching people about peace, animal rights and the environment.

She encouraged the high school students gathering in that Oxnard, Calif. gym two years ago to pursue their goals and to work to protect the environment.

"Somehow we have to create a change, and you young people are going to be the ones who are going to do it," she said. "My final reason for hope, my greatest reason for hope, is really all of you."

And, after going into the wild, don't forget to share your stories with the next generation.

For information on the storytelling events see thehearthstorytelling.wordpress.com.

Reach reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com. For past columns see dailytidings.com/ecologic.

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