Tag Archives: folk saying


Main Piece:

“The geese are honking and the cranes are in the meadow”

Background Information:

The informant heard this from her parents when he was a child and it means that spring is here.

Context of the performance:

This is performed in the beginning of spring or during the transition from winter to spring. This is because in the open country or outside of the city where geese and cranes exist, spring is the time when the geese are honking and the cranes emerge and gather in the meadow.

My thoughts:

I think this piece definitely evokes imagery of what spring looks and sounds like. Everything is fresh and all of the animals are emerging from the winter and getting back to the normal way of things. That is why the geese are honking and the cranes are in the meadow. This is similar to having the groundhog signify the start of spring or decide that the winter will continue. There are many signifiers to the start of spring because winter is a very harsh time of year in many parts of the world because of the cold and the weather. That is why there are many rituals, traditions, sayings, and signals that define and celebrate the transition from winter to spring.

He who gets close to a good tree, gets good shade


A is an immigrant from Nayarit and has collected many proverbs throughout their life. They often use proverbs in conversations they have with younger generations. They have collected these proverbs through friends and family members.

The context of this piece was during a graduation party when A was celebrating their granddaughter’s graduation from college and told her a proverb to guide her in entering college.


A: “Bueno mija, te voy a decir algo que me dijo mi mamá cuando era joven y es lo que le dije a tu mamá y a tus tíos cuando eran jóvenes también…Al que a buen árbol se arrima, buena sombra le cobija”

Me: ¿Se supone que somos el árbol?

A: Tú no eres el árbol, pero sí eres la que lo busca. En esta vida, es tu responsabilidad encontrar un buen trozo de sombra de un buen árbol que te ayude en la vida. Tus padres no estarán aquí para siempre, así que tienes que aprender estas habilidades por ti mismo”

// Translation

A: “Well mija, I’m going to tell you something my mom told me when I was young and it’s what I told your mom and your uncles when they were young as well…’He who gets close to a good tree is sheltered by good shade’”

Me: “So are we supposed to be the tree?”

A: You are not the tree, but you are the one looking for it. In this life, it is your responsibility to find a good piece of shade from a good tree to help you in life. Your parents won’t be here forever, so you have to learn these skills on your own.


Proverbs are often used within the Mexican cultures and are typically called “dichos.” Dichos are meant to be sayings that are filled with advice and are meant to teach a person a lesson. This Mexican proverb is about the specific people in a person’s life. The tree in this proverb is meant to symbolize the people that one chooses to surround themselves with.  The shade is meant to symbolize the relationship one has with others, this could be friends or family members. A sturdy, reliable tree will always give good shade, but fickle tress will never guarantee shade to someone. If a person surrounds themselves with trustworthy people that they can rely on and if the form a good relationship with them then they well progress in life. The proverb dictates that if one surrounds themselves with bad influences and irresponsible people then their life will be negatively influenced as well. This proverb is meant to advise someone to keep a skilled, well-grounded person by them so that they themselves can benefit from the experience.

Brooms and marriage in Haiti.

M is a 45-year-old Haitian immigrant originally from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. M is currently a body-builder based in Phoenix, Arizona.

M offered me this piece of folklore during a phone conversation. I Informed M that I was in the process of collecting folklore, and asked her if she remembered any superstitions her family in Haiti may have had.

M: When I was growing up, the adults.. from Haiti had a saying that if anyone sweeps under your feet, with a broom.. you will never get married.

Reflection: Though M did not provide me with many background details about this fascinating bit of Haitian folk belief/superstition, I can at least try to interpret its meaning based on historical context. I have heard that in post-colonial and post-slavery nations like Haiti, there is a common marriage tradition in which the bride and groom each jump over a broom during their wedding as a good luck ritual. Assuming that the broom’s association with luck and marriage remains consistent across Haitian folklore, it may be fair to interpret the sweeping broom in M’s account as the antithesis of jumping over a broom, as doing so literally ”sweeps away“ the luck of getting married from underneath an unlucky soul’s feet.

“Bread and butter.”

G is a 50-year-old Caucasian female originally from Phoenix, Arizona. G is a retired school teacher.

G offered this piece of folklore during a phone conversation. I asked G if she had any folklore she would be willing to share with me, and she offered me this superstition she remembered from her childhood.

G: One funny thing growing up was um, if you’re walking with somebody and you split a pole, you would say “bread and butter.”

Reflection: I have not heard of this superstition before, but it reminds me of other phrase based superstitions like saying ”knock on wood” or ”rabbit rabbit” to negate bad luck or engender good luck, respectively. Assuming that saying ”bread and butter” is also luck related, perhaps the phrase nullifies any potential bad luck associated with being forced to separate by an obstacle. The wording of the superstition also appears to nod to the idea that bread and butter are most ideally eaten as a pair (toast), rather than being eaten as separate ingredients. In the same way, people are implied to be better suited together rather than apart by the superstition.

“Bowling cows.”

E is a 35-year-old Irish female originally from Cork, Ireland. E currently runs a bed and breakfast with her husband outside out Cork, Ireland.

E performed this folklore over breakfast in the dining area of her bed and breakfast. I asked E if she had any Irish folklore she would be willing to share with me.

E: My husband has this saying, it’s an old Irish thing. Um, if-if you eat all your dinner basically and you’re full of, you’re gonna-you’re full of energy and now you’re feeling really strong and all that, and “I could bowl cows against the hill!” Is what it is, this old saying he has. And he was telling my German friend recently he was just-basically is you feel.. really strong that you could take on anything you could do anything. “Bowl cows against a hill” like in other words you’re gonna just, push the cows up the hill kinda thing. But, it doesn’t really make sense but it’s just a saying you know?

Reflection: To me, E’s saying invokes the same kind of emotion as other sayings like ”I’m on top of the world” or ”I feel like a million bucks” to express the feeling of self-empowerment one feels after eating a good meal. Even though E asserts that the saying doesn’t make sense to her, it at least makes sense within a geographical and cultural context. As E and her husband both live in a rural farming community and tend to livestock themselves, it makes sense that E’s husband’s expression of strength would have something to do with exerting power over something he toils over on a daily basis (cows).