Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

warm winter sweaters

It feels like living when old things that I have always loved come back the forefront.

I've been listening to Sixpence again. I went to the Chicago Botanical Gardens with Jeffery and pulled out my old drawing book again. I haven't been writing (like the good little scout I ought to be) but I have been getting interested in life again.

Jeffery found out there was a lecture at the Chicago Botanical Gardens on English roses the day that we could go. I bounded around a few times and then pondered if my father had managed to kill all the English roses that we had had (You know its bad if something dies on my father. He's very careful about these planty things). All our roses were dead but who cares?!?! This lecture means life.

I had never been to the Gardens. The architecture was cool and soothing. It reminded me in some ways of Bethel. Bethel had been designed by a Japanese architect. They couldn't afford what all his designs called for but they tried to remain somewhat true to what he planned. The Botanical buildings had the coolness and lines that comes from Asian beauty meeting the Midwest landscape.
Something else that came into high relief…the care bestowed on the plants outside. Every tree and bush had been so carefully pruned and tended. I've been in gardens that have been cared for but this was different. Masses and masses of trees and bushes and every single one carefully and precisely cared for. There's a lot of love in the Gardens. A lot.

Our lecturist turned out to be a sassy middle age woman who was enthused not just about roses but flowers. And not just flowers but life and living in this life. She gave us a website to order lady bugs from (!!!!) and other nifty things. I'm on a high level of enthusiasm and planning. This year…definitely a new triad of english roses. they will live! they will!

and speaking of living…life with Jeffery- what can it really compare to? It's the life I have always wanted. It's talking about things that go deep down into the sea and move in those far away currents. It's like when I go on walks and the beautiful is so spectular that it hurts my eyes and I have to turn away for a brief moment. It breaks my heart and makes me live bigger and stronger. Slowly, slowly, my eyes are getting accustomed to so much beauty.
We walk and we talk. We lazy around and we talk. We watch movies and we talk. We nap and we talk. We just talk!
The future looks so good. There's things to work through but they are being worked through! and not waited to work on a “better day” or “when there's more time.” They are in progress and they are progressing.

So…l'chaim! that's where the snow falls.

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How to Get Through a Big Book

How to get through a Big Book and have a little fun too.

  1. Make and eat food mentioned in the book (big books always include food, usually in meticulous detail).
  2. Read a little bit each day.
  3. Make a soundtrack.
  4. Dress like a character from the book for a day. Or a week. Or a month if it really grabs you.
  5. Ten minutes to kill? Daydream about the landscape or what the characters are seeing as they move through their day.
  6. Read passages you enjoy out loud. If you’re in the right mood, record yourself reading passages and share it (Instagram is great for this). Include illustrations if you like (thank you, Shirin).
  7. Whip out a highlighter or some sticky tabs for those great parts.
  8. Pace yourself and remember, reading gigantic books isn’t a race. It’s about the journey. Might as well bring along snacks, good drinks, great lighting, and enjoy the ride.

How to Search for Story Settings

A big city not far from mine has a casino. I’ve heard a few stories from friends that have worked there. Most center on being treated badly by a customer and revenging themselves by throwing the customer’s car keys into the Fox River. Karma is enacted on a regular basis at the casino.

There’s something about that river, flowing by, murky green during the day and black at night, a bottomless pit for car keys.

The river divides the city in half, east to west. The Fox flows along the old warehouses, limestone and brick, built back when the city had manufacturing plants and industry. Now the warehouses sit sturdy and silent, crumbling ever so slowly. Their roofs are flat and give the illusion of brick walls running straight into the sky. Some were built like prosaic wedding cakes, higher and higher, until the final topping is small square with tiny windows. Industry has never been about aesthetic needs and wants.  And yet by some miracle, these old turn of the century warehouses have achieved it just the same.

I observed the warehouses from the back deck of the riverside café, clutching my cup of earl grey and wishing I had put sunscreen on. It was the first time I had ever been to this café and I came because I needed a new setting for a fiction story I was working on. None of the cafes I remembered from the past were working for me. I needed this kind of café, one that hung out in an old manufacturing city where there wasn’t much industry left. There was, at least, a casino and many local businesses and this café hung on, here at the water’s edge.

A little further up was the casino where my friends had thrown those keys into the water. From my point on the deck, I could see the grimy metallic white heel of the building jutting out. Another friend told me that he goes there regularly to play black jack. It relieves stress and earns a little extra cash for his family.

The wind picks up a little and despite the sun, it’s chilly. Spring plays these tricks on us.

There is no sign of life in the warehouses all around me. We’re all boxed in together and the light plays off their empty windows, open and blank to the sun. I sip some tea and play “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Led Zeppelin just to see if this café will work for my story. It only takes a few bars of listening to the song and I know that this place is perfect. This spot on the river is perfect for many stories. It’s  been perfect for all the stories I know nothing about and the ones that I’ve caught the smallest glimpses of.

A mallard suns himself in the weeds that line the water’s edge. The river moves fast and sure and I turn off the music. No need to for further noise. The song is already there.