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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Tides of Snow and Ice

This winter has been a continuous series of freezes and thaws: it’s the warmest winter on record, the tenth one in a row. A more usual winter starts with a deep freeze and then stays cold for months. Instead, snow falls, piles up and vanishes; rises up again and retreats, now falling as rain, swelling rivers and creeks. Rain and snow mingle together until everything runs with water; hillsides and flat-sides are coated in a deep, dark mud.

I stopped on my walk today, halted by a sudden flash of gold. The sunset rays were falling into a tiny puddle spanning the space between the root and trunk of a maple. The puddle reflected gold and silver on top and below was dark mud, black and brown, full of microorganisms and other tiny creatures unseen by the human eye. I briefly considered putting my hand to the shining surface. It beckoned, winking like a diamond, but pull of my walk was irresistible and I continued forward. 

Mud is for March and April, mud so thick and heavy that it can pull shoes off and make them disappear like a magic trick beneath the solemn and still brown. Mud in February is a strange slight, an awakening that shouldn’t be occurring yet. It’s all the more cruel because even though the temperatures rise, they inevitably dip into the single digits and everything freezes solid. Many times I’ve spotted squirrels and tiny birds on the creek’s ice, searching for openings to drink from.

During this particular thaw, the creek casts off ice, it’s center opening like a dark cut. The water sings as it cascades over the rocks, proclaiming it’s momentarily relief from the grip of winter. In Scandinavian folklore, there is a belief that given the proper offerings, a creek could teach a human how to play the most bewitching music. I crouch down near the creek, record a video of it singing on my phone and replay its music in the evening while lying on the couch. I should give something in return for the pleasure of its song and I consider. Perhaps some lavender buds I have stored away for a certain recipe, or a small pinecone I keep on a shelf to admire, or birch bark I retrieved from a favorite tree cut down years ago. 

The next day I return, and after waiting for a few dogs and their owners to pass by, I crouch next the side of the creek and sprinkle lavender buds into the small, clear stream. The buds vanish as soon as I drop them into the water– as if they never existed. I drop some more in and the same occurs; they’re gone before I can blink. The current flows by, washing over stones, fleeting by banks of mud, until it vanishes around the bend where the pine trees tower overhead.

As I gaze at the water, first downstream and then upstream, my own self quiets, stills, and momentarily dissolves into the landscape. The relief, though short, is palpable. Alone becomes together and perhaps that is what’s this practice of thanking the creek has been about all along.

Winter in the Time of Climate Change

There is a stream near my home and I walk along it nearly every day; I know its moods and seasons nearly as well as I know my own. We are family and our connections are pure: we’re both made of water.

Every day brings more distressing news about the environment. Big changes need to happen but whatever change that does happen is so slow. Global warming is now being felt by everyone, some more than others. I go out and walk along the stream when the news and all the unfortunate future unknowns press in too hard. Right now, it is running fast. This winter has been a series of freezes and thaws. November hit hard with a heavy, deep freeze and I expected this to lead to a  white Christmas but instead, it’s been a muddy, wet winter, full of more temperate days than frosty ones. The thermometer rides up and down, every day propelled by a bouncing ball rather than a steady progression of tiny fluctuations.

The stream locks and then unlocks. It accepts each freeze and thaw with inestimable grace. After reading the news, it is hard to know what is near or far, here and up in the sky, in the mind or in the present moment. But the stream is always present, it knows no other moment. It lives in eternity; as David Hockney said, “It’s always now. It’s now that’s eternal.”

The creek is still here, I think to myself whenever I see it, it is still living. It runs forward through this strange January, sometimes under the ice and sometimes not. Patches of green moss dot the banks nearby, beyond that the nearby plants are broken, brown, and dried. They are asleep, listening to things I cannot hear, dreaming of things I barely know of.