Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

discarding…books

It seems nowadays that for every 2 books I pick up and read, I always toss one and sometimes both aside. These are very daunting odds.

The first toss-aside was Jonathan Strange and Dr. Norrell. I wanted to read on but I felt very grind-y with the point of the book. Good God, I'm no Mrs. Gaskell (she wrote…books for young ladies. they had very pronounced and beat you over the head moral messages) but I do want literature to do something for me. So Jonathan Strange and Dr. Norrell got tossed aside.
I kept tossing more and more aside (finding them boring, too poorly written or just…lacking in humanity in general) and now I come to the Dante Club. I started reading in it a fever. It has literary standards that come to life! well, they did initially.

Now they're just…angelic or asthmatic or dull. Longfellow is clearly an angel reicarnated (boring), wendell holmes is wheezy and a two-dimensional busy body and Lowell…well…Lowell is drama.
The characters started out with promise but now they wither and fade. They might get better but why? why bother reading through horrible character development while other characters still get lopped down in graphic Dantean ways? I mean…isn't it better to develop your characters than go overboard in the description of what charred feet look like or what maggots feel when they eat the brain?

Given the qualifications of the writer (summa cum laude, Harvard with a degree in American Lit and a degree in Law), I should trust him and continue on blindly, knowing that all will be better but come on. He's using Dante to make cheap money. and not only is he using Dante, he's using Longfellow, Holmes, Lowell and quite a few other famous people. His book shows no redeemable Anything. For one being so bright and so shining in accomplishment, I'm amazed he even allowed himself to write this book. I have no respect for him. Even Wilkie Collins' who-dun-it's are better than this trash.

Well. I have to go to work but I mean to say a bit more. about everything.

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The Willows Converse Among Themselves

I look across the river and catch sight of the willows, lost in their own world. They have no regard for me. They are speaking to each other in whispers so I hear nothing clearly but I see their long golden-yellow chains wavering over the water. It reflects their light.

There are presences in this world that are not human but sometimes, a human being comes across one of these presences and this is when poetry happens—when we interact with the strange divinity that moves through the world.

I caught sight of the willows and so complete were they within themselves, so beautiful to behold, that my mind stopped dead in its tracks and my heart eased. In the presence of an Other, human commotion becomes impossibly silly and pointless. The past and future converge into the present and there is only now.

I exhale the stress I’ve held this morning as I watch them. The willows, their long hair hanging over their faces, disregard me totally and completely and talk in their slow tree way, something to do with the air, water, and earth. I cannot hear much but what I do hear makes me recall there were other beings on this earth other than myself, older than myself. They exist in this time, in many times, living, dying, always reappearing. The willows hang their hair over the water as they have done for centuries, listening to the currents and moving with the breezes and eddies of the wind.

With a gratefully diminished self, I thank the universe for the ancient poetry that is the willow tree and move forward, reborn, into the bright day.

 

茶の煙柳と共にそよぐ也

the tea smoke

and the willow

together trembling

Issa

(Trans. David G. Lanoue)

Beautiful Dirty Summer

The thick green groves of cup-plants (silphium perfoliatumare) stand eight feet tall and are in their late summer glory. I look up at their bright yellow ray flowers and shield my eyes, the bright flowers sway so high and run so close to the sun. When I squint, the flowers darken into forms without color like the outline of the sun beating through closed eyelids.

I take a step nearer and peer into the leaves. Tiny pools of still water collect where the thick cup leaves meet the stems. It has not rained in the last few weeks and I’m surprised there is any water here at all. For leaves that are not broken or rotted, thimblefuls of water weigh without movement, rimmed with the detritus of summer: a fly’s wing, a wad of spider web, bits of dead grass and portions of pollen.

These tiny pools are water for goldfinches, tiny birds that flash by like rays of light. It hasn’t rained for weeks and this is left, tiny pools of water full of dirty summer. I consider drinking it. With one quick gulp, I’d drink the essence of a passing summer, imbibe what August means, and taste the bitter part of the growing season. This is living but rotting part that underlines all our lives but that no one likes to see, much less taste.

I shift my weight from foot to foot. The sun beats heavily down. The yellow flowers tumble in overhead breezes and the goldfinches live nearby, finding water where they can as the dry weeks pass. My hands drop to my sides and I pass back through the grass, ready for the shade. Perhaps when it rains and all the cup plants are full, I’ll take my drink along with the many others.