Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

mixing and plotting and…things

The new year moves nicely. I have more energy, I read more (I'd like to think the two are connected. As I read more, I have more energy) and I am, of course, much happier.

The old themes are coming out again. Land. The Potawatomi. Living. I read “Q Road” by Bonnie Jo Campbell a few weeks back. I remember telling Jeff about it and he made a comment about the characters being “dysfunctional”. That took me back. Obviously what I just related about these characters was messed up but I never saw it in that way.
How can an author speak of horrible things but in such a way that grace bursts from the pages? A mother shoots a molester, her daughter buries him in a barn (did he molest the daughter? did she want to be molested? the book asks). This is a bright and brittle thing. There is no way to get around it. And yet…instead of me turning away tired and discontent, I grew thoughtful and kept reading. Kept deeply reading. But why? How did she keep me reading instead of growing tired?

I know that Campbell wanted her characters to be more than just characters but archetypes. They are still fully human. I can't say she succeeded with making them archetyes- but she has begun to know. At times, she overdrew them but I could forgive her because…because? she wrote beautifully and she was trying to write truthfully. Not truthfully where everything is beautiful or everything is ugly. Not truthfully where we talk about some things and then not others. But truthfully. This writer has a big heart and I think if she continues, she will become one of the best (and probably least known) writers of our generation.

The struggle of suburbia has always been on my mind. It hurts to see fields turned into layouts for track housing. I know people need a place to live but must there be so much greed? So much goneness? In town, it's easier. There's no ripped up fields, no weird mounds where they rip the topsoil up and then just layer it up before it gets carted away. No compressions in the earth left. No flat sinking table for pre-fab houses and their owners. “Q Road” ponders this. and it ponders that. What is the solution to this tearing? It gives none. And yet…underneath…there is some answer. Rachel (the main character- it's really her book. she is the land in a zillion ways) is growing up and will grow up. That is something within itself, something I don't really understand yet. To grow up. To let go. and yet not to let go. Ever. It's hard to say. This is a writer to watch. I'm fascinated to see how she views these problems in her further books.

on the other hand, Jeff is spiffy! and everyone in my life needs to meet him. I realize this means treking around and I'm determined it will happen! I believe in a very short time, this blog will receive some big news.

More till later
-Cat

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The Taste of Tea

A favorite film of mine, The Taste of Tea, centers on an eccentric family living in the Japanese countryside. They spend a great deal of time sitting outside, sipping tea and staring into space. They sit as a family, alone, or in a small group and no one talks. They just stare out into the deep green that is the summer. And then they get up and go on walks or go off to work.

The first time I watched The Taste of Tea, I was shaken and delighted that the film gave space and respect to one of my favorite pastimes: sipping tea and staring into space.

When spring grew warm enough, I was inspired by the film to sit outside and stare into my backyard in the early morning. The Taste of Tea had given me a sort of permission to leave stress behind and take this time for one of my deepest desires: to enjoy and contemplate nature while sipping tea.

I named my new practice “Sipping Tea and Watching the Grass Grow.” I felt ridiculous whenever I mentioned it to anyone but that hardly mattered. I was doing what I loved so much, watching plants grow, watching the birds and small animals moving through it all, and sky glowing blue and serene over us all.

 

Grass grows slowly, imperceptibly but after each rain, it leaps up by inches. The violets came in May and they lasted for weeks. After that the dandelions bloomed and I lost a little bit of my heart to them. The wind picked up their seeds and sent the white fluffs floating into the air in sweet, downy clouds. After that, small wild strawberries, glowing like fierce red gems, appeared in the lawn. Now at the end of June, a luxurious, emerald green covers nearly everything. It reaches up from the ground, covering fences and stones or it high overhead, green leaves moving in tall, imperceptible breezes.

 

The heat has settled in so now even in the mornings, I pour sweat while drinking my tea. On some mornings the birds are noisy and busy and on other days they are not. Sometimes a great big bumblebee comes tumbling along, droning in that low, hazy buzz as it investigates every surface and flower. And then sometimes it does not come. Some days the clouds are like fluffs of cotton, other days there isn’t a cloud in sight. Each day brings a new configuration, nature is never still. I watch it all and at other times, I close my eyes and listen to my breathing. I’m not alone, never alone, a part of a whole.

A Tale of Two Worlds

I walk past a window on my way to get a glass of water and note the snow falling outside.  As I fill my glass at the sink, my thoughts have already turned back to my work on the computer. I’m wrestling with the household budget, when I’ll fit some reading in, how to get on with my writing work, when I’ll exercise, when I’ll catch up with email correspondence and the list goes on and on.

Anytime I stop my work and look up, past the chatter in my mind, the snow catches me off guard as if it’s the first time I’m seeing it. I debate whether I can put off the grocery store to avoid driving in the snow.

This is the world of the everyday. It’s full of a thousand petty cares, some essential to living, others not as much but all in a lump group, tugging us along.

But there are times my mind needs something more refreshing, and it’s time to take a break. And that’s where music comes in—as powerful as Circe creating a circle of magic with her staff. I pick out music without words (or words I don’t understand). Today is Rimsky-Korsakov, tomorrow might be the film Phantom Thread’s soundtrack, or a piece of jazz played by Lucky Thompson.

As Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Snow Maiden starts, the circle opens. I come out of the everyday world and enter somewhere extraordinary, where beauty converges with life and cares and worries exit for a time. And all it takes is a little music, a little snow, and entering the moment that is now.

I watch the snow falling, noting the wind direction as the snow blows southeast and then drops and then exhales again southwards. I note the density of the snow, how it’s light and sparkling and then downy, heavy, and wet.  My thoughts finally still and I turn off the music. A heavy relief passes over my body and mind and I am still, watching the beauty of the world.