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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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.