Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

getting it out of my system

Near the edge of Fabyan is a place. There is Fabyan with its wild orderliness, it’s sculptures, grottos and garden and then there is this place.
For good or bad it was there. Founded in 1894 by a woman- an Illinois State School for Girls. Certain sorts of girls. Immoral girls and unruly ones. “The bad ‘uns.” Maybe.
Maybe not. Girls from all over the state were placed here. They worked as maids during the day or did hard labour and then were locked into tiny cells at night with bars on the windows. Locked into a room at night after doing back breaking work. Rooms wide as far as you can stretch out your arms. Cells for bad girls.
And so girls died there. Some were taken back to their original homes but some were not. They weren’t wanted. Maybe there was no money in the family to get them back or maybe they were simply a disgrace. Maybe there was no family. So these dead girls and some of the dead babies that these girls had were put on a small plot on the property. Some were marked, some weren’t. They weren’t deep graves but they were put away. Names and dates and nothing else. Telling a story. A story. The property sat still forever. In 1979, the old buildings were shut down and the property sat and sat. I drove past as a little girl and always looked quizzically at the rising hill it was on. It rose up over the Fox River with the road nestled between its slope and the River and I always wondered, “What is up there? It looks so abandoned.” And it was. Till a few years ago when someone bought the old school farm and turned it into a housing development for the wealthy.
The wealthy? They drive out of the entrance in SUVs. They drive out of a place that was surrounded by a chain-link fence and barbed wire. A place that let you in and did not let you out. And at the bottom of all of this flashed a river, heading away.
The buildings are gone but the developer let the cemetery stay. Who knows? Maybe it is protected by some sort of oddball conservation effort. Conserving grief? Pain? Aloneness? Despair? Death?
Ahhhhhhhh, but the rich live all around it.
Even ivory towers cannot mask oppression in the soil.

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Out for a Walk with the Wind and Water

I love being alone in the park along the river. As soon as I step out of my car, I tell that I’m alone by the unusual silence stretching out in all directions. It’s a special sort of hush because instead of human voices dominating the space, it’s the gentle call of birds, animals, wind, and water that fill the air. These are much more gentle and quiet for they represent a continuation of a certain life on this planet, a life much older than humans.

I glow inwardly as I walk the park alone and for the first time in days, I smile to myself. Some Buddha statues wear slight smiles, the internal smile to the eternal world and as the memory of the statues comes back to me, the pleasure of connection causes me to relax even more.

When alone outdoors, I can relate to myself most fully and watch and listen with more mindfulness. I hear the birds first—the chickadees scolding one another and sounding like sweet, soft toy horns and then the cardinals, chirruping and checking up on one another. The sparrows hop and cheep in barren branches, never to be overlooked and always numerous.

Then comes the sound of water, lapping along the riverbank, rolling itself under the bridge.

The wind follows, shifting a blanket of leaves across my path and swaying tree branches overhead. The evergreens branches issue a soft shirrrrr-ing sound as the wind passes through. They retain a green elegance while everything else is brown, stripped down bare.

After I have heard the squirrels cracking walnuts and rustling through the dried weeds, and after I have seen the wind ruffling the river’s top, then finally, I can hear myself. That sound is very low and deep and it takes me a little while to hear it, after the delight of hearing everything else. But it is there and it inevitably opens up what I need to know that day whether it be comfort, direction, an answer, a question, or all of it. It has taken my whole life to hear myself and I have paid a great price for it but I would do it again in a heartbeat. For when a woman has herself, the nightmares slip away back into the inky, black darkness and living life is hers.

And so the wind moves through the evergreens, it plays along the water, and dives between the feathers of the birds. It touches my face and we walk together, two entities atop this impossible blue planet.

Ouroboros in the Park

Japanese anemone flowers open blush pink petals in the park.  Their tall, delicate stems hold up the tender flowers, and in the centers glow tiny pistil-laden suns. Furry carpenter bees buzz in a frenzy, adoring the tiny suns. Like all true worshipers, they circle round and round the yellow centers, smearing themselves in joy and pollen.

I also circle a center, but the object of my adoration is the park itself. As the path guides me around and around, my body, full of the usual tensions and distresses, takes the cue, finds the beat and the measure and walks to it.

The English Romantic Poets of the early 19th century were great walkers and believed that walking was essential to writing to poetry. With the body busy, the mind can walk freely, investing in its visions and tunneling down into what were previously subterranean thoughts.

This small park is my open field, my verdure, my ramble through hill and dale. My feet move on, sometimes slowing to a near pause, other times hurrying, suddenly propelled by a new and vivid notion.

About the fifth time around, a sort of mesmerism occurs and I fall under the trance of the day. The circle becomes a mantra uttered by my feet—knees, hips, shoulders, and arms follow along and we head down the path. I must walk, I must keep walking, I must continue to walk and the resolution becomes a reassurance as a cool breeze fills my lungs; I am alive and refreshed.

I pass under the oaks and dodge their falling acorns. Sometimes I entertain the notion that squirrels are hurling them, but when I catch sight of their small triangular faces they look as startled as me. It is the oaks themselves that are throwing the acorns down. I momentarily consider bringing an umbrella, opening it when I walk under the oaks, but this an old consideration that I’ve been contemplating for years of autumns and I’ve never acted on it. Instead, I dodge and the squirrels stare hard.

Finally I have to go but the revolutions and bees in the park stay with me even after I leave, continuing  with their wheeling. They pass through the days and nights, rapturous and serene, monotonous some days and a miracle on others, and on most days both. They exist in the circle that is sometimes opened, sometimes closed. Within the circle, everything changes and nothing changes each time we pass through.

 

Kazuaki Tanahashi, Miracle at Each Moment