Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

it's one of those weeks. Nothing works. I sit around and struggle inside instead of doing Anything. I'll take Lamott's advice and take the voices in my head and drop them into jars like mice, close the tops of those jars. Here's the first mouse/voice:

Perfect to Semi-Perfect Housekeeper
Is she that? No, she’s far more malicious then that. She’s the woman who does everything, keeps everything clean and orderly, everywhere and makes everything and never loses energy. She sleeps only at night and only for six hours and then leaps up again for the next day. She knits, embroiders, quilts, sews clothes, sews curtains, shopping never fatigues her, she plans out three square meals a day and always knows how to have a good time. She does regular deep room cleaning and never thinks she won’t. She gardens, visits the Arboretum weekly and keeps up on the latest tv shows. She reads male and female authors, takes notes on everything she’s read and answers emails promptly. She never forgets what she’s said or what she’s promised. She’s frugal, shops sales, buys all her furniture on sale. She knows when to get rid of clothes and when to keep them. She works out every other day. She has no problem with space and always knows how to relax. She’s cheerful, thinks out deep questions without terrible inward strife and goes to the midwife without hatred in her heart for the medical profession’s treatment of women. She is diplomatic, can handle anyone and never gets tired from droners, bores or selfish people. She is immune to fatigue and depression and has never thought of ridding the world of her person. She has a church, a community and researches the Bible on her own, each day.
She also writes at least one poem each day and works on her novel and at least an essay for part of the day. She bakes cookies and visits her neighbors, crooning over their small children. She always gets a good haircut and takes regular walks by the river, being sure sometimes, to bring the camera along.
She visits Chicago from time to time and keeps up on museum exhibits, symphony schedules and other interesting art-community events. She knows enough people to keep her friends meeting other friends of hers and she’s a great matchmaker and everyone loves that. She’s eaten at all the good restaurants around and can afford to do that because she’s frugal in other areas. She goes on vacation at least once a year and once again, she does this because she knows when and how to save. She watches her investments, she has investments, she earns money off of money.
She knows exactly where her dream home will be and saves towards that too. She knows what German appliances that are safe for the enviroment she needs for her home to be and when the time comes, will get them on sale or on deep discount. She knows how to take care of all sorts of animals and she knows how to harvest and dry vegetables and herbs. She also knows how to can. She also knows the best places for fresh produce and fresh meat. Her pantry is incredible in its organization and common sense. She could live in the wild if forced to. She knows natural resources and what can be eaten and what can’t. She recognizes trees, wild flowers, bushes, birds, she knows always which way is north, south, east and west.

And so, I now know that I like Virginia Woolf, have an Angel in the House. How I hate her. How she hates me. I can never be that woman, try as I might. Because I have tried and am trying. Oh, how we hate one another. We’re locked in this endless battle, one trying to strangle the other…or brain sabotage the other. Tricks, sneering, slapping, mind games, manipulation, and just plain stomping on the other. Nothing works.

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Winter Aconite & Snowdrop

Spring is whimsical and wary right now, first appearing in a patch of sunlight and then fleeting away in an ice-cold breeze, only to reappear a little later in the liquid song of a redwing blackbird. I wear my winter coat one day, a hoodie the next, and then it’s back to the winter coat the next morning as a heavy frost sparkles on rooftops. Only recently have I given up my thick scarf, though if there’s a wind tomorrow, I may have to pull it out of the closet and wind myself up in it once more.

None but the bravest flowers are blooming, the winter aconite and snowdrop. Winter aconite is a small yellow flower that’s easy to overlook; it remains shut until the sun has deeply soaked its petals, then pops open like a tiny jewelry box to reveal gold petals centered on delicate pistils and stamens. The snowdrops this spring huddle close to the ground, nearly lost in the mud and dead leaves. As of yet, there are no daffodils blooming—their leaves have come up only an inch or so out the brown ground. They are cautious and since it freezes each night, I cannot blame them.

Beyond the flowers there is the ground itself: a muddle of browns, thick with the rotted tree leaves and the dead foliage of last year. There is nothing lovely to see here, only the form of the land itself. It swells and slopes up from the river, lies low along the horizon, and finally drops into a ditch.

On an unexpected day in early March, once the snow disappeared, city workers came to clean up the young trees and invasive species that have been growing avid and unchecked along the creek near my home. It is the first time I can see the contours of the land clearly in all the years I’ve been living here, and I’m struck by the curves and lines that slope down towards the creek, a rollicking bed of dark brown that makes a strong contrast to the bright blue overhead. The undulating land here is small but it’s a dream, a reason, a mysterious being that wraps through the neighborhood’s mind. Soon enough, this dark and curving space will be clad in green, heavily wreathed by plants, bushes and eager saplings. But for now, it is bare and exposed, revealing the dark space between winter and summer. This is where the wind snaps cold like a knife, but the brilliant sunshine keeps calling everyone out despite the drear.

Tips on Surviving the Never-ending Winter

It’s been a long, hard winter. Now that it’s mid-February, the cold days have started stealing into my bones, urging me to stay in bed and sleep until the warm weather comes. As much as I long to take a three month long nap, there’s stuff to be done and living to do.

I’ve gotten more intentional about warding off the winter blues this year and not let myself, mentally or physically, wander off into a nearby snowbank and fall asleep. I’ve been observing and writing down little notes to myself on what lessens the gloom. These notes have become guideposts of sorts, gently illuminating the path through a difficult winter.

  1. The first guidepost may be the most essential: drinking hot beverages continually and consistently helps to ward off the deep cold. I brew a small pot of my favorite breakfast tea blend in the morning, switch to ginger and lemon herbals mid-day, and then return to caffeinated teas like black or green at night. Other people love coffee and others their tisanes. Find one or many and slurp away happily all day. Hot drinks are so deeply comforting when it’s cold and dark.
  2. I’ve learned to take walks even when the weather is crap. Obviously if everything is sheeted in ice, a walk isn’t going to happen but for the those other days, time willing, I make an effort to head outside. There’s the exercise aspect but more than that, it’s important for my spirit and soul. I walk to de-stress, to come in contact with a bigger world than my own, and to climb out of my circular thinking. There’s something about the rhythm of walking that clears junk out of the mind and soul. Our bodies evolved to walk over this earth and so when we participate in it, the old rhythms occur. Walking is a way to feel freedom. And it’s a way to fight too. I feel incredibly alive upon coming inside after walking through high winds and bad weather.
  3. Reading extensively helps to cast off the smothering feel of an endless winter. Last winter I read Alexander Pushkin and discovered the joy of reading Russian literature during the dead of winter. This month, I read City Folk and Country Folk by Sofia Khvoshchinskaya, one in a pair of sisters that wrote during the mid-1800’s. City Folk and Country Folk is a delightful satire, ridiculing a variety of “city folk” and everyone else besides. Among the cast of characters is the intellectual Ovcharov, a dead ringer for Austen’s Mr. Collins. The book centers on neighbors visiting each other, eating each other’s food, drinking each other’s tea and generally getting on each other’s nerves until they all decide to stop visiting one another. Needless to say, I adored this plot line.
    And after a three month long wait, I received The Library Book by Susan Orlean from the library with two week checkout period to read it. No way was I going to read part way through, return the book, and then have to go back into that long waiting line. I set up a rough estimate of how many pages I needed to read a day to make the two week goal and then started. To my surprise, I enjoyed having a book reading goal and  diving into Orlean’s generous and easy-flowing prose every evening.
    My last read for this month is Frederick Douglass’ My Bondage and My Freedom. February is Black History Month and the perfect time to read his work. I’m only a few chapters in but his thoughtful and beautiful prose has pulled me in hard into the tragedy of his story and it’s hard to stop reading his eloquent prose.
  4. Spring will come. It feels so far away and even the evergreens and pines are looking haggard but it will come. When the sky is a certain shade of blue, I remember that it will. I remind myself of this daily.