Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

Winter and Spring

This winter, I’ve been thinking about curling up in the snow. It’s been a terrific season for snow and I think now as I look out of doors, I can see a good heaping five to seven inches of it. The garden is in a lull under it. Snow is soporific for the plants. They stay quiet and idle and dream about the time when they open their flowers, continue on with their lives.
    I’ve been wondering what it must be like to crawl under the snow and be a woman under the snow. Would my eyelashes turn to black ice? And then the irises of my eyes turn to blue ice? What would someone think if I rose out of the snow, the cracking of frozen ice accompanying as I stood up? Would they think I was dead and now alive? Or would they think I was the Mistress to Jack Frost and they knew he had a woman all along.
    I think I would be a bit spooky if I laid under the snow and then came up, breathing foggy air. I think I would like to catch the glimmer of the sun now and again, see a warm human face. I would take a walk, fold my arms together, click my tongue. I would go down Lincoln Ave and then cross McKee and then Wilson. I would walk to my favorite street and head down under the crabapple trees, barren and still. There’s no destination on my favorite street. I just like the situation of a few of the houses and the three crabapple trees so close that their branches intertwine. In the summer, they’re all different colors, rose, mauve and white. I have truly fallen in love with those trees and dream about them all the time. Someday too, I might have three crabapples, so close, their fingers intersect. I would put them in a tight row and they would be three odd ducks together, all different colors in the springtime.
    Springtime…that word would wake me out of the cold and dust. I would rise up, and a woman would gasp and a car would drive off the road but I would rise up and head down the sidewalk, to the house that has a thousand bluebells in their yard in the springtime. I would head down to those crab trees and stand for awhile, first on one leg and then the other, looking up. The trees would look down at me and then I would be forced to climb the middle one, high as I could. I would sniff the wind and even in all the frost and cold, I would catch the merest thread of spring. Then I would kiss a budding branch and head back down. I’d cruise back down that sidewalk, taking care to keep my arms close to my chest. I’d breath easy and then fall back into the yard, rolling, burying into the snow. Like a mole. My breathing would grow slower and slower till it barely was.
The trees pop like magic in the spring. They could really, raise anyone out of the slumber of cold and death.

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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.