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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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.