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 Taste of Tea

A favorite film of mine, The Taste of Tea, centers on an eccentric family living in the Japanese countryside. They spend a great deal of time sitting outside, sipping tea and staring into space. They sit as a family, alone, or in a small group and no one talks. They just stare out into the deep green that is the summer. And then they get up and go on walks or go off to work.

The first time I watched The Taste of Tea, I was shaken and delighted that the film gave space and respect to one of my favorite pastimes: sipping tea and staring into space.

When spring grew warm enough, I was inspired by the film to sit outside and stare into my backyard in the early morning. The Taste of Tea had given me a sort of permission to leave stress behind and take this time for one of my deepest desires: to enjoy and contemplate nature while sipping tea.

I named my new practice “Sipping Tea and Watching the Grass Grow.” I felt ridiculous whenever I mentioned it to anyone but that hardly mattered. I was doing what I loved so much, watching plants grow, watching the birds and small animals moving through it all, and sky glowing blue and serene over us all.

 

Grass grows slowly, imperceptibly but after each rain, it leaps up by inches. The violets came in May and they lasted for weeks. After that the dandelions bloomed and I lost a little bit of my heart to them. The wind picked up their seeds and sent the white fluffs floating into the air in sweet, downy clouds. After that, small wild strawberries, glowing like fierce red gems, appeared in the lawn. Now at the end of June, a luxurious, emerald green covers nearly everything. It reaches up from the ground, covering fences and stones or it high overhead, green leaves moving in tall, imperceptible breezes.

 

The heat has settled in so now even in the mornings, I pour sweat while drinking my tea. On some mornings the birds are noisy and busy and on other days they are not. Sometimes a great big bumblebee comes tumbling along, droning in that low, hazy buzz as it investigates every surface and flower. And then sometimes it does not come. Some days the clouds are like fluffs of cotton, other days there isn’t a cloud in sight. Each day brings a new configuration, nature is never still. I watch it all and at other times, I close my eyes and listen to my breathing. I’m not alone, never alone, a part of a whole.

A Tale of Two Worlds

I walk past a window on my way to get a glass of water and note the snow falling outside.  As I fill my glass at the sink, my thoughts have already turned back to my work on the computer. I’m wrestling with the household budget, when I’ll fit some reading in, how to get on with my writing work, when I’ll exercise, when I’ll catch up with email correspondence and the list goes on and on.

Anytime I stop my work and look up, past the chatter in my mind, the snow catches me off guard as if it’s the first time I’m seeing it. I debate whether I can put off the grocery store to avoid driving in the snow.

This is the world of the everyday. It’s full of a thousand petty cares, some essential to living, others not as much but all in a lump group, tugging us along.

But there are times my mind needs something more refreshing, and it’s time to take a break. And that’s where music comes in—as powerful as Circe creating a circle of magic with her staff. I pick out music without words (or words I don’t understand). Today is Rimsky-Korsakov, tomorrow might be the film Phantom Thread’s soundtrack, or a piece of jazz played by Lucky Thompson.

As Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Snow Maiden starts, the circle opens. I come out of the everyday world and enter somewhere extraordinary, where beauty converges with life and cares and worries exit for a time. And all it takes is a little music, a little snow, and entering the moment that is now.

I watch the snow falling, noting the wind direction as the snow blows southeast and then drops and then exhales again southwards. I note the density of the snow, how it’s light and sparkling and then downy, heavy, and wet.  My thoughts finally still and I turn off the music. A heavy relief passes over my body and mind and I am still, watching the beauty of the world.