Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

Eliza Calvert Hall

I found her. Sitting complacenty on a shabby shelf between two other old books, "Aunt Jane of Kentucky" I don't know why I picked up the book. Both Jeff and I were loaded down with books just checked out at the library circulation desk. We had to take one peek at the "used books for sale" bookcase. At least one look. And I grabbed "Aunt Jane" and flipped through the illustrated frontspiece and the date of the book. Hmmm..printed initially in 1898 with subsequant printings up till this one in 1907. The dates were right: it's one of my favorite eras and the old granny sitting in her rocking chair with a basket at her feet looked promising. So between granny being domestic, the book printed during the right time and the promise of Kentucky (where lots of my father's crazed and fueding relatives lived, a few generations out of Scotland), I was sold. Oh and it was a dollar.

 

I started reading it and laughed myself silly. It was awesome! The narration follows an old Aunt Jane telling a younger woman about her memories and the vibrant personalities she's known. The first account is about Sally Ann who, during a sermon where people go up and gives "testamonies", stands up and speaks out against the deacons and pastor being abusive, mean and tightfisted to their wives. It was a breathless, hilarious scene and I was in love.

I researched into the author and found out (drum roll) that she was a local colour writer. !!! If there's one thing I adore, it's local color authors. Hands down, every single one of them, I eat up. Sarah Orne Jewett is the best known one but they're all jewels and I always wish I knew more of them. They faded out as their era passed though they were generally very popular during their time. Eliza Calvert Hall was a suffragette and pushed for women's rights. Teddy Roosevelt endorsed her book saying, "…and I cordially recommend the first chapter of "Aunt Jane of Kentucky" for use as a tract in all families where the men folks tend to selfish or thoughtless or overbearing disregard of the rights of their womankind." Sadly, Eliza's children took most of her energy and "Aunt Jane" never turned into more books like she thought they might. Those children. But I am glad she wrote anything at all and I am so very glad to have this book. It's one worth reading.

 

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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.

The Fog Rises Up and We Come Down to Meet It

This winter has frozen and thawed. And then frozen and thawed once again. With the most recent exhale of cold, fog rises up from the melting ground and wraps my town in a trance.

It softens the ragged tops of trees and transforms the dead yellowed grass into a carpet spreading out into unseen lands.  With foggy foreshortened vision, the world becomes finite and in the smallness, my wonder grows.  Trees become gloomy gods, bushes hunch over like mysterious beings with secrets hidden in twiggy souls. The sky blurs out and the land rises up to meet it and everything is reformed or brought down to its most basic form. It is easy to become lost and confused.

I walk the perimeter of my neighborhood park. We become redone together.  The playground becomes enchanted, strangely unknowable as the slides and swings soften and distort.

The ballpark’s high chain link fence however, becomes more sure.  The metal darkens and braces and holds against the diffused white light.  I stare at it through my camera lens, delighted by its ferocity while everything else around it wavers and melts.

A train passes over the hill and I can see nothing, it has been whitened out, but I can hear the busy clack of the iron wheels running on steel rails.

Geese fly overhead for a minute and then vanish.

I press on and the mist parts as I walk and so we walk together, softened, softening with the night closing in behind our steps.  The night takes everything behind us, rebuilds it like it wishes and then I step into my home and close the door.

Rain falls a few hours later and the fog mounts up, gently pressing at the windows but by morning, it is all gone and only little bits of ice remain on the walkway.