Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

So much got done last night and today that it’s hard to think how much got done. Sometimes I just blink at the sky and am amazed. I wonder how people do this every day and then I try to forget that and just enjoy what I can do.

Last night I 1. made dinner. It’s been weeks. The last dinner I made was a bean and tortilla casserole that did not live up to my expectations. I had eaten lentils for lunch and when I tried to eat bean tortilla casserole for dinner…it was hard to swallow. Too many beans in one day. The next day didn’t improve my feelings on it. Or the next. In the end, I gave most of it to the family on the farm. So this dinner was the one to overcome my despondency about cooking. I got Mark Bittman’s book “How to Cook Everything: Easy Weekend Cooking.” The book delivered. I made the “Best Scrambled Eggs” (I don’t like eggs but these were to die for), Blueberry Muffins and Home-Fried Potatoes. It was a scramble for everything to be done together at the same time and the potatoes were boiled too long but everything was still very edible and still very good. And today for lunch, I took those potatoes with a bit of olive oil and fried them up. Yummy with muffins.

Last night I 2. baked my first cake. This is a Tasha Tudor recipe called “Washington Pie.” It’s a really a layered cake with raspberry jam filling. Not just raspberry jam. Raspberry jam mixed with cherry brandy. That’s right. Oh, it turned out great and so pretty. I like baking rather then cooking. It’s restful with those breaks in between while the cake bakes and then cools. My next cake will be chocolate cake with white frosting- but I need a double boiler for that. I’ve been trying to think of a good excuse for making this chocolate cake. No one’s birthday around, no holidays (the double boiler is coming at the end of this month- pay day) so how about life? To life. L’chaim. The excuse for my raspberry cake was for life and for Jan coming by to visit today! Yay! We had a lovely time, talked about writing and I think she enjoyed the spiked cake!

Last night I 3. Finally worked on my fiction. Its been so long due to being sick and then being busy and getting caught up with cleaning. I didn’t write for too long since it was late but I sat down and did it. That’s the hardest part, getting started again after a break. Finally.

Today I…today was gardening. Today was hauling up sod, turning over clods, breaking them up and then mixing in mushroom compost. Ugh. This work means another day without going to the gym because who needs to? My back is a little sore from it all but nothing unbearable. I did that and then planted. I planted astillbe (Elisabeth Van Veen), I split up and planted the hostas Dad gave me. I planted the Japanese painted fern he gave me. I moved yet another delphinium over to the other delphiniums. I planted my herbs, my geranium, the nasturtium. I moved the lavenders over to the rose bed and the sage over where the herbs are. I dug big holes and put in Oriental lilies- Stargazer, Muscadet and a freebie that I got that I didn’t realize was a freebie …till I opened up the bag and realized…crap, which are Tom Pouce freebies and which are the Muscadet? No one knew then or now. They are buried in trenches in that square of the garden. I raked soil back into the beds, I raked the beds, I watered.

Then Jan came and we had a terrific chat, drank Stillwater Iced Tea and ate some cake. And now I am here, considering about taking pictures of cupolas but a little nervous that someone might run out and ask me why I’m taking pictures of their house. Maybe that’s for tomorrow in the morning when people are (mostly) at work.

Well, here’s the unlooked for bonus of Tom Pouce lilies. I hope you’re nice and work with the colors of the others. Cause if you ain't, its farm time for you!

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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.