Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

Distant sound of a pile driver…

Ah, yes. Summer means construction. Construction here in Batavia, IL means a new bridge to replace the 100 year old one. They like to do the loud work at night. It doesn't bother me at all and adds an unusual back sound. Lots of booms.

Today, after starting out a bit rough, I dithered and hemmed and hawed and shuffled back to bed a few times but in the end, I got myself together and worked on a few projects.

It's always shocking when I work on a project. If you know me, you might know I have many projects. Vast quantities of 'em all at different stages. I don't believe in finishing projects. I just like to have them around like some people like having kittens, puppies or children around. It feels good. Sometimes though (many times) those kittens, puppies or children get going crazy and then being overwhelmed, overworked and hunted down comes into play. I go between liking my projects, to hating their guts.

In an attempt to enjoy instead of hate , I forced myself to focus on one project. This project is a bright idea from the Purl Bee. Swatch Portraits. Now that we've moved to a new place, I need to decorate. I like decorations. I don't like starting to decorate. I like little corners. I hate big walls. There's a couple of big walls here so after laying out what I have in the area of wall decorations, I decided it was time to try out the Swatch Portrait project. A few days ago I got the wooden hoops and pulled out what fabrics would all look very purdy together and now I was going to try.

But wait! I wanted to make coasters out of cloth today too but I needed the right cloth to semi-go with the living room but then I needed bias tape but I also needed tiny alphabet rubber stamps and then ink that works with fabric to stamp on the bias tape that goes on the lower half of the coasters and this was all at Jo-ann's…and…and…see how it is?

I managed to Not start another new project. I started the swatches. They're terrifically easy and fun. So I did a few and I'll do a few more tomorrow.

And then…after I did a few swatches, I decided to really roll up my sleeves and I made Cannelli Bean Soup (delish!), Miniature Meatball Paninis (they go great with the soup) and a big pitcher of Sunshine Iced Tea. Jeff and I watched "Flushed Away" while eating this splendid meal. And Abby? Here she is. 

She wanted her share of the meatball panini as well. Sorry, cat!

Also…I've been reading "The Vicar of Wakefield" illustrated by Hugh Thomson. I'm in love with my 1890's copy. Beautiful books with beautiful bindings are a joy forever. It's forest green with gold embossing of leaves and a few birds. A picture of it will come soon.

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How to Search for Story Settings

A big city not far from mine has a casino. I’ve heard a few stories from friends that have worked there. Most center on being treated badly by a customer and revenging themselves by throwing the customer’s car keys into the Fox River. Karma is enacted on a regular basis at the casino.

There’s something about that river, flowing by, murky green during the day and black at night, a bottomless pit for car keys.

The river divides the city in half, east to west. The Fox flows along the old warehouses, limestone and brick, built back when the city had manufacturing plants and industry. Now the warehouses sit sturdy and silent, crumbling ever so slowly. Their roofs are flat and give the illusion of brick walls running straight into the sky. Some were built like prosaic wedding cakes, higher and higher, until the final topping is small square with tiny windows. Industry has never been about aesthetic needs and wants.  And yet by some miracle, these old turn of the century warehouses have achieved it just the same.

I observed the warehouses from the back deck of the riverside café, clutching my cup of earl grey and wishing I had put sunscreen on. It was the first time I had ever been to this café and I came because I needed a new setting for a fiction story I was working on. None of the cafes I remembered from the past were working for me. I needed this kind of café, one that hung out in an old manufacturing city where there wasn’t much industry left. There was, at least, a casino and many local businesses and this café hung on, here at the water’s edge.

A little further up was the casino where my friends had thrown those keys into the water. From my point on the deck, I could see the grimy metallic white heel of the building jutting out. Another friend told me that he goes there regularly to play black jack. It relieves stress and earns a little extra cash for his family.

The wind picks up a little and despite the sun, it’s chilly. Spring plays these tricks on us.

There is no sign of life in the warehouses all around me. We’re all boxed in together and the light plays off their empty windows, open and blank to the sun. I sip some tea and play “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Led Zeppelin just to see if this café will work for my story. It only takes a few bars of listening to the song and I know that this place is perfect. This spot on the river is perfect for many stories. It’s  been perfect for all the stories I know nothing about and the ones that I’ve caught the smallest glimpses of.

A mallard suns himself in the weeds that line the water’s edge. The river moves fast and sure and I turn off the music. No need to for further noise. The song is already there.

pagan green

There was little snowfall this winter. When there isn’t a snowpack to melt in the spring, there is drought because the melting snow fills the rivers and creeks and creates spring flowers. So I thought this spring would be sad. It would be sad just like this election had been sad, the healthcare system in this country is sad, the state of the mental health of this nation is sad and so on and so forth. It would be one more thing.

But no one can predict the weather. It rained and rained at the start of this spring and the miraculous happened: flowers bloomed in a frenzy (it’s been a month and I’ve got the same tulips blooming still), trees let out baby leaves before I could blink and the grass roared to green life.

It is one of the greenest springs I have ever known. And now that it’s been going strong for a month, things are happening. The rain has not stopped and now blooming bushes are pulling down fences, sidewalks are disappearing under green and mud, lawns are growing faster than people can mow and the birds never stop singing.

During a walk, I passed by a young tree packed with chickadees. My husband thought the chickadees were cute (they were). I told him they were vying for territory, their cheeps filling the air with lust for power, trees, and land. And as I said these words, I thought of the few things we know about the Celtic pagan past and that this time of year was not a just sweet time but a pulsating, racing, hungry time. Nobody was full of food yet, that wouldn’t be until later on in the summer. The sun was coming back and people obsessively followed, traced, and urged along her every movement.

This is a season when the continuation of life hangs in the balance. Will the sun come back? Will the green come back? Will the birds come back? Will we survive into the next season? Will there be plenty or starvation ahead?

I sit down to eat breakfast and look out the window. In the garden, bleeding heart flowers cascade from slender green stems. Birds disappear in the riotous lawn only to reappear again as they wing upward and away. The maples unfurl their leaves in the sun while the red oaks are more steady, slow, and cautious. A faint, tender green line the tips of their branches. A small squirrel inches to the end of a slender tree branch and places maple tree helicopter seeds in her tiny cheeks.