Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

It occured to me as I sat staring to space here, at my writing desk, how imaginative shopping can be. All I envisioned was myself at Trader Joe's selecting a chunk of Gruyere cheese out of their basket of cheeses. I read somewhere that Gruyere cheese is delightful in a grilled sandwich so of course, I have to try it out. Better yet, I'll go to the local Pennsylvania-Dutch restaurant that has a tiny local organic market on the side and buy some Gruyere from the cheese seller tomorrow. Perfect! The pleasure of imagining myself picking out cheese and purchasing it, is even greater then what I imagine the finished sandwich will taste like. Though I'm not knocking that! I wonder if the cheese'll be from Wisconsin or Vermont because that's where the seller's main suppliers are. There might be a cheese wheel or two out, imprinted with vines, flowers and the maker's name. Cheese wheels are the medieval monks' invention and whenever I see a golden wheel, I get an itch ot try and make cheese myself in some dark and cool springhouse.

No cows. Oh well. So I'll buy the cheese made by someone else's hands and why not pick up some fresh butter as well? Add local eggs too and some heavy cream- for an orgy of soup making. Two soups from this fine farmgirl.

The cheeseand now, the bread. Will I make the bread to toast or will I just use store bought? Store bought today. Still haven't picked up a baking stone. I wonder what it'll be like tomorrow when Jeff and I shop for a few of these local items? Will I just be stressed, hot from the humid heat and intent on moving onto the next errand? Or will I carefully pick up my small square of Gruyere and think how someday I may make a monkish cheese in a big hoop?

There's a 70% chance of rushing so I'm on the tinier 30% side, rooting for it. Shop imagninatively! Be interactive! Not a jerking puppet- a rushing maniac! It's very hard to imagine a life where I am creatively involved in everything I do. I come form a suriving people, where much to everything is done without pleasure but simply done because one must. Well, I must shop but the pleasure of it sprang to mind. To me! Who hates to shop! I was only trying to imagine myself into a story I'm working on, not finding a way to spontaneously enjoy obligations. And yet! I got a peek!

There is a pleasure in choosing. Sometimes it seems to me as I labor over a budget and pay off debts and try to create interesting and yummy food within the budget, that I have no choices and when I do, only hard and stressful ones. Real choices come only when you can have the freedom to fling money around at things. But this is not so.

Some of the greatest pleasure is in imagining out bits of my life and then in turn, those imaginings become a defense. A defense that is so calm that it isn't at all defensive. The habits of my lifetime and my ancestors float down the stream and then out of sight. In the meanwhile, I'll eat my bread…toasted with cheese.

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Ouroboros in the Park

Japanese anemone flowers open blush pink petals in the park.  Their tall, delicate stems hold up the tender flowers, and in the centers glow tiny pistil-laden suns. Furry carpenter bees buzz in a frenzy, adoring the tiny suns. Like all true worshipers, they circle round and round the yellow centers, smearing themselves in joy and pollen.

I also circle a center, but the object of my adoration is the park itself. As the path guides me around and around, my body, full of the usual tensions and distresses, takes the cue, finds the beat and the measure and walks to it.

The English Romantic Poets of the early 19th century were great walkers and believed that walking was essential to writing to poetry. With the body busy, the mind can walk freely, investing in its visions and tunneling down into what were previously subterranean thoughts.

This small park is my open field, my verdure, my ramble through hill and dale. My feet move on, sometimes slowing to a near pause, other times hurrying, suddenly propelled by a new and vivid notion.

About the fifth time around, a sort of mesmerism occurs and I fall under the trance of the day. The circle becomes a mantra uttered by my feet—knees, hips, shoulders, and arms follow along and we head down the path. I must walk, I must keep walking, I must continue to walk and the resolution becomes a reassurance as a cool breeze fills my lungs; I am alive and refreshed.

I pass under the oaks and dodge their falling acorns. Sometimes I entertain the notion that squirrels are hurling them, but when I catch sight of their small triangular faces they look as startled as me. It is the oaks themselves that are throwing the acorns down. I momentarily consider bringing an umbrella, opening it when I walk under the oaks, but this an old consideration that I’ve been contemplating for years of autumns and I’ve never acted on it. Instead, I dodge and the squirrels stare hard.

Finally I have to go but the revolutions and bees in the park stay with me even after I leave, continuing  with their wheeling. They pass through the days and nights, rapturous and serene, monotonous some days and a miracle on others, and on most days both. They exist in the circle that is sometimes opened, sometimes closed. Within the circle, everything changes and nothing changes each time we pass through.

 

Kazuaki Tanahashi, Miracle at Each Moment

 

Pocket-Sized Photo Diary

There are small moments that must be filled. They open and expand while waiting in doctors’ and dentists’ offices; in long, slow moving grocery check-out lines; or in those few, empty moments before leaving the house or office for another destination. Staring into space is my favorite pastime and generally fills up all the minutes given (and much more), but there are other waiting times when my spirit needs a gentle pick-me-up without doing much conscious work.

That’s when I open the Photo Album on my phone and start scrolling. I discovered this delight quite by accident while lounging in my therapist’s waiting room one afternoon. I was feeling flattened by living with PTSD and other health issues, and I wanted muster up a little hope before I went into my session. So in a despondent, weary way, I opened up the photo album app. To my surprise, I was greeted by pictures of flowers, landscapes and book excerpts that I had busily taken days ago and had already forgotten. I scrolled back farther and it was much the same, mixed with pictures of friends, family, pets, and friendly dogs I had met on my walks.

I discovered my photo diary which had been my pocket all this time. “I never travel without my diary,” Oscar Wilde wrote. “One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” It still holds true; nothing is so interesting as what we took notice of days ago, weeks and months ago, be it written in a journal or snapped with a viewfinder.

As days spin into weeks, months, and years, it is hard to catch hold of any kind of underlining rhythm or purpose. A photo diary offers a kind of consolation. There’s nothing sublime there, it simply marks changing seasons, interests, travels, and friendship. But perhaps on the difficult days where everything is too much including our own thoughts, a photo diary is a moment of gentle release. The lightness of ephemerality eases the heavy load of living.

 

“But life itself is short, and so you are terribly agitated by everything that is eternal.”

–Eileen Chang, On Music