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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The Willows Converse Among Themselves

I look across the river and catch sight of the willows, lost in their own world. They have no regard for me. They are speaking to each other in whispers so I hear nothing clearly but I see their long golden-yellow chains wavering over the water. It reflects their light.

There are presences in this world that are not human but sometimes, a human being comes across one of these presences and this is when poetry happens—when we interact with the strange divinity that moves through the world.

I caught sight of the willows and so complete were they within themselves, so beautiful to behold, that my mind stopped dead in its tracks and my heart eased. In the presence of an Other, human commotion becomes impossibly silly and pointless. The past and future converge into the present and there is only now.

I exhale the stress I’ve held this morning as I watch them. The willows, their long hair hanging over their faces, disregard me totally and completely and talk in their slow tree way, something to do with the air, water, and earth. I cannot hear much but what I do hear makes me recall there were other beings on this earth other than myself, older than myself. They exist in this time, in many times, living, dying, always reappearing. The willows hang their hair over the water as they have done for centuries, listening to the currents and moving with the breezes and eddies of the wind.

With a gratefully diminished self, I thank the universe for the ancient poetry that is the willow tree and move forward, reborn, into the bright day.

 

茶の煙柳と共にそよぐ也

the tea smoke

and the willow

together trembling

Issa

(Trans. David G. Lanoue)

Beautiful Dirty Summer

The thick green groves of cup-plants (silphium perfoliatumare) stand eight feet tall and are in their late summer glory. I look up at their bright yellow ray flowers and shield my eyes, the bright flowers sway so high and run so close to the sun. When I squint, the flowers darken into forms without color like the outline of the sun beating through closed eyelids.

I take a step nearer and peer into the leaves. Tiny pools of still water collect where the thick cup leaves meet the stems. It has not rained in the last few weeks and I’m surprised there is any water here at all. For leaves that are not broken or rotted, thimblefuls of water weigh without movement, rimmed with the detritus of summer: a fly’s wing, a wad of spider web, bits of dead grass and portions of pollen.

These tiny pools are water for goldfinches, tiny birds that flash by like rays of light. It hasn’t rained for weeks and this is left, tiny pools of water full of dirty summer. I consider drinking it. With one quick gulp, I’d drink the essence of a passing summer, imbibe what August means, and taste the bitter part of the growing season. This is living but rotting part that underlines all our lives but that no one likes to see, much less taste.

I shift my weight from foot to foot. The sun beats heavily down. The yellow flowers tumble in overhead breezes and the goldfinches live nearby, finding water where they can as the dry weeks pass. My hands drop to my sides and I pass back through the grass, ready for the shade. Perhaps when it rains and all the cup plants are full, I’ll take my drink along with the many others.