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 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.