Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

It’s taken a little while to get here but a book I read propelled me forward. It’s not a book I’m going to go into because it deserves little mention. It’s “Castle” by J. Robert Lennon and after I got over my revulsion of the thing, I decided it was time to write about good books. Good books meaning those that aren’t trash. So let’s start, shall we?

“Coming Home” by Rosamund Pilcher is a massive paperback but a wonderful summer read. The book is set mostly in Cornwall and Pilcher evokes the place pretty good- enough that I must go see it someday! There are quite a few characters that sail in and out but the book centers on Judith Dunbar whom we meet at age 14. Her mother is about to leave to go back to India and she is about to head off to boarding school, all by her lonesome. She befriends a glamorous wildchild, Loveday Carey-Lewis at school and the adventures take off. The friendship twines in and out of their lives and we watch the pair grow and see the choices they make and how they turn out. The book is set near the eve of WWII and Pilcher does a decent job of that though I wish at times there had been closer details, just things like how it was to cook on so much less, etc. Sad things happen, good things happen and it’s definitely a fabulous beach read.

The Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries–  Sookie Stackhouse inhabits a strange world no doubt about it. The author agrees with how strange it is as well. I’m on the 5th book and while the number of characters are growing a bit out of control, Harris is steering things along all right and keeping the pace going. It’s never dull in Bon Temps, Lousiana and thank God for that. This is a series read happily with a cold drink in hand. If you dig the whole “what if vampires and fairies really were real?” this may be the series for you…I love it for the Southern setting as well. While this isn’t Flannery O’Connor here, I feel she primed me for this series.

“The Shuttle” by Francis Hodgson Burnett is one of those rip roaring pre-war rides that’s great fun. Okay, so the villian is villianous in the narcissistic way that hits close to some people I’ve known but it felt quite cathartic to see his ending.  “The Shuttle” also possesses a heroine that’s beautiful and good and yet…somehow, I can’t hate. This rarely happens (witness Dickens) and yet Burnett pulls it off. I’m eagerly looking forward to “The Making of the Marchioness” by her that’s coming over from Persephone Books.

Which puts me in mind of Persephone Books. I found them through Danielle over at A Work in Progress– which is a great blog to read about reading, btw! Persephone Books resides London and they print wonderful 20th century books which are out-of-print and undeservedly so.  Wandering through their website is a real treat and their books are fine quality and something I’m entirely addicted to. I really can’t say enough good things about them…they’re a pleasure to do business with.

So that for now but more books for later as I come across them…

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Tides of Snow and Ice

This winter has been a continuous series of freezes and thaws: it’s the warmest winter on record, the tenth one in a row. A more usual winter starts with a deep freeze and then stays cold for months. Instead, snow falls, piles up and vanishes; rises up again and retreats, now falling as rain, swelling rivers and creeks. Rain and snow mingle together until everything runs with water; hillsides and flat-sides are coated in a deep, dark mud.

I stopped on my walk today, halted by a sudden flash of gold. The sunset rays were falling into a tiny puddle spanning the space between the root and trunk of a maple. The puddle reflected gold and silver on top and below was dark mud, black and brown, full of microorganisms and other tiny creatures unseen by the human eye. I briefly considered putting my hand to the shining surface. It beckoned, winking like a diamond, but pull of my walk was irresistible and I continued forward. 

Mud is for March and April, mud so thick and heavy that it can pull shoes off and make them disappear like a magic trick beneath the solemn and still brown. Mud in February is a strange slight, an awakening that shouldn’t be occurring yet. It’s all the more cruel because even though the temperatures rise, they inevitably dip into the single digits and everything freezes solid. Many times I’ve spotted squirrels and tiny birds on the creek’s ice, searching for openings to drink from.

During this particular thaw, the creek casts off ice, it’s center opening like a dark cut. The water sings as it cascades over the rocks, proclaiming it’s momentarily relief from the grip of winter. In Scandinavian folklore, there is a belief that given the proper offerings, a creek could teach a human how to play the most bewitching music. I crouch down near the creek, record a video of it singing on my phone and replay its music in the evening while lying on the couch. I should give something in return for the pleasure of its song and I consider. Perhaps some lavender buds I have stored away for a certain recipe, or a small pinecone I keep on a shelf to admire, or birch bark I retrieved from a favorite tree cut down years ago. 

The next day I return, and after waiting for a few dogs and their owners to pass by, I crouch next the side of the creek and sprinkle lavender buds into the small, clear stream. The buds vanish as soon as I drop them into the water– as if they never existed. I drop some more in and the same occurs; they’re gone before I can blink. The current flows by, washing over stones, fleeting by banks of mud, until it vanishes around the bend where the pine trees tower overhead.

As I gaze at the water, first downstream and then upstream, my own self quiets, stills, and momentarily dissolves into the landscape. The relief, though short, is palpable. Alone becomes together and perhaps that is what’s this practice of thanking the creek has been about all along.

Winter in the Time of Climate Change

There is a stream near my home and I walk along it nearly every day; I know its moods and seasons nearly as well as I know my own. We are family and our connections are pure: we’re both made of water.

Every day brings more distressing news about the environment. Big changes need to happen but whatever change that does happen is so slow. Global warming is now being felt by everyone, some more than others. I go out and walk along the stream when the news and all the unfortunate future unknowns press in too hard. Right now, it is running fast. This winter has been a series of freezes and thaws. November hit hard with a heavy, deep freeze and I expected this to lead to a  white Christmas but instead, it’s been a muddy, wet winter, full of more temperate days than frosty ones. The thermometer rides up and down, every day propelled by a bouncing ball rather than a steady progression of tiny fluctuations.

The stream locks and then unlocks. It accepts each freeze and thaw with inestimable grace. After reading the news, it is hard to know what is near or far, here and up in the sky, in the mind or in the present moment. But the stream is always present, it knows no other moment. It lives in eternity; as David Hockney said, “It’s always now. It’s now that’s eternal.”

The creek is still here, I think to myself whenever I see it, it is still living. It runs forward through this strange January, sometimes under the ice and sometimes not. Patches of green moss dot the banks nearby, beyond that the nearby plants are broken, brown, and dried. They are asleep, listening to things I cannot hear, dreaming of things I barely know of.