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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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.