Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

My first steampunk novel!

“…and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.” This is excerpt from the back of the book “Soulless” by Gail Carriger and while all the “he’s so hot” adjectives left me cold, the idea of Queen Victoria employing a werewolf made me sit up straighter. What? Wwhhhaaaatwhoooooohooooowww?  What?Who?How? are the first questions for falling into true book love and I rushed out to buy myself a copy. I’m never one to resist falling for a book. My library and husband can both attest to this.
So I went and found and was thrilled to find that “Soulless” is only available in mass market paperback. Mass markets are smaller, cheaper and so easy to carry around and to hold while reading. I took my copy home and began and was surprised to find…
A strong, self-assured and cranky heroine. She joked and verbally clawed at everyone and my, how refreshing it was. Now there’s other things about this book too, like steam punk professors with special eyeglasses that clink through various lenses and copies of writing made with metal and the fact that the supernaturals like vampires and werewolves have all come out and have helped England become the mighty Victorian superpower that it was and all this is good and exciting…but what really got me was Alexia Tarabotti, soulless female extraordinaire. She bops ill-wishers with a weighty parasol and fights with her skirts and infinite petticoats so she may fight others. You try kicking someone hard with one of those huge Victorian dresses on and all the myriad of layers it cocooned the wearer in! Yes, exactly. The dress must be conquered so that the enemy may be.
She has a caustic tongue, lives with her family but does her best to not be in it and is lonely for companionship on so many levels. With someone like that, there’s bound to be adventures and there is. I hate to give away the plot so I won’t but it’s chock full of zany characters and lots of fun suppositions come to life.
There is only one thing about this book that I regret and that while it’s a fun and zippy read (dirigibles anyone?), I was hoping for a little bit more substance. There’s evil but it’s rather absurd and everyone’s rather mean for the most part but I wanted something nuanced to chew on, be it morality or whatever. This is not that book, ah well. Still tho’, I’m ready to be on to the next!

Also…I find it odd this is my first steampunk novel…I dressed steampunk for years without even knowing it. And of course, I always feel pretty much at home while reading Victorian lit. hmmm.

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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.