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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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.