Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

Drowning but luckily without Boots

And here I am! It’s been a little while but I feel it’s time to rez this little blog and get it clanking away again. Here is a little tidbit from Belinda for your satisfaction:

As part of the glories of summer, the lovely and talented Sarah Marian, the sparkling and coruscant Beth Dunn and my humble self decided to read a book together and Belinda got the pick. It’s been a lazy sort of read with plenty of dawdling but that’s part of the joys of this season. One particular part made me laugh hard over my lunch so I thought I’d share. Here are the principle players:

Clarence (aka Clary) Hervey

Here he is kneeling before lady Delacour, Belinda’s hostess.

sir Philip is off to the left, leaning against a pillar, too dashed to stand

Rochfort is facing sir Philip, nearly completely blocked by that brunette’s head

Mr. Percival is seated at the chess table, contemplating his next move

 

A quick summary about what happened before erroneously trying to swim from a book-

Clarence and Philip get wasted tasting wines at Philip’s house and then with nothing left to do, they take off for the park, placing bets on who’s the better pedestrian. This is judged by seeing who can walk fastest, staying on the pavement, to a large tree. Philip wins but only because he shoved people out of the way to stay on the pavement. Clarence believes he wins because he stepped off the pavement to let children pass, thereby showing his “real superiority”. Clarence’s friends laugh at him for losing and since he’s doused, Clarence announces the bright idea of swimming in the Serpentine (nasty) thereby beating Philip. Everyone knows Clarence can’t swim and here’s where the fun continues

“You may wink at one another, as wisely as you please,” said Clarence, “but come on my boys- I am your man for a swim- a hundred guineas upon it’-

Darest thou, Rochfort, now,

Leap in with me into this weedy flood.

And swim to yonder point. (note how clever Clarence Hervey is. He poetry slams on will!)

-and instantly Hervey, who had in his confused head some recollection of an essay of Dr. Franklin’s on swimming, by which he fancied that he could ensure at once his safety and his fame, threw off his coat and jumped in the river- luckily he was not in boots. Rochfort began coolly to undress himself under the trees, and all the other young men stood laughing by the river side…

(Let us skip  over the part where Sir Percival and Co. come up to meet Clarence due to the fact that he didn’t push aside children. But wait…where is Clarence?)

“Damn it, yes, where is Clary though?” exclaimed sir Philip, suddenly recollecting himself.  Clarence Hervey at this instant was drowning, he had got out of his depth, and had struggled in vain to recover himself.

“Curse me, if it’s not all over with Clary,” continued sir Philip.  “Do any of you see his head any where? Damn you, Rochfort, yonder it is.”

“Damme, so it is,” said Rochfort, “but he’s so heavy in his clothes, he’d pull me down along with him to Davy’s Locker- damme if I go after him.”

“Damn it, though, can’t some of ye swim? Can’t some of ye jump in?” cried sir Philip, turning to his companion. “Damn it, Clarence will go to the bottom.”

And so he inevitably would have done, had not Mr. Percival at this instant leaped into the river, and seized hold of the drowning Clarence. It was with great difficulty that he dragged him to shore. “

Clarence comes back to life, sans friends but with Sir Percival looking on. I approve of this Maria Edgeworth. Indeed I do.

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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.