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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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.