Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

picasso

I had the great good fortune to be in Chicago on Wednesday. I was there to attend an art lecture over at the Art Institute but beforehand, I zigzagged through intersections and people, picking up a picture of this dazzling beauty before heading over.

As a child, I regarded this Picasso sculpture with a mixture of revulsion and fear. I could get behind the glorious animatronic Christmas scenes in the Marshall Field’s windows and I could gaze at mummies over at the Field Museum, enraptured and silent, brooding over the ancient mysteries of the afterlife but this sculpture got to me. It bugged me.

Now as an adult, striding the streets of Chicago all alone, I looked up at the sculpture and smiled. No fear this time, no nightmare feelings and confusion. No, all I felt was love. This weird dim creature, part bug, part sea creature could easily be Chicago. She is a metal woman, her ribs showing and her wings folded behind, regarding us with an impassive face, silently watching the city bursting around her base. Surely there are uncanny secrets hidden behind such a visage, hidden secretly in the ribcage which we cannot see.

She dwells in a square where many people come and meet, hang out and visit. She dwells with music singing at her knees and with the produce of the Midwest too, as yet another farmer market spreads out on the asphalt below. I’m not sure how I cracked the case of fear but I see her differently now. More as a guardian, a strange sign of knowing than as a dream gone completely wrong.

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Life Lessons from a Cardinal

Outdoor living is coming in fits and starts now that it’s June. Last week it was in the 90’s (30C) and today it is gentle and cool with thunderstorms passing by north and south, bringing coolness in the wake of their stormy skirts. The sun shines but the thunder rumbles nearby and my cats retreat farther indoors to snooze on chairs instead of near windows.

It is tempting to join them. The heat break means that deep good sleep is possible again. Even with air conditioning, I sleep poorly when it’s hot. I sleep best when it rains.

And it has been raining at night but in great torrid thunderstorms where the house shakes and the windows rattle. Sometimes I lie in bed as the thunderstorms march by and wonder at the fate of all the creatures and people living outside.

It is summer and I have no arguments with it. It’s too hard to argue with the seasons. On the beautiful days, I sip my breakfast tea outdoors and watch the birds and squirrels to start my day. There’s always a drama playing out in the backyard. My favorite is the cardinal who walks along the deck rail, casting his bright black eye here and there and then breaks into song until a robin kicks him out. When the coast is clear, he returns and does the same thing all over again. Despite my nearness, he doesn’t mind me at all and I adore his bright red plumage and courageous laughing heart. His song cheers my soul and I’ve come to recognize his particular song. It falls under the same lines as all cardinals but it has a bit of improvised trill at the end. I think he’s been hanging out with song sparrows and got Ideas.

He’s a hard individual to photograph (all flash and movement) but I’ve shared a photo of a cardinal from National Geographic so you can get the idea. He’s hard to ignore and is a permanent on the robins’ blacklist. I aspire to such a level of happy insouciance.

How to Get Through a Big Book

How to get through a Big Book and have a little fun too.

  1. Make and eat food mentioned in the book (big books always include food, usually in meticulous detail).
  2. Read a little bit each day.
  3. Make a soundtrack.
  4. Dress like a character from the book for a day. Or a week. Or a month if it really grabs you.
  5. Ten minutes to kill? Daydream about the landscape or what the characters are seeing as they move through their day.
  6. Read passages you enjoy out loud. If you’re in the right mood, record yourself reading passages and share it (Instagram is great for this). Include illustrations if you like (thank you, Shirin).
  7. Whip out a highlighter or some sticky tabs for those great parts.
  8. Pace yourself and remember, reading gigantic books isn’t a race. It’s about the journey. Might as well bring along snacks, good drinks, great lighting, and enjoy the ride.