Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

On the Pleasures of Being a Writer

island park bridge

I took a little stroll by the river yesterday morning before the heat set in. Just as I came to a T in the trail, cigarette smoke wafted past in the breeze and I overheard an argument in progress. Two men stood at the intersection. One leaned over a sky-blue backpack and jerked out a grocery bag from its depths. A lit cigarette dangled from his lips and he articulated around it, his words loud but indistinct.

His friend paced around him with an easy swinging step. “You ain’t ever told me that. I never heard that. Don’t tell me that.”

Arguments happen on the trails, of course. Angry children yell at their parents in passing and disgruntled spouses huff out peevish retorts while flying by on bicycles. This argument was a little different, however. Two men were having it out over a backpack while all about them, people feverishly ran, biked and rollerbladed past. There were no pretenses to exercise in this argument. They were just two men on their way somewhere and paused to duke it out.

I had a decision to make at that point. I could turn left and dodge hissing geese guarding adorable goslings or I could swing right towards the park and march right through the disagreement. I didn’t want to walk past a public argument but I lectured myself that I was a writer and whatever was going on could make good material.

I took the right turn and swung past. The pacing friend paused in mid-argument flow.  He inquired, “How you doing?” to me. I replied, smiled in turn and their argument resumed as if I had never been there.

And that interaction was one of the huge pleasures of being a writer. By forcing myself out of my comfort zone and gliding past an argument, I saw a glimpse to another world. Two friends were comfortable enough to argue with each other at an intersection and they weren’t getting too heated up over it either. I’ll never know what that argument was about but I caught the roll of their words, the flinging of their heads and the easy way in which they disagreed.

As I walked away, I became so caught up in remembering their poses and looks that I forgot my own problems and worries. That tiny interaction pulled me right out of myself. It’s good to be outside and be an observer. And a writer.

 

Comments (2):

  1. Beth

    May 22, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    This was beautiful and brightened my day! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Catherine

    May 22, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    That’s my hope- it’ll bring a little joy to others. Thanks for sharing that, Beth. So glad you enjoyed.

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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.