Appreciating Small(s)

Victorian Tussie-Mussie, or Bouquet Holder

Some of the best words in the world are fading away.

Unless you’re lapidicolous (given to living under a rock), you know language is labile (unstable and given to change). Shakespeare’s forsooth and great-Grandma’s tussie-mussie have disappeared from common speech, along with a gallimaufry (jumble or confused medley) of other archaic, unrecognizable or overwrought words: the linguistic detritus of an older world that didn’t feel itself constrained to messages of 140 characters.

What hasn’t changed is the human need for euphemism.  From the fifteenth century phrase with child to our modern senior citizen, words and phrases like passed away, concrete overshoes, and broad across the beam always have served as a kind of verbal code for cautious or bashful conversationalists.

When it comes to euphemism, my fondness for smalls has endured since childhood.  Each time my mother asked me to hang laundry on the outdoor line, she would admonish, “Be sure to hang the smalls on the inside.”  

Smalls, of course, were underwear: the panties, bras and briefs not fit for public display.  Hanging them on inside lines, between the sheets and the towels, kept them from public view. It was a common practice, meant to save self-conscious, clothes-hanging children from embarassment, and to prevent nosy neighbors or curious passers-by from drawing conclusions about the owners of the garments after scrutinizing the lace, ribbon, patterns or color of the unmentionables. 

Less embarassing was another, quite different collection of smalls. Smalls also referred to the eclectic assortment of sewing remnants, baubles, and bits found in boxes or tins at the back of any woman’s closet.  They were pretty things, frivolous and sparkly. They could keep any child engrossed for hours: sorting, selecting, re-arranging and admiring their glowing, intricate beauty. Snippets of lace, broken strings of beads, buttons and ribbon, tatted flowers: all were as compelling as they were tiny. 

Sometimes, women re-purposed lace to decorate lingerie. Just as often, it trimmed bed linens or Baptismal gowns. Tatted flowers were stitched onto doll clothes, or glued onto stationary. Pearls, faceted glass beads, and bits of jet were restrung into necklaces for dolls, or little girls.  Buttons served as coins in a million play-transactions, while imagination transformed rhinestones into diamonds. Harsh as moonlight on snow and brilliant as the stars, the little gems embedded themselves into a thousand childhood dreams.

Accustomed as we are to a bigger-is-better mentality, we tend to discount not only the smalls of that simpler world, but small in every form. We equate small with insignificant: judging small items to be less valuable, small plans unworthy of consideration, and small events of little consequence.

Such easy dismissal trivializes the power of the small and the singular. Small treasures, distillations of beauty and elegance that fit into the palm of a hand as easily as sunlight fills up a meadow, are approachable, rather than overwhelming. They speak with their own voice, and teach their own lessons.  They reveal their truths with a certain intimacy, and they endure over time, at least in part because of their hiddenness.

My early fascination with all things small only increased with the gift of a small sterling box, tucked into the toe of a Christmas stocking.

The year I received a new bicycle as my “big” present, I was more than satisfied. In my excitement, I turned away from my stocking, until my parents urged me to have another look. When I looked, I discovered the box, buried beneath a cellophaned string of candy canes, a chocolate Santa, and some colored pencils. Perhaps two inches across, filigreed and shining like a star, it was padded and lined with burgundy silk.  Hinged, but without a clasp, it wasn’t suited to hold much of anything. It simply was.   

Not my treasure, but very much like my treasure

Some years ago, I realized the box had disappeared, washed away by the great tide of life. Still, I cherish its memory as the first of an assortment of smalls that have fallen into my life.  

A rhinestone bracelet from my grandfather, gold weights from Ghana, a bronze medicine pot, an intricately carved soapstone candle holder, a wooden fife, a pocket watch, a tangle of silver bracelets bartered for across the sweep of western Africa: none of these treasures would fetch an extraordinary price in the marketplace, yet each is priceless. Exquisitely crafted, inherently beautiful, overlaid with the patina of memory and polished by decades of loving touch, they are my life: ready to be fitted into suitcase or bag.

Today, even as my mother and grandmother hoarded their small collections of treasure, I cherish my own small discoveries: talismans and touchstones that serve to enliven memories of where I have lived, and from whence I have come. 

They also remind me of those who accept the challenge of creating on a smaller scale: painters and writers, musicians, sculptors, and photographers who by accident or design find themselves scaling things down in order to maximize impact.

A delightful example of “small is beautiful” can be found at the Little Gems exhibit currently showing at the West End Gallery in Corning, New York. Highlighting the work of artists who may or may not work regularly on a smaller scale, it includes several works by GC Myers, whose thoughtful and thought-provoking Redtree Times is one of my regular reads.

His extraordinary style translates beautifully to smaller-sized works, proving that strong lines and bold color don’t require a large canvas for their effect. This year’s pieces seem to continue a movement toward more jewel-like tones, making the paintings even more appropriate for an exhibit of “Little Gems.”

Wisdom of the Wind ~ GC Myers 4″ x 6″
Trailblazer ~ GC Myers 4″ x 6″

Of all the paintings entered into the show, I find myself most drawn to The Outlier’s Home. Apart from my fondness for his use of amethyst and turquoise, and the subsequent transformation of the iconic Red Tree, I find myself delighted by a perceived echo of Mark Rothko’s work. I first encountered Rothko’s bold, brash canvases as part of the Menil collection in Houston, and I love imagining the sight of The Outlier’s Home hung next to something like Rothko’s Green Over Blue (1956).

The Outlier’s Home ~ GC Myers 4″ x 6″

As Gary has proven over the course of several exhibits, small doesn’t have to lead to art that is prissy or precious. I suspect that, seen in person, these small canvases would do even more effectively what they do well enough here: focus the eye, the attention and the heart in arresting and memorable ways.

Ribbons and lace, a scattering of beads. Sterling boxes gifted by love and silver bracelets discovered by chance.  Washes of paint and smudges of charcoal arranged by an artist’s hand. Each of these tiny treasures reminds in its own way that, while bigger always is bigger, it isn’t necessarily better. In life as in art, even the small has its place. 

Storms Are On the Ocean ~ GC Myers  4″ x 6″ 

In the ages-long struggle against adversity, the smallest gesture counts.  In the midst of the world’s anonymous masses, the most insignificant and unnoticed person is worthy of infinite respect.  The most hidden event may alter the course of history forever, and the larger forces pulsing through society and occasionally raging through the natural world are not the only harbingers abroad in the land.

In the midst of the blizzard, each single snowflake counts. In the midst of the flood, a single rock stands firm. In a forest of doubt the straight tree of truth still rises up, and in the midst of every flock flies the small and solitary singer, lilting its heart to the sky.

To see Gary’s Little Gems paintings full-sized and read his comments about them, please click here.  Comments are welcome, always.

125 thoughts on “Appreciating Small(s)

  1. Your words and I quote from the post ” In the ages-long struggle against adversity, the smallest gesture counts.” I really like those words. So true. One never knows what a simple smile or kind word might do for some one who is depressed or down trodden.

    That adage of pay it forward, I think could be listed as a small. It is not the size of the gesture but the sincerity and meaning imparted that makes a difference.

    This is yet another post that is so beautifully written. I loved reading every word. Some of it correlates with my own life and brought back memories of how the laundry was put on the clothes line. And of how I used to go through my mother’s sewing box and sewing machine drawers looking at pretty buttons.

    Oh, and the photos are just wonderful.


    1. Weren’t those button boxes and drawers wonderful? The containers often were as good as the buttons — especially the cigar boxes. Mason jars were nice, too. I remember that some women sized their buttons and put them in different jars: small, medium, or large. Or, they’d sort by kind: shirt, coat, fancy dress.

      I agree about the connection with paying it forward, Yvonne. It doesn’t take much. Holding the door for someone at the post office. Offering up a dollar when someone finds themselves a little short at the grocery store. A spontaneous compliment to someone. It all counts.

      And I’ve noticed that one gesture sometimes begets another, especially in traffic. More than a few times, I’ve noticed that if I stop to let someone into line during rush hour, they’ll allow the same for someone else farther down the road. It’s a wonderful sight to see.

      I’m glad this brought back some good memories for you. How I wish I could hang clothes on the line again! There’s nothing better than bringing sunshine and fresh air inside. No matter how they try, the purveyors of “Fresh linen” scented laundry products just can’t get it right.

  2. I had to laugh at your Grandma’s hanging the smalls on the inside lines. Guilty as charged. I didn’t like the idea of folks who happened to be going up and down the alley being able to see my “smalls” which, alas, aren’t very. In this day and age when everybody has a clothes dryer, and hardly anybody has a clothes line, who knows, or cares, about how clothes are hung out to dry? I used to have to hang short things on the right-hand half of the farthest clothes line from the house to keep them from getting blown into and tangled up in the canes of the climbing roses.

    I’m no stranger to the word “labile.” It’s a word doctors tack onto “hypertension,” or “affect” (the noun, with the stress on the “a.”).

    Of course, good things come in small packages. My mother still treasures a tiny tin turtle about 2 inches long, which is the only thing she has that her father gave her (he died when she was 3). She’s treasured it for 87 years.

    The last line of your piece evoked the refrain of a song introduced to me by another blog friend, who used it as a kind of motto on a hooked rug she made for her youngest daughter:

    Littlest Birds ~ The Be Good Tanyas

    The songbirds are the hidden treasures of the trees.

    1. WOL, I still remember great rejoicing in our household when one of those four-sided, rotating lines came to live with us. The selling point was that the line could be rotated, saving the clothes-hanger some work, but we all knew the real advatage was that you could put sheets and towels on the outside lines,and everything else in the middle.

      You’re right about the difficulties involved with proper clothesline placement. There’s a reason our mothers yelled at us for running through the drying clothes. We did it all the time, but we “had” to, to get where we were going.

      I love the thought of your mother’s turtle. That truly defines “irreplaceable.” My own mother had her dad’s pocket watch. Tied to the stem were two tiny Scotty dogs, one red and one white, that she had given him when she was a child. For her to know he had kept that little gift was a treasure, too.

      I’ve never heard of the group you linked, but the song (and the video) are wonderful. I took a look at their site, and thought the description of “sweet and spooky” was pretty much on target. Thanks for the introduction.

  3. I guess I live a small!I have tiny treasures that I have carried with me throughout the years. In fact just two days ago I finally dropped off some pearls at a jewelry store to be restrung. My mother had given the necklace to me many years ago.. I too enjoyed reading this..

    1. I think I remember you talking on your blog about restringing those pearls, Mother Hen. I’m glad you’re getting it done. I should do the same with my mother’s wedding pearls. Even though they look fine, the old cord could easily break, and it wasn’t hand-knotted in the beginning.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the piece, though I’m not surprised, given your love of all things vintage!

      1. You really should get those pearls restrung. According to a company that sells cultured pearls, “Pearls are a living gemstone. . . Leaving pearl jewelry in a security box for long periods may cause pearls to dehydrate, so enjoy them frequently. There is a saying that “pearls want to be worn,” and it is true!”

        1. I didn’t know that. I don’t think mine would have dehydrated, since they’ve been in a drawer here at home, but still, it would be a good thing to do. I took another look this afternoon, and discovered I still have the “pearls” that came with my Revlon doll. She was pretty classy.

  4. “Small treasures, distillations of beauty and elegance that fit into the palm of a hand as easily as sunlight fills up a meadow…”
    What an extraordinary line.

    My oh my. A lovely piece all together.

    Having lived much of my life moving from place to place, my life filled with small things – things I could easily pack and move. Small paintings, small sculptures, a tiny tiny elephant with a monkey playing a trumpet on its head, set in a small glass vial on a small cork, from Mexico of course. Mexican craftspeople love making tiny elegant pieces.

    And when my mother-in-law died, I inherited her amazing jewelry armoire, the trays filled with tiny pieces and some big ones. Now what I need are some children, grandchildren, to come play with it.

    Our old house has built-in shelves and a bottom cupboard in corners of rooms. They hold treasures that carry stories and I remember the stories each time I finally get around to moving and dusting them all.

    Thank you. J.

    1. Janet, when my own mother died, I was amazed to find how many memories were contained within her jewelry box. Even the tiny brooch with several “emeralds” that I used to pin on my special doll still was around.

      Moving does enforce a certain discipline, doesn’t it? Big and heavy aren’t so desirable when you’re packing up for the umpteeth time in however-many years. Traveling light doesn’t have to mean traveling without memories or elegance, of course, but it does require knowing ourselves well enough to claim and keep what’s important, and let go of the rest.

      I love the thought of you “reading” your treasures when you dust. I have some friends who counsel absolute detachment, and a life shorn of “things.” It makes no sense to me. Our treasures embody moments of our lives, and being able to contemplate them from time to time is important.

      It makes me happy that you noted that line about the sunlight filling up the meadow. I don’t remember now what was there before, but I wasn’t happy with it, no matter what I did. When the sunlit meadow arrived, I plunked it right in — the last revision of the piece.

    1. Do you know what crossed my mind first, as one of your most important “smalls”? The new knee that’s allowing you to get back into that very big world that you love. That camera of yours has real value, too — not only to you, but to all of us who delight in the photos you produce and share with us.

      The bottom line is that value can’t be determined by size, or price. I was at a bakery/café this morning that was selling very large, beautifully decorated Mardi Gras sugar cookies for an obscene price. Were they more valuable than the plain little cookies my neighbor baked for all of us last week? I don’t think so.

      1. I have two that are most valuable: a pocket knife given to me by my Dad in the 50’s – it is in my pocket every day and a lensatic compass that my brother carried on his belt during the battle of Iwo Jima – it is always in my pack when I hike.

        1. Oh, my gosh. Those are treasures, indeed. I still work with some of my dad’s hand tools, and smile to think how surprised he’d be that I’m still caring for them, and using them.

  5. We had a long table to feed my folks and the 9 of us kids. Along one side, Dad built a bench with a hinged padded lid for us small kids to sit on. Inside the bench were most of our toys. It was an eight foot long toy box. A favorite thing was to dig and dig to the bottom. Little treasures always sifted through the bigger toys and made it to the bottom. They were the small pieces that were fun to find.

    I like the works by GC Myers. A friend of ours makes tiny quilts that are about 5×7 or less.

    1. I went to school with a girl who came from a family of nine children. When I’d visit her house, it always felt like chaos to me. It wasn’t, of course. There was just far more activity than this only child was accustomed to.

      I never had a toy box. Instead, I had a long, open cabinet with three shelves to accomodate my things. I remember it being about twenty feet long, but of course it wasn’t. Eight is probably more like it. In any case, I think digging for toys, and the subsequent surprises, would have been great fun. My mother used to ask to have one of her big containers of needlework supplies brought to her from the closet shelf. She’d do her own digging, and when I’d ask, “What are you looking for?” she’d say, “I’m just looking.” I suspect the principle was the same — that was her toy box.

      I’m glad you like Gary’s work. One day I hope to get to one of his shows. Seeing the work on the web is fine, but after I got one of his pieces, I realized how much more interesting it was in real life.

      Are the quilts for display, or for some other purpose? I’ve seen some small ones that are little gems, themselves.

    1. The thing about little treasures is, they’re easier to carry, but sometimes they’re harder to see. Lady bugs, for example. I love lady bugs, but I see so few of them, I sometimes think I’m blind. Maybe that’s why the world gives us little treasures — to teach us to see.

      It’s great to see you! I hope all’s going well. Soon we’ll have spring, with its baby birds, little alligators and new growth to appreciate.

      1. I think it’s a truly important and key lesson for us humans — to love and cherish these “little things,” which in perspective aren’t so little!

        Thanks so much! I can’t wait… I do miss them. :)

    1. You really sent me on a search, Gallivanta. I remembered the name Lois Lenski, though I didn’t remember anything about the Smalls. I finally took a look at the covers of her books on Amazon, and immediately recognized “The Little Train,” “The Little Airplane,” and “The Little Fire Engine.” Perhaps the same father who later taught me to change oil and gap sparkplugs was buying my books for a time.

      Now, I need to find the series about a girl with braids, a brother and a bad disposition. I haven’t a clue about the family’s name or the author, but I can see the cover vividly. When I did a search for “girl with braids and bad disposition,” I got “Anne of Green Gables” and Charlotte Bronte. Maybe I need to give those books another read.

      1. The girl with braids ( and bad disposition) is not ringing any bells for me, at the moment, but this flip over book was a favourite . I still have it. By the way I forgot to mention that, for my fifth birthday, my parents gave me a small trinket box encrusted with shells. Inside was a little locket with a blue swallow on it. Both items are now safely stowed in a drawer, or they were last time I looked. The most exciting part of the gift was that my parents arranged for a birthday greeting for me on the children’s radio programme and, after the Happy Birthday, the announcer told me to look under my pillow for a surprise. I was beyond excited by it all.

        1. That’s one of the most wonderful birthday stories I’ve heard. And how creative, on the part of the station. Hearing a personal birthday greeting on the radio always has been fairly common, but to have the station and parents collaborate on a surprise? Perfect. I probably would have been telling the story until my sixth birthday.

          The Goody/Naughty book tickled me. It reminded me of our television program called Romper Room. Oh, my. It was a long time ago. But I’ll never forget The Do-Bee Song. I had the record. I got it the year I got my first record player — there’s even a photo somewhere of my dad showing me how to make the thing work. Wonderful memories.

          1. Oh now you have sparked all my record player memories, starting with learning how to use my mother’s old HMV record player (phonograph?) for 78s. The best thing about all these memories is that my parents always embraced new technology when they could afford it. Never once did I hear from them the sort of dire warnings that come with today’s new things. There was no “if you have a record player your mind will be corrupted by pop music” or ‘listening to short wave radio too much will ruin your health.” As you know, the same applied to books. I was permitted to read more or less what I wanted, with one exception; they disapproved vehemently of Mills and Boons type romances. I read them anyway. :D

            1. Hard to believe, but when I dragged out the still-un-decluttered box of photos, this was right on top. Hard to believe this was high technology. Other photos from this year show we still had a black tabletop telephone with no dial. It still was, “Number, please.”

            2. Oh that is a darling, darling photo. I love your togetherness, and your earnest reading of the instructions. The telephone was a late addition to my childhood home. Partly because of cost, but also because of lack of lines and the actual telephone equipment. One couldn’t just go out and buy a telephone set as one can today. Everything came via the Government telephone/communications department.

  6. I’m a lover of small things, too. I have a little wooden box, like a pill box, that slides open, and on the top is a laser-carved smiling sun. I bought it as a gift for a friend a long time ago, and then couldn’t bear to part with it. I also love little corked green glass bottles of all shapes. Even the word small is comforting.

    I don’t remember my mother calling undies smalls, but she did make me hang them on the inside lines. She was a very conservative lady who didn’t mention certain things, especially private parts. She didn’t even go so far as to call them private parts. She always called them “secrets”, and always sotto voce. And pregnant women were “in the family way.” I miss my mother and her ways.

    Your post was lovely and soothing this morning.

    1. I love green glass, too, Susan. Up at the cabin, even old Heineken bottles would do for window decoration. There’s just something about light and colored glass that’s beautiful, whether it’s stained glass in a cathedral or the simplest piece on a window sill.

      I smiled at your description of your mother. “In a family way” was common in our neighborhood, too. Having “a bun in the oven” also was acceptable, and very confusing to kids who heard the expression, then wandered around looking for some sort of baked treat. There was a time when I thought all those circumlocutions were unbearably old-fashioned, but at this point? I could stand a little less explicit language and general coarseness.

      I had to smile at your little box. My mother gave me a gift once, and then, a year later, asked if she could have it back. She said she really had wanted it for herself, but didn’t have time to get me something else. We compromised — she got it back for a year, and then I got it back for a year. Rinse and repeat, until she was gone.

      Soothing in the morning is good. I’m glad the post was that for you.

      1. Don’t you love those bottle trees that some people have in their yards? There’s a gentleman in our area who has such an interesting display of items on his property and he has several. It works in his little “museum”. I should do a post on it someday, maybe interview him. I’ve always wanted to know his story.

        1. Bottle trees are great, and I suspect your local bottle tree collector (builder? constructor? artist?) would make a great story. No doubt there would be some good photos, too.

  7. so beautiful dear Linda :) I love these kind of things… you really expressed so nicely, but as always in your writing there is great touches. Thank you, have a nice day, love, nia

    1. Nia, I’ll bet you have boxes and drawers filled with lovely “smalls.” When I think of your knitting, sewing, fancy-work, I’m sure of it. There’s always a use for beautiful bits and pieces — we only have to be patient until we find it.

      I’m glad you liked it!


  8. This is such a wonderful reflection of all things small. It is no surprise to me that you cherish them. I’m glad that we have evolved to include on our calendar and busy lives a date that encourages the practice of Random Acts of Kindness, this week, Friday, Feb. 13, and the week starts tomorrow Feb. 9 – 15.

    Small things are surprising I think. Vermeer’s Girl With a Red Hat by Vermeer hangs in the Washington Gallery of Art and the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. The former is only 9×7 inches and the latter a bit bigger but still small for its grand fame. .After viewing large pieces of art it’s surprising to encounter such small treasures. You remind me how fascinated I was by their size.

    I enjoyed this very much taking in every word. Thank you.

    1. Georgette, I had no idea this was Random Acts of Kindness week, but the post does fit rather well with that theme. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could evolve just a little further, and do on a regular basis what we now have to remind ourselves to do? Of course, a single step, and all that.

      I’ve not seen either the Vermeer or the da Vinci, but I was surprised by the size of “Girl With The Red Hat.” Its sense of presence is so strong, I would have guessed it to be much larger than it is. I very much like Vermeer, so it’s been good to have an occasion to learn more about this painting.

      I suppose we shouldn’t forget the miniaturists, either. I thought this one, American, was extraordinary.

      And as long as we’re thinking about red hats, of course we shouldn’t forget this very small hat-wearer.

  9. I also loved every word of your lovely piece of writing. Clothes lines, some of them, at least, look the same over the pond: smalls on the inside lines.

    Tin boxes of all kinds containing years of precious tiny objects were plenty in our family : my grandfather would have kept real tiny books, small pieces of parchment, metal escutcheons of various societies. My grandmother had an impressive series of boxes for her small bobbins of threads, no rainbow would have had so many shades.

    In his Turmac white and gold metallic boxes, my father kept the pins of every possible make of car. And my mother? she would keep in small and fine Italian china boxes my first teeth and my sister’s, as well as tiny stamp-like pictures of the two of us, special buttons and embroidered handkerchiefs we would make for her at school. Oh, the memories you brought back, dear Linda. Thanks a lot.

    1. I can see it all, Isabelle.

      I remember very small, leather-bound books, and my grandmother also kept her embroidery floss in a lovely metal tin. I have my mother’s thread box, too. The empty spools made especially good doll-house furniture. There still are a few of the old wooden spools in the box. I should get one, and see if Dixie Rose might like to play with it.

      Mothers share the same impulses around the world, don’t they?. My baby teeth were kept, too. And your mention of stamp-like photos reminded me of my father and his stamp collection. Perhaps those were his small bits of beauty.

      I didn’t know about Turmac boxes, but now I do: the Turkish-Macedonian tobacco company. The white and gold boxes are elegant, but I was astonished by the variety of other designs: ornate, and mysterious.

      As so often is true, the details may differ, but the impulse is the same. Thank you for sharng your world of “smalls memories” with me. They truly are delightful.

  10. Linda, once again you have taken a number of separate threads and woven a tapestry of thoughts that come together in a unique and intriguing story.

    I really need to thank you for introducing me to Gary’s art. It was through your introduction that I now enjoy his “Way Of The Masters” every day above the mantle. I have yet to figure out what it is about his paintings that capture my eye so… But I can get lost in them for minutes at a time. It has almost become my meditative practice. So, again, thank you.

    I hope you are enjoying our unseasonably nice weather this beautiful weekend…

    1. Gary, that’s wonderful — that you have one of “the other Gary’s” paintings. I went back and looked at it, and it’s one I also like. It tickles me to know I introduced you to someone whose creativity feeds your spirit. That’s really, really nice.

      Speaking of nice, the windows are open. I went down to Galveston for brunch with a friend this morning (Joan, whom you met at Nash Prairie), then did some pruning and repotting this afternoon. With luck the weather will hold through next weekend, since I’m planning a trip to Louisiana for Mardi Gras. No NOLA for me — I’m going up to Church Point and Mamou for the Courir. I’ve been lucky enough to manage an invite to a home prior to the parade and all that. I guess I’d better spend some time this week learning to use my camera!

  11. I fondly remember my grandmother’s glass jars filled with mixtures, as well as my cigar boxes from early years. I wonder … will we find “smalls” of my mom’s this summer when we clear her house!?!?

    1. Becca, if your experience is anything like mine, there will be surprises galore at your mom’s house: things you’ve forgotten, things you assumed were long gone, things you look at and say, “What is this, and where did it come from?”

      One thing is certain. No matter how small or large the objects you find, the memories will outweigh them by a ton.

  12. “They also remind me of those who accept the challenge of creating on a smaller scale: painters and writers, musicians, sculptors, and photographers who by accident or design find themselves scaling things down in order to maximize impact.”

    Reading your words, I found myself. A novice photographer scavanging throughout our house desperately searching for the small with my camera obscura to make them big.

    Close-up and macro photography is one way of discovering the small for others to see.

    I enjoyed your post. Any by the way, I’m a small person—physically speaking.



    1. It certainly is true that macro photography offers us an unusual and compelling way to see the world, Omar. Good nature photographers can provide amazing glimpses of otherwise invisible realities (spiders!),but of course there are inanimate objects that deserve attention, too.

      Your mention of physical stature reminds me of something else that’s important. Our smallest people — children — are treasures themselves, and deserve the same, or greater, care we’d give to any other treasure.

      Just don’t get too desperate in your searching. There’s plenty of time for us, and a more relaxed pace sometimes makes the journey go more easily.


  13. I loved this post, Linda. The meditation on words becoming extinct (and I saw you use the word “detritus” which reminded me of one of your earlier posts) and the musings about “small is beautiful.”

    I had an uncle who always exclaimed “By golly!” Don’t hear the word “golly” much anymore.

    1. Rosemary, the first thing that popped into my mind when you mentioned your uncle was the Frank Sinatra Christmas song that begins,”Oh, by gosh, by golly, It’s time for mistletoe and holly…”
      I was surprised how recent the word is – 1775. I suppose we don’t hear it much any more because we’ve become (ahem) a less euphemistic society.

      You’re right about detritus. And I managed, through the Indianola posts, to get peninsula right. Now, if only I could manage to spell “connoisseur” without having to resort to the dictionary. Ah, well.

      Thanks for the kind words! I’m glad you liked the post.

  14. Beautiful thoughts and writing! So true. I prefer small precious things in a world that seems to have become confused about what to value. I am glad to know I am not alone. Thank you.

    1. No, you’re not alone, Caroline. To speak of “the good, the beautiful, and the true” might sound unbearably old-fashioned to some, but I’d hate to live a life where they had become impossibilties.

      Thank you so much for visiting, and for your comment. You’re always welcome here.


  15. What a great message in this post Linda. All the small precious mementos of our lives accumulated, give us our familial history. Your choice of words as usual is astounding, and the opportunity to know you through them is so pleasing.

    I regret the passing of some of the funny colloquial words which give our language its spice . I used to pride myself of being able to identify someone’s place of origin by his verbage, but we all sound alike today. BTW, I love the term “tussie mussie”. Isn’t it great?

    1. I’ve always known a tussie-mussie as a nosegay, but hadn’t stopped to consider the source of the word. Imagine my surprise, Kayti, when I couldn’t find it in the Online Etymology Dictionary. I went looking farther afield, and found a most interesting article. If what it says is true, the name for our little nosegay holder may be a bit spicy itself.

      Word choices as identifiers are pretty interesting. I grew up drinking pop. Then, I came to Texas and met the soda. In some places, it’s sody-water, and of course there’s the generic “coke.” Some people even study this stuff. Who knew?

  16. Bravo! (thought I’d leave a small hoo-rah).
    I’ve started a Pinterest board for Tiny Houses.
    The owners of which would fit right into the theme of your post.

    1. Thank you, ma’am! As for Tiny Houses, if you’ve been browsing, you probably already know that some of the biggest and best tiny houses are right here in Texas. “Biggest and best tiny house” may sound like an oxymoron (or just moronic) but I must say — I’ve been watching these folks develop their business over the past few years, and it’s been fantastic.

      There are a few I’ve seen on their site that I think I could be happy in. Too bad I don’t have a few acres to put one on.

  17. The whole world of advertising, capitalism and consumerism, shudders to hear such thinking, Linda. Small indeed can be beautiful and simple is often better. I am with you on the Outlier’s home: both simple and powerful. – Curt

    1. Curt, there’s a place for big: big dreams, big plans, a Ford F-350 on the ranch or in the oil patch. There’s a place for big words instead of small, and big, complex systems to do things like get rockets off the ground and electricity to parts of the world still living in darkness.

      But we’re surrounded by people who not only tell us, insistently, that bigger always is better, but that bigger and bigger is necessary. Phooey, says me.

      The Outlier’s home is great, isn’t it? I’m glad you like it. There’s a purity to it that I find deeply appealing.

      1. Good point, Linda. Without the big dreams we would still be hanging out in caves. But I was thinking more about how we get so lost in materialism that we miss so many other things of value… like a beautiful sunset or a quiet walk in the woods. –Curt

  18. This post reminds me of the saying that “good gifts come in small boxes.” The small treasure box in the pictures looks lovely. It’s too bad that you no longer have one.

    1. It’s true that my little silver box is gone, but others have come along. My current favorite is a little tin box that was part of a Christmas gift two years ago. Who doesn’t need a box on their desk for “random crap”?

      Good things often do come in small packages. A perfect example? Flower and vegetable seeds!

  19. Some of my fondest memories of childhood toys are of small things. I don’t remember the big ones like a bicycle or baseball mitt, but I do remember things like a little puzzle made of cards to decipher a secret number or a puppet.

    I never had any idea about the hiding of undies on the laundry lines. I helped my mother hang out the clothes and do not remember that being a practice. I do remember a story, from more recent times, of a dustup between two friends from a foreign land. One had been here for a while and had become attuned to our customs. The other (who was actually brought here by the first and sponsored for citizenship) hadn’t and became so incensed over underwear hanging on the line in full view of the neighbors that a knife fight ensued. I am not sure that this specifically is what Samuel Huntington was referring to in his book “The Clash of Civilizations”….but that’s what it was. Minor physical injuries. I never heard about long-lasting injuries to the relationship.

    A local framing shop recently had a show of “Smalls”. It had a nice attendance.

    1. I don’t know why this childhood gift didn’t come to mind, Steve, but one of my best ever was a small tin “kitchen” that came with tiny baking pans, and tiny boxes of mix that allowed me to make 1″ cupcake, 4″ layer cakes and 4″ pies. Gosh, that was fun.

      That laundry story is hilarious – both the story itself and your reference to Huntington. I’m glad there weren’t any serious injuries, and that the relationship endured. Having assume that there were two women involved, I was a little bemused by the mention of a knife, but then I remembered the junior high girls I knew who carried sharpened beer bottle openers. Iowa in the late 1950s/early 1960s wasn’t all poodle skirts and bobby sox.

      Interesting that your local shop had a “smalls” exhibit. Perhaps it’s a quiet trend that’s taking hold. There certainly is appeal, no question about that.

      1. Now you have gone and reminded me of another. My “Handy Andy Tool Kit”. Little hammer, screw driver, saw and what not. Probably what is responsible for my years of woodworking…that and my grandfather.
        I am pretty sure I remember it being men having the disagreement.

        I wouldn’t mind a few of those 1″ cupcakes about now.

  20. I liked this post. There is a gentle quiet voice woven through it that I definitely hear, even way up here in the heartlands of Iowa. Slow down, pay attention, even has echos of a book I just finished called Windows of the Soul, a call to listen and pay attention to the multiple ways we can hear the voice of God in our day to day if we’re tuned in. I need this reminder…regularly…but I am getting better at it. Have a good week. DM

    1. DM, it’s funny how quickly your comment reminded me of a hymn I’ve not heard in ages. It often was sung in the Methodist church I grew up in. I’ll bet you’ll recognize it, although I had to really hunt to find the “right” tune. I wasn’t familiar with the setting that’s all over YouTube — by Parry.

      The stanza that came to mind is the last one:

      “Breathe through the heats of our desire
      thy coolness and thy balm;
      let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
      speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
      O still, small voice of calm.
      O still, small voice of calm.”

      I didn’t realize the hymn’s taken from a longer poem by John Greenleaf Whittier, called “The Brewing of Soma.” It’s nice to learn something new about a hymn that’s been so familiar.

      The sun was out today, and it warmed right up. I’ve still got the windows open now — couldn’t ask for a better start to the week!

      1. I had not heard that one before but can definitely see why it came to mind. As I was listening to it and reading along, I was struck by just how deep some of these old hymns are and how much we as a culture have drifted.

  21. Throughout this whole post I found myself saying nothing more than Yes.

    We now are deep in grunts and monosyllabic “conversations”. I’m a crank about that and I don’t care who doesn’t like my opinion! I raised myself on PBS and Masterpiece Theatre, but I’m far from a snob. And I can make a sailor blush. I just happen to think language is beautiful and playful and grunts are not.

    I, too, have a few small items that I cherish, but I’ve given away many. I prefer small paintings, small furniture, small and intimate photographs. At at 5 feet tall and 100 pounds, I know that small rules!

    1. Language is fun. Sometimes it needs to be put to purely practical uses, but that doesn’t mean it has to be monosyllabic or boring. (Although I will confess, your one-syllable “yes” as you were reading was a nice response.)

      It’s been interesting to follow all the conversations on the blogs and among my friends here about decluttering, clearing out, downsizing. You’ve got a move ahead of you, and that’s a good reason to do it. Others who are contemplating downsizing their homes because of age and/or illness have the same goal. And sometimes, it’s good to move along things that really don’t give pleasure, or have been hanging around so long it’s impossible even to say where they came from.

      I could stand to do a bit more of it, especially when it comes to my pottery and china. But not yet!

  22. How exquisitely written, Linda! My own mom was at best a reluctant seamstress, and we kids knew better than to ask her to sew doll’s clothing for fear she’d develop her customary headache. So I guess I missed out on the baubles and laces and such.

    Still, I, too, am an admirer of small. Sometimes it’s that much harder to write a short short story than it is to ramble on and grow a novel! Yet those who can self-edit are to be emulated.

    Our clothesline was missing the inner lines, but Daddy used to remind us not to “air our dirty linen” in public. And how, as a child, I’d have loved hiding Mom’s unmentionables within the sheets and towels!

    Thanks for a lovely stroll down olden times!

    1. Your mom and I would have gotten along just fine, Debbie. I was a reluctant seamstress at best. I still shudder when I think about the gathered skirt I had to make in 7th or 8th grade. It was the ugliest darned thing you’ve ever seen. In the first place, who gathers a skirt onto a waistband? I guess we did.

      You’re right on target about the difficulties involved in shorter writing. That’s one reason I enjoy working with an etheree now and then. It’s good discipline to try and use the form gracefully. And by the time I’d finished the Indianola series, I’d edited out four more blog posts.

      How could I have forgotten that admonition about airing dirty laundry? I’m glad you added that. We heard the expression, too. And I’ve learned in the past few years that some of the dirty laundry wasn’t even aired in the family. There were a few unmentionables tucked in with the more familiar family stories!

  23. What a lovely, gentle essay on the theme that small is also beautiful. I also have several little treasures I won’t part with, and my grandchildren have always loved to pick through my button box.
    Thank you, Linda, for sharing this little breath of fresh air with us.

    1. Those button boxes seem to have had wide appeal, Mary. I may not know where my car keys are, but I still can remember various buttons, and which pieces of clothing they came from, or were joined with.

      When I looked at your latest post, it reminded me that a single bud or branch often can be as beautiful as a mass of flowers. I’ll never lose my fondness for great bunches of lilacs of roses, but a stem of forsythia can say “Spring” just as well.

  24. Well, as you may or may not know, I am all about the “smalls.” (OK, sometimes I like the “bigs” but mostly I like the smalls!) It is those things that attract me first at an estate sale — bits of lace (to be repurposed on cards and journals of course) and keys (thank you — I still have a few left of those you sent me!), feathers, buttons — oh, the buttons! And I play with them. For the most part I work small. Eight by ten tends to be the biggest I go and I’m more comfy at five by seven. (Except for knitting — then big needles all the way for these arthritic thumbs!).

    Have you seen Vivian Swift’s blog or her books, “Le Road Trip” and “Where Wanderers Cease to Roam”? She often works in a very miniature size — like the size of a triscuit. She will show her work and a triscuit or teabag together on her blog. Each one (well, not each, because she’s now back from a year’s hiatus for writing and painting her next book) but ALMOST each post has a painting lesson — all tiny. (She is the one who did the 4×4″ portrait of Lizzie for me.) If you are into smalls, check out her books or blog.

    Meanwhile, these suit me very nicely. What an exhibit — that’s one I would like to see in person. It takes great patience, I think, to work small. Your motor coordination must be very good. I love every image you shared here and will check out the link you mentioned for more.

    Oh, and your little box? That story so reminded me of something that got away in an estate sale when my dad sold his house. A very small, very dear china box with a little boy and girl holding hands. I haven’t seen it in decades but I remember every single detail.

    1. Jeanie, I didn’t realize that Vivian Swift was the one who did the portrait of Lizzie, but I remember admiring it.I think that you highlighted her work on your blog, too. I’ll have to go back and have another look. I enjoyed hearing that she shows her work with Triscuit of teabag. That’s a creative way to communicate size. Now, here’s a question — has she ever used a Triscuit or teabag as her canvas? I can see an exhibit — “An Appetite for Art” — with a variety of such works. (I’m no good as an artist, but titles? I’m your girl!)

      There are some other artists in the Little Gems show I very much like. One is Martin Poole. If you go to the Little Gems link, you can see some of his work there.

      Isn’t it funny how some things remain so clear in memory? I still have a little wooden box I gave Mom for Christmas one year. When I look at it, I can see the whole of the Nollen’s Drug Store gift department, and the shelf I took it from. That’s been fity years ago — I was a senior in high school. My goodness!

  25. My youngest granddaughter (the three-year-old) loves small things that she can hold in her hand. On Christmas morning, the first package she opened had three small figures in it. She forgot about her other presents and started playing with them. The older kids plowed through their gifts like their very lives depended on it. Then they started urging her to open the rest of her presents, and she got quite annoyed. She wanted to go at her own pace and saw no reason to stop enjoying herself.

    Your reminder of smalls sent me looking for crafts for kids. I loved those bits and pieces of fabric, lace and buttons that my mother had. I know my grands would, too. I remember that my mother had jars of buttons. She never threw anything away. I wish I still had them. Now they sew them on jackets and blouses and purses and do all kinds of crafts with them. My oldest grand would love that.

    1. That’s a wonderful tale about your grand-daughter, Bella. I’m on her side. What’s the point of opening a gift if you can’t take the time to enjoy it?

      I wonder if kids enjoy smaller gifts because they’re so small, themselves? I imagine it gives them a sense of control, living as they do in a very big world filled with very big people. I’m sure someone smart has studied it, but I’ll bet you’ve got some observations that would be just as spot-on. Or more so.

      We always made our valentines from those little bits. Scraps of cloth or felt, sequins, rick-rack, bias tape — we loved it all. Red and silver sequins on red felt, with a lace trim glued around the edge was pretty darned special in those days. Today, I gather they call it bedazzling. You buy a shirt, buy some Swarovski crystals, and get after it. I suppose the results more elegant, but the memories won’t be so good.

  26. One of my favorite gifts, received more than 30 years ago by a long-ago love, is a 3-1/2 inch tall vase, with a 3/4 inch opening–just enough for a tiny bundle of lavender, a couple of daisies…but mostly it sits with my other small things–and other not so small things, like antique dishes on the hutch. The Myers paintings reminded me of an attack of whimsy my artist brother and his artist wife had one year when they painted me 5″ x 8″ paintings of a salt shaker in one and the round blue Morton’s Iodized salt container with the little girl in a yellow dress holding an umbrella. They are, of course, hanging in my kitchen.

    And the point … the smallest of details can make a difference, a gesture, a word, a glance, a small gift. It’s worth remembering.

    1. Martha, I just commented to Mary, up above, how delightful small bouquets can be when they’re tucked into tiny vases. And here you are, with the vase. (Mary and Martha — that’s smile producing, too.)

      I think you’re right that smaller things can communicate whimsy very effectively. Whimsy — that’s a quality sorely lacking these days, although I’m seeing more and more artists who seem to be developing a knack for it.

      And you’re so right that it isn’t only the small objects that make a difference. Small gestures, small experiences — they can, too. The truth may be that life is offering small gifts every day, if only we would receive them.

  27. There is so much I could say about this truly wonderful post, Linda. You have excelled yourself here! I loved every word and image, and agree so much with you about the significance of even the smallest things in weaving the intricate texture of both personal and collective life. I have always loved miniature things myself – some day I will tell you the tale of the custard packet and the moon!

    In the meantime, I have just finished a wonderful novel whose central, shadowy, threatening, magical character is a miniaturist – a maker of exquisite dolls houses and accompanying perfectly crafted tiny artifacts. I loved it. Perhaps you and your readers would too.

    And, I’ve shared this post on my Facebook page.

    1. My dollhouse was one of my favorite playthings, Anne. It was quite simple, made of stamped tin, but it was nicely decorated, and had two floors. I don’t remember much about the furnishings, but I do remember making kitchen curtains that matched the ones in the family kitchen.

      The first time I saw some truly exquisite doll houses in a museum exhibit, I was flabbergasted. The level of detail, the beauty, was breath-taking. That alone makes your novel sound intriguing. Perhaps I’ll give it a read.

      Speaking of smalls, have you seen the Paddington film? I highly recommend it. It seems to me that his creator, Michael Bond, has a highly-developed sense of whimsy himself. I read an interview with him that provided its own delights. I especially enjoyed this exchange:

      “[Interviewer]: Paddington, you wrote once, was “a bear with a strong sense of right and wrong.” Of course, the fun part is that he gets a lot wrong, too.

      [Bond] When I say that he has a strong sense of right and wrong, I mean just that — in a moral sense. It is not a question of getting things wrong. He is just accident-prone.”

      There’s a question for your blog! Is accident-prone just happenstance, or are there celestial influences that make one person more accident-prone than another?

      Thanks for the kind words, and the linkage!

  28. I just love this because while you are talking about things, you are also talking about the importance of simplicity. One of my favorite possessions is the box of silver my grandma left to me when I got married – it’s full of tiny little cocktail glass stirrers and ice tea spoons and things so rarely used in my day to day life – you’ve inspired me to write about it a bit!

    On a different note, I watched a couple driving a HUGE SUV (Tahoe) get stuck in our hospital’s parking garage today – the sheer enormity of the vehicle and it’s ridiculous made such a mess for so many other people! I was pretty happy to be driving my small mazda.

    1. Courtney, a friend and I talk regularly about how life has changed since the days when our parents entertained. In fact, our lives have changed, too. The silver tea services, the dozens of pieces of stemware, the chafing dishes and bon-bon trays? I’m sure there are people who still find them useful, but over time, they fell out of favor in my home.

      After dispersing a good bit of the lovely but neglected “stuff,” I began a radically new practice: actually using what I’d kept. The sterling flatware, that used to be only for occasions like Christmas, is on the table on a daily basis now. Instead of leaving the crystal on the shelf for fear of breakage, I sent the grocery store stemware to the resale shop, and started using the “good.” The sentimental pieces, like the cranberry glass dish my mother always used for cranberry sauce, are back in the rotation. All of it’s pretty, and filled with memories. I’d say stir your iced tea with those silver spoons, and enjoy.

      As for that Tahoe — well, yes. There’s a parking garage attached to an office building I occasionally visit. It has the usual clearance signs, but a new one’s been added. In big, red letters on a yellow background, it says, “You KNOW You’re Too Big!” O tempora! o mores!

  29. I don’t think we are all accustomed to a ‘bigger is better’ mind set. In fact, we are probably moving to appreciating ‘small’, certainly in my world, where thought is given to value rather than price. Big can be beautiful, but is so often just brash and attention seeking.

    All the examples of small you parade are evidence of your own preference for quality rather than quantity. I wouldn’t have expected anything else from you.

    1. Friko, we often see the brash side of big in Houston’s housing market. It’s normal enough for homes in new subdivisions to spring up large, with a footprint taking up nearly the whole of the lot. What’s worse is the tear-down-rebuild syndrome afflicting so many old neighborhoods, where small cottages and one-story homes are giving way to three-story wonders.

      I have a friend who’s observing the process from just across her lot line, and she’s had a thing or two to say about it. I keep reminding her that the value of her dirt is increasing exponentially.

      As you say, value and price can be quite different. I learned a bit about that when I was selling antique and vintage china on eBay. The value of a given piece to a collector determines the price they are willing to pay: sometimes, to the seller’s delight.

      I will say that, during my years of collecting, I learned a few good lessons, and one had to do with quality vs. quantity. As so often happens, the lessons turned out to apply in other areas of my life.

    2. And then there’s this, from an interview with Michael Bond, done just before the release of “Paddington”:

      “It’s Paddington’s impeccable manners, he thinks, that make him so appealing. “He says ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when he asks to be looked after. He’s just like my father, who always wore a hat even paddling in the sea on holiday, in case he bumped into someone he knew and had to raise it. And he always goes at his own rate. The world moves at such a pace these days, but Paddington is never rushed.

      “He’s a small person, yet he always comes out on top and in the film he’s done it again.”

      Small bear; large heart. Pure quality.

  30. Thanks for the invitation into small! Myer’s work is really quite lovely. I enjoyed scrolling through some of his work. I remember an art class I once took in which our instructor suggest we make use of 3 by 5 boards to sort through colors, lines, etc. Working small means working smart.

    I am always reminded of that when in Europe, where space is at a premium and, consequently, so well used. We have a two floor home of 750 feet on each floor. It seems huge to us, but tiny after visiting the homes of others – especially new homes. And when our house was built some 60 years ago, the top floor was rented out! Super sizing, in this day, could well be called stupid sizing. But lest I fail to see the log in my own eye, I am reminded that I super size my life in other ways. Perhaps a Lenten project is emerging…

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed Gary’s work. It never fails to delight me, especially since he’s not one to get stuck in an artistic rut.

      I don’t purchase food from convenience stores or fast-food establishments any more, unless I’m traveling. But I do remember the introduction of the “super-sizing” that gave us that expression. One thing was clear: as the quantity increased, the quality declined. It’s true with many things.

      Of course, I’d never give up some of the “bigs” in the world. The Rocky Mountains come to mind, or the expansive prairies, or any number of museums and cathedrals. But what’s pure delight in the natural world or public spaces doesn’t necessarily translate well to our own individual worlds. Sometimes I wish “fitting and proper” was a phrase more often used.

      Ah,yes. Lent is nearly here. But first comes Mardi Gras, and allowing the bon temps to roulez just a bit!

  31. I never use the phrase senior citizen. At places where admission is charged for an event, I always ask if there’s a price for old folks (a former euphemism or semi-euphemism) or old people. That usually gets a smile out of the ticket seller.

    1. I dislike “senior citizen” about as much as I used to hate the phrase “blue hairs” for older women. Of course, it’s a fact that there were blue-haired women back in the day, but still…

      In Liberia, Old Man and Ma were common titles/names for people who’d made it through a few decades. I knew an Old Man Johnson and an Old Man Flumo, and one of my best Liberian friends was Ma Agnes. I never achieved Ma status, except with the market women, who flattered to increase sales. But I do hear an occasional “mami” from the Spanish-speakers on the docks. That gets a smile out of me.

  32. Oh, I remember being told how to hang up the “unmentionables” – and you took those off the line first when everything was dry. We could say “in the family way” but not “bun in the oven” as that was considered crude and low class. Times were so much more delicate and considerate then. People did the right thing most of the time because it was the right thing – and expected behavior – not because it was a law. Voluntarily doing something – random acts of kindness – are all “events” and special days now…so everyone sees and claps.

    My mom had a bottom drawer full of fabrics and little bits and pieces of lace, beading and such. She made all our clothes and I could raid the drawer for whatever project I was doing at the time. She had a little silver-ish box like that one in the picture but it wasn’t lined – now I’m wondering what happened to it. I think it was my grandmother’s but may have been lost in the tide of time as you say. A little treasure forgotten. That makes me a little sad.

    I’ve a pocket knife (from Yellowstone trip loooong ago), those dog tags we all wore just before BAy of Pigs, and the small leather portfolio my dad carried writing materials in during WW II. And a small plastic wind-up jumping frog toy that made my dad laugh on one of his last Christmases – my brother seemed annoyed with that toy – he and his family had paid much more for their present to him. Dad was always the one with the smiles and laughter.

    Great post. Small things are big memories

    1. There was a practical reason to take the smalls off first, Phil. They fit into the bottom of the basket better — at least for people who had fancy baskets that were smaller at the bottom than at the top. The first lauindry basket I remember was an apple basket lined with some kind of cloth, but I have a photo of my grandmother with a tin tub.

      I’ve decided I fell in love with the film “Paddington” because Paddington always said “please” and “thank you,” and he raised his hat to gentlemen and ladies alike. There are places where such customs endure, and I like them all: Texas; the Cajuns: many rural/farming places. Graciousness, we called it.

      As for applause for doing good — we were taught early that you never should embarrass someone with a gift or an offer of help. If you thought an elderly neighbor was having a hard time making ends meet, the proper way to go about helping was to say, “I had so much left-over stew, I had to freeze some. Could I prevail on you to help me out by taking a bit?” I know you learned the same lesson.

      I have a zippered leather case that my dad used for work. Like your dad’s portfolio, it seems a bit of an extension of him. Some objects just carry more emotional weight – especially the ones like the frog, that carry laughter or joy. Those wind-up toys were the best. They were almost as good as the tin chickens that laid marble eggs when you pushed down on them.

  33. I thoroughly enjoyed this offering, Linda. I seem to recall your mentioning GC and his red trees before. After visiting his site, I have a new admiration of tiny artwork! He has a unique style that I can’t quite name, but that’s because I’m no art critic.

    You touched on one of my childhood memories. My paternal grandmother always had the bottom drawer of her chest of drawers filled with smalls–Tiny thimble, buttons, coins, small photos, odds and ends that would enchant me for hours, as you mentioned. I don’t remember how I first came to know that I could freely go exploring in that bottom drawer; but now, as owner of that same chest of drawers, that is where I keep my small treasures. Maybe one day, I will have a grand daughter who will carry on the tradition.

    1. You know who Myers’ work recalls for me, BW? George Rodrigue — at least, his Blue Dog series. I’d love to see the Blue Dog sitting under the Red Tree Their work is quite different, of course, but they both have a signature style. Well, “had,” in Rodrigue’s case. It was a shame to lose him.

      My mother kept her collection in the three drawers of her sewing machine case. It wasn’t fancy, but the drawers slid out nicely, and like you, I knew I could go exploring.There’s no question those days nurtured our imaginations. I thnk they could do the same for a new generation, particularly if they had some encouragement — and you’d be a great encourager!

  34. In praise of the small! Our poet-friend Elaine is, I often think, a connoisseur of “small.” Even when she sets a table, she includes things like handmade name cards, decorated matchboxes, small poems written on cleverly folded paper. I keep them up on my bookshelves where I can see them whenever I pass.

    I’m reminded, too, of the poet Jeremy Dixon, who, among other things, runs the Hazard Press (in Cardiff), who makes small handmade books and micro-books. A favorite of mine is “In Retail”: “Twelve poems inspired by working part-time for a high street chemist. The binding of each book contains a found shopping list,” each one of which is different. I have one and treasure it.

    1. Oh, those matchboxes. Those are another good memory, Susan. The small ones were delightful (and apparently still are in some quarters!) but the larger ones were good for everything from doll beds to grasshopper houses.

      I’ve seen some beautiful hand-made books, and some nice journals, too. Little journals with nice papers are wonderful fun. Who doesn’t like making a grocery list or writing down the to-dos of life in a pretty little book? It’s far better than the back of an envelope.

      I found Jeremy’s site and roamed around a bit. I loved the pin that says, “Please Enter Your Pin.” That’s the kind of quirky humor I can enjoy. (Well, and the one for the Anne Sexton Support Group.) They remind me of the Half-Price Books gift card that’s been made to look like a conference name tag. Of course it says, “Call Me Ishmael.”

  35. Oh, Linda! Those GC Myers pieces are enchanting! I love their vivid brilliance. I hadn’t thought of Rothko until you mentioned the visual allusion. For a long time, I was a secret Rothko fan. Most of my friends and family admired realism in paintings (or, at most, impressionism).

    1. If you ever are in Houston, nikkipolani, you would enjoy a visit to the Rothko Chapel. Under the “About” tab, there’s a link to an image gallery that has photos of the chapel in snow as lagniappe!

      I was introduced to Rothko through the Chapel, back in 1973 or 1974. I wasn’t terribly impressed at the time. But, as I’ve encounted more canvases here and there, my appreciation of his work has grown. That hasn’t always happened with modern artists: Jackson Pollock comes to mind.

      I’m glad you liked Gary’s “little gems.” Here’s one of my other favorites of his work.

  36. My dear lovely linda! I’m a bit glad that it’s taken me so long to comment, as I now see the long queue of comments; no, not comments but conversations, and I continue to marvel at one of your many purposes in life!  You are such an unselfish giver of yourself; you are a mentor and a cheerleader and one who gives comfort and empathy. Most of all I can always picture you with a smile that radiates outward from your sweet spirit, and I suspect that you enhance the quality of the day to everyone you meet along the way.  You are one of God’s angels for sure.

    I’ve not even addressed the many facets of your post; I too lost a silver ‘snuff’ box that was my father’s father’s, with names engraved from grandfather to my fther to me, and I wonder if whoever has that now treasures it – or if it was sold for silver or what…  it’s still shiny and special in my mind’s eye, and it’s my luck that your post triggered that memory. Such a great post, it covers so much, and I’ll second the words of those who commented before me!

    1. My goodness, Z. Are you sure you haven’t been drinking? That’s a lot of fine words to send my way, all at one time. I’ll have to leave it to others to judge the truth of most of them, but I can agree with one thing. I’m probably one of the smilingest people you’ll find. I love what smiles do for people, so I try always to share them when I can.

      I’ve often thought about the truth of what you say — that we can still possess events and even things in memory. Who knows what ever happened to my first gift from Santa: a floating rubber soap dish shaped like a duck. I can see Santa handing it to me in our living room, and I can see it in the tub, but where it actually landed? It just disappeared. In a sense, it doesn’t make any difference. As long as my memory holds out, I still have it.

      This is going to be my weekend for color and fun. I’m off to Louisiana for Mardi Gras, but not to New Orleans. Instead, I’m going to the Cajun Mardi Gras in Acadiana. There’ll be horses and chickens and gumbo, oh, my! And yes, I’ll be posting. I suspect you’ll see some parallels with certain customs in your part of the world.

      Enjoy the weekend — and if you get back to the museum before J.L.’s exhibit is closed, be sure and tell him how much a Texas gal liked it.

  37. What a wonderful post, I did enjoy it! Those little gems are simply stunning, and as you say, especially The Outliers House, I used to love painting miniatures, sadly the eyes aint up for it anymore.

    I do think that small is often better than big… mother was fond of saying…”There is good stuff in little parcels” that applied to people too….she was a lover of sayings generally and had several for every possible occasion….one of my favourites was, “A lady should never run, especially after a man or a bus, both are extremely undignified.

    I am a keeper of treasure too, and most are small, and I’m terribly fond of diminished words, I still use forsooth whenever possible, and like to refer to the unkind as troglodytes….xxx

    1. Oh, Snowbird. I know what you mean about the eyes. I do all right, but needlework, night driving and small print aren’t as easy as they used to be.

      I had to laugh at your mother’s saying about running after men or buses. I heard a variation from my mother. As she put it, “Men are like buses. If you miss one, there will be another along presently.” Of course, I’ve heard men say the same thing about women, so there you are.

      I think troglodytes for the unkind is perfect. Of course, that may be an unfair judgment on troglodytes. I have an image of them in my mind, but I think it’s been formed as much by comic book artists as history.

      On the other hand, do you remember The Troggs? They were an English band from the sixties — and their name was short for troglodytes. One of their hits was “Wild Thing. I do remember it. I think now I’ll try to forget it.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the Little Gems, and all the small-talk!

  38. Rothko is probably my favorite painter not named Raphael. Once, back in my other life, I was in Houston and had a little time of my hands. So I took a cab to the Rothko chapel–thinking of it as a sort of pilgrimage.

    Sadly for me, I was disappointed. The paintings didn’t have the magic I’d come to appreciate. They seemed lifeless and dull to me. What impressed me more were the people who were meditating there, or walking quietly around the grounds. Clearly the place and the art had the intended effect on them. For me it must have been just one of those impossible to describe things–the way some pieces of art just grab you and shake you around, while others don’t; the way a painting, sculpture, or piece of music does that to someone else but doesn’t touch that place in you.

    I went next to the see the Menil Collection. What a fine museum. I spent a lot of time there, especially enjoying the primitive pieces. And there was the Rothko I love.

    1. Like you, perhaps, I appreciate the chapel as a whole, but find the Rothko work there somewhat dispiriting — just the opposite of the intended effect, I suppose. Of course, one person’s spiritless can be another’s soothing and deeply resonant. So there we are.
      What can’t be contested are the Menil’s contributions to civic life, both in Houston and elsewhere. They’ve introduced a lot of people to a lot of great art.

      If I were going to make a spring pilgrimage, it might be to this exhibit at the Crystal Bridges museum. I need to get to Kansas City to see my aunt this spring, so perhaps it will happen. It seems somehow fitting that the paintings are on loan from a Buffalo, New York gallery. I suspect it’s entirely possible that Gary (who lives in NY) has seen the Rothkos included in the exhibit.

  39. Hello Linda, somehow I seem to be missing your posts on my Reader as I see two here I’ve not read. Well, I am successfully multi-tasking as I am listening to the wonderful Cajun music while writing this. I have a friend who regularly attends auctions here in Virginia and bids on “smalls.” She then makes the most unusual and lovely jewelry from whatever she ends up with. It’s a serendipitous effort to be sure.

    I sold real estate for many years and witnessed the growth of American housing over 25 years which you note in the comment thread. Those vast two-story foyers, soaring great rooms, exquisitely appointed kitchens devoid of any trace of actual culinary enterprise were all soulless on some level. Sound echoes through the vast spaces which are impossible to heat or decorate, one loses a sense of home in them.

    Words and phrases. I delight in sitting with my older native Virginian friends. They have so many expressions and ways of speaking that end with them, I’m afraid. I don’t hear the same terms in younger generations which makes me wonder if I should start writing some of these things down.

    A lovely post.

    1. I have a friend who does the same sort of craft work, although I would call it art as much as craft. She uses bits of this and that to create the most wonderful handmade cards, journals, and so on. Another friend makes paper, then decorates her handmade cards with gorgeous tatted flowers, tiny quilts, and so on. It’s a labor of love, for sure, and their creations make wonderful gifts.

      I love large houses, but there’s too much unused space in many of today’s homes. It’s as though they’re building for families that have disappeared. It used to be that a big house would shelter a few children, perhaps a grandparent, lots of extended-stay visitors. Now, people rattle around in them like dried-up peas in a pod.

      Clearly, you know: size is sold in the same way that this year’s mission style or French provincial is sold by the decorators. I still remember the first time I heard someone ask, “What do you think about a pink and lavender theme for Christmas this year?” Yes, ma’am. They went out and bought everything new, in pink and lavender. My, goodness.

      I say start writing! There was an interesting article recently by a Google exec (I think — I need to refind it) in which he said we’re going to seem to people of the future like the Dark Ages. There isn’t going to be any written record of what we did or thought when (not if) the great techno-tragedy occurs. I’ve always joked about keeping a hard copy of my blog, to prevent loss in case of an EMP. I don’t know if I’m happy or horrified to find a Google exec writing about the same thing!

    1. Otto, when your recent post started me thinking about cooking, I remembered particularly the hors-d’oeuvres my mother used to make. There were tiny cream puff shells filled with shrimp, bite-sized quiches: all the standards of 1950s entertaining. Tea sandwiches, too, with the crusts cut off. There’s just something appealing about them.

      Even not-so-small smalls, like baby animals, have that deep appeal. Maybe we find them cute, or perhaps they’re less threatening.

      In any case, I’m glad you enjoyed Gary’s work, and found the post appealing.

  40. “In the ages-long struggle against adversity, the smallest gesture counts. In the midst of the world’s anonymous masses, the most insignificant and unnoticed person is worthy of infinite respect. The most hidden event may alter the course of history forever, and the larger forces pulsing through society and occasionally raging through the natural world are not the only harbingers abroad in the land.”

    And, isn’t that the truth?

    Thanks again, for another lovely post.


    1. I believe that is the truth, Andrew — although my certainty can go a little wobbly from time to time. And isn’t it funny, how sometimes the “big people” of the world can turn out to be the smallest: petty, vindictive and grasping.

      Ah, well. The good news is that we’re free to live our lives as we choose, whatever constraints life may seek to impose!


  41. One of the reasons I love independent films as opposed to Hollywood productions is that often I can find small gems among them. This is one huge post to post about the value of small gems, ironic, but very informative and interesting.

    1. I agree with you about the small gems hidden among the “blockbusters,” Arti. That’s one reason your blog is invaluable. It helps people like me, who really don’t “follow films,” find some that are worth seeing. The friend with whom I saw “Imitation Game” commented that she’s begun reading your blog, too, just because she doesn’t trust the hype that accompanies some films.

      Neither of us had realized that a sequel to “Marigold Hotel” was in the works. We saw the preview of that, as well as “Leviathan,” so there are two on the to-be-seen list. Imagine — it’s only February, and I’ve already seen three films in theatres this year. It’s a trend!

    1. Thank you so much — I’m glad to know that you’ve found something here that you enjoy. I very much appreciate being mentioned for the awards, too. I no longer participate in blog awards, as the comments and conversation I have with my readers are award enough.

      None the less, I’ve done some browsing both at your blog and among those bloggers you listed. It’s always good to be introduced to new writers!


  42. Hi LInda, it’s just me again. I thought of you immediately when reading the foreword to a book I picked up in antiques mall entitled “Parnassus On Wheels” by Christopher Morley. The author of the foreword felt that the book, published in 1917, was rife with terms which nobody born after 1910 would understand and thus provided explanations. You might enjoy a few of his definitions of archaic expressions or terms:

    A character “never saw a Redfern advertisement” refers to a famous brand of corset.

    Coffee that “simmered, not boiled” describes coffee perfection in an age prior to percolators or drip machines.

    The Professor “bought a clean collar” because the collar-attached shirt would have been altogether too unconventional a garment for a man of his station.

    The term “turned suffrage” meant anything operated by a woman.

    And so on. The foreword was written in 1945 which goes to show just how much our nation grew in terms of technology in the first half of the 20th century.

    1. You just can’t believe how this tickles me, Barbara. I have a friend who lives in Massachusetts. She bought and rennovated a small camper for occasional forays around the Cape. She named her camper — Parnassus. And yes, the name came from “Parnassas on Wheels.”

      She worked for a bookseller for a while, and dealt with out of print and antiquarian books, so that may be how she bumped into Morley’s book. I never thought to ask her where she found it. She’s such a wide reader I just didn’t think to. But what a coincidence, that you happened upon it.

      Beyond that, you’ve roused memories of my grandparents. They were Swedes, who never got away from their boiled-with-an-egg coffee. Breakfast coffee always was boiled, because no one had time to hover over the pot. But in the evening, or for the late afternoon “little lunch,” Grandma would keep on eye on it, so that it only simmered.

      And while my next post isn’t going to focus on suffrage, it will involve a woman who, shall we say, took suffragist issues pretty seriously.

      I believe I’m going to put off the rest of my afternoon errands and get back to my research. What an inspirational comment you left.

      1. One of my favorite bloggers is “Road to Parnassus.” When I saw the book, I knew I had to get it for him. Speaking of campers with names, have you read Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley?” He named his camper “Rocinante” which I adopted for mine. Look forward to that next post of yours.

        1. I have read “Travels With Charley.” Another favorite is “Travels With My Aunt,” but that’s a rather different sort of take on travel companions. Speaking of good travel writing, there’s William Least Heat-Moon, and of course Paul Theroux. So many books, so little time!”

  43. There is nothing small about the amount of comments you received about your article. You touched the love of small things in many of us. Thank you.

    1. There is something deeply appealing about the “smalls” of this world: starting with babies, kittens, and puppies. I’m glad you enjoyed the piece, and thank you for your comment. You’re always welcome to stop by. Even small comments are deeply appreciated!


  44. Small is second only to memories in economy. Life often precludes keeping the large. We tend to hang on to the small mementos that remind of the people and places we knew and loved. Like many other artists I know, I too now work smaller—by choice, because of aesthetic considerations and for practical reasons like space and cost.

    1. I just noticed this morning a quotation from the novelist Nicholson Baker which really struck home, and emphasizes your point: “How can you not become attached to the poignant scraps that flow through life?”

      I think the scraps, the smaller bits, are poignant precisely because they remind us that we can’t have (or carry) it all. And yet, even the smallest bit can open the door to roomsful of memories. All it takes is the nudge.

      Your comment about working smaller is interesting to me. As silly as it may sound, one reason I enjoy blog posts and resist book-writing is that smaller bits of writing allow me to move from one subject to another: satisfying my own curiosity. The thought of spending ten years, or five, or three, concentrating on one book sounds akin to getting trapped on a Disney cruise. If I thought I could produce a book in a year, that might be different. Who knows? And why do I sometimes feel guilty, in this world of surging self-publication, that I don’t have interest in writing a book? Strange, these days we live in.

      1. Have you considered collecting your blogs into a book? I’ll bet many of your readers, including this one, would be pleased.

        I too prefer to write shorter pieces and I enjoy reading collections of essays. Too often authors feel obligated to write more than necessary because they perceive brevity as unprofessional. But a haiku can often say as much or more than a 300 page novel.

        1. I’ve considered it, yes. What will happen down the road, I can’t say. I love the writing, but I’m not sure about all the whatever-else that would be required to put a book together. I do have a couple of ideas for other books. It would just be a matter of getting serious. We’ll see.

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