Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Beauty of Little

My mother was a lot of things. A spoonful of sugar, a blanket in winter and yet she was also a dark night locked outside your front door. She was the bruise of hail and the soft scent of night jasmine. My little self could not get a handle on the shifting tides of her moods. So I did what I could to settle close and wait. And sometimes, just sometimes, she noticed.

They were the days when she felt like being an artist. The afternoons when she took a picnic rug out into the back garden and taught me to see the world. Wrapped up in the picnic rug were pencils, pastels and paper. Glorious paper. I can feel it now. Heavy dimpled watercolour paper. She'd nestle somewhere in the garden and then I'd wait to be invited to the picnic. To my immense relief I was welcome.

We sit under the shade and I'd watch the shadows of dappled light twist across my skirt and on to my bare legs. I could sit for hours. Just the scent of her held me close while I watched her draw. The quieter my pose the longer I was allowed to stay.

One afternoon I got brave.
"Can I do that too?" I held my breath. Just being invited to the picnic was reason enough to smile, but I ached to draw just like her.
"Sure." She pulled off a piece of paper and placed in in my lap, then handed me a pencil and went back to her lines. Her clever lines that scooped around the white space to caress an image into life on the paper before her. I looked at my own empty paper and felt very small. I hated that feeling. That inner crawling of wanting to do something I had no idea how to start. I opened my mouth and all that craving came out as a mere whisper.
"How do you draw?"

My mother looked at me like I'd asked how to breathe.
"Tab, you just do it. You look at what you want to draw and you get real quiet. Then you notice all the smallest things. Don't try to see the whole picture. See the little shapes inside the bigger ones. See the lines that link the shapes and the picture will take care of itself. "

Shapes? Shapes. I could see shapes. In fact I could see all the little twists and turns, intersecting lines and forms. And I drew. I drew and drew. For hours my mother and I sat close in silence just noticing the beauty of little.

My mother is now a graphic artist who sells work locally and is often commissioned for unique pieces by those who appreciate what she does. And I discovered very young that I had inherited her 'artist genes'. I never pursued art. I guess there just weren't enough paper afternoons for me to love it the way she does. But her words still ring in my mind. Notice all the small things, the picture will take care of itself.

Isn't that what we do as writers? Instead of drawing we use words to unveil the beauty of little. And while we are busy building the words, in a way, the story flows out and takes care of itself.

What about you? Do you seek to show the beauty of the little moments in your writing?


  1. I know I say this every time, but I could sit and read your writing all day, for many days. It's so so SO beautiful, Tab! Absolutely breathtaking. God's given you quite a gift with words. Makes me feel like I'm the little girl and your my mother and I'm the one whispering, "How do you write?" Your mother's advice is wonderful. I love the idea of looking at the small things within the big and letting those words take the shape of a story.

    Have a blessed Wednesday!

  2. Thanks Katie. Your words always inspire me. I am in awe of your journey as a writer so this really means a lot coming from you. Have a great Wednesday too :)

  3. Tabitha, that is beautiful! Finding hope and beauty in the small things and putting that into inspirational words is your gift. Thank you for such beautiful words today!

  4. Oh Tab that was gorgeous. You made me cry, darn you. So so beautiful. I wish I could do what you do my girl.

  5. That was so beautiful!! You were lucky to have such a mentor. Even one that was sometimes troubled and made you settle close and wait.

  6. What an inspiring thought! And you're right, it's SO true of writing too!

  7. Really lovely writing. You have clearly found your place in life to have chosen writing.

    And, I love the itty froggie -- cute! What you say is true and good to think about, but my story doesn't always flow out - sometimes I have to drag and pull it my its stubborn ears ;)

  8. I LOVED this post. For the writing and for the intent. Beautifully put. :-)

  9. This is just beautiful! It really hit home for me because until I started writing I always told people - I'm not a creative person. I can't draw or paint. I'm completely tone deaf. I'm not the mother who can make the fancy decorative cupcakes on my kids b-day but now I have something creative to call my own.

  10. Tabitha, your writing is the brush of a butterfly wing against my cheek. The whisper of a baby's breath against my ear.

    I absolutely love it and am so glad I dropped by.

    In my writing, I totally try to capture the inner joy, sadness, horror, by visceral expression AND by tying the reader to the landscape.

    My mother was also an artist. Her paintings brighten almost every wall of my home.
    How I treasure them! When we move, the paintings settle in before anything else to set the mood.

    Books and paintings; who needs chairs and couches?

    Would love to have you stop by my new blog at

  11. This is so rich! Tabaitha, you nail it for me everytime. Your words make me ponder and escape, I love it.

    Little has the power to be so grand.

  12. Writing, visual art, music, all that is creative must look at the details and assemble them into a whole piece. In my writing I do strive, for the small details that show every aspect of a scene or character. I don't know if "beauty" is always the way I would describe it-- maybe quirkiness, normalcy, tedium, ugliness--it could be a lot of things. But you have described the process beautifully.

  13. Tabitha,

    You are definitely an artist and words are your medium. "Paper afternoons"... that conjures up such a lovely picture. Fabric spread out on a green lawn covered in fallen leaves, reams and reams of tea stained papers. I need a paper afternoon :)

    Hope your Wednesday is a lovely one,

  14. You know, often after I've read a particularly good story I'll flip it open to a random page a pick a few lines to read over. Nada. Usually they are just lines. Lines that anyone could write, I think, even myself. It's then that I know without a doubt that a good story is the sum of the whole, one little word at a time.

    Love that, because it means I can write one too.

  15. Well said and a good reminder. I sometimes forget to look past the big picture and into the little details.

  16. This whole post is BEAUTIFUL but your first paragraph took my breathe away. I love your imagery.

  17. Gorgeous. Your mother seemed to know the secret I found in a book called Zen Seeing, Zen Drawing. It's not an easy thing to shut out the noise and flash of the bigger world, but it helps us find the center, the heart. Thanks for reminding me so beautifully.

  18. Wonderful story. And yes I seek to show the beauty of little moments. Sometimes, I'm successful. Sometimes, I'm not.

  19. Tabitha, i simply loved this post...the cute little thing,

    i wish we 'd leave a lot more place for the little,and the invisible, for much is in the specks than in the immense, and then what is immense is a speck elsewhere depending from the pint of view ....
    the world is still a beautiful place, its smallness is also the part of the bigger whole. Thats why we must be mindful to it!

  20. I love this story. You are truly an artist with your words and you paint the most beautiful, elegant images for us. I'm always inspired by your posts and humbled by your talent.

  21. Of all your posts, this is one of my favorites...especially this line: "Then you notice all the smallest things. Don't try to see the whole picture. See the little shapes inside the bigger ones..."

  22. It's the details that make for the best moments in fiction, I believe. Sometimes it only takes a few to create the effect. Other times (like in Faulkner's description of Dilsey in The Sound and the Fury), the constant addition of more details lends a character or thing a kind of concrete reality that stands out in our minds, something more than even vision can give.

    Little things, indeed. But together they add up to the greatest of things.

  23. Both my parents were artists. My mom did graphics (she designed and executed a killer shopping bag for a major department store in the Pacific Northwest), but her medium of choice for her personal work was watercolors. I could never master watercolors, and she excelled, so adept was she with the brush. Mom's gone now, and it is amazing to have her work to study and remember her by.

    I wrote a post about how I came to choose words over paint. I felt my talent for writing a meaningful tale far exceeded my talent for painting a meaningful picture.

  24. How can I answer any sort of question after that bit? So freaking beautiful. I worry I am like her....

  25. took my breath away! That was wonderful!

  26. They say the truth is in the details. It broke my heart, that little girl having to screw up her courage just to ask if she could draw, too. Unpredictability in a parent is so unsettling and impossible to understand, for a child. It made my heart go out to your young self.

    I read someplace recently that all art is an expression of different degrees and types of woundedness. I think it may be so.

  27. Fireblossom, I think you might be right about art being an expression of woundedness. Mine sure is. I also hope it will be an expression of healing one day too.

    Sharon, thanks for the visit and I am glad you liked it.

    Suzanne, you are nothing like her. Trust me on that. Moodiness was the least of her faults :)

    Elizabeth , I am amazed how many writers come from artist families.

    Simon congrats on your short story appearing in Flashquake. Go check him out people :)

  28. Liza and julie- thanks :) Really.

    COL- I agree

    Susan- me too. Mostly I get lost in moments. But I try.

    Deb and Kristen - thank you both :)

    Tricia- my pleasure :)

    Eileen that is why I like the thought too.

    Jen and arlee- thanks you guys. Beautiful words of encouragement.

    Wendy- no, you don't want to do what I do. Your work is beautiful the way it is.

    Jessica and Juile- thanks. :) Made me smile.

    Heather- thanks

    Jason- I never thought of being thankful for that. But you are right. And I will be.

    Patti thanks for visiting. I will jump over and visit too.

  29. I do! It is breathing deeply into the moment with my words that satiates me...your mother sounds amazing, mystical, like a goddess...

    much love

  30. Great line, Tabitha: "She was the bruise of hail and the soft scent of night jasmine."

    What an elegant way to describe a volatile relationship.

  31. Life is really all about the little things, right? The big moments usually get lost, it's the little ones I'll remember the most. Beautiful post.

  32. Gorgeous post! Very poetic- now I can see where some of your talent comes from!

  33. Another awesome post. Have i mentioned lately you are just rocking the blog?

    I took an art class in college and that was one of our assignments to paint shapes to create the picture. They had us take a picture and turn it upside down and paint it. You know what? It looked great when we were through. There is a miracle in the small details, isn't there?

  34. There are so many beautiful moments. I try to notice them all and give them the respect they deserve.

  35. Angie, Me too. I try. I really try. Sometimes I even manage to do it.

    T.Anne- Oh girl. Your comments rock. Thank you. Smilling VERY BIG over here. :D

    Stephanie- thank you. My mother is a very talented artist. Her love of all things creative was birthed inside me young. I am grateful.

    Lisa and Laura- It is the little things to stick. Very true. Thanks for the kind words.

    Jenn- volatile! That is the word I was looking for! sometimes I think my imagery comes about because I am trying to describe one word. Oh well. Glad you thought it worked :)

    Stacey- Hmmm... I don't know. Like I said, she was a lot of things. Not all of them were that shiny. But she certainly had her moments of being able to entrance me. Thanks for the comment.

  36. Definitely. My writing is all about the little moments... As usual, you enticed me with your imagery. You might not be a visual artist, but you certainly can paint vivid scenes and visceral emotions with your words. Thanks, as always, Tabitha, for letting us into your world.

  37. I love the beauty of little, and this look at your relationship with your mom. Thank you for another gorgeous piece.

  38. That was an awesome post Tab. The little is part of the big. And many times I try to look at the whole and become overwhelmed giving up but its the little bits and pieces where the beautiful lives which is part of the bigger picture of life, words, art and all things living. You know that verse, we all make up the body of Christ. That holds true for everything. Lovely thoughts, thanks for sharing love.

  39. Beautiful! It's always the bugs in the grass and not the spread of food that you notice during a picnic. I love the little things.

  40. This is such a wonderful post. I love it - don't look at the whole see the little things. Powerfully descriptive. Love the teeny frog.