I started a new project this month called Stories on Squares. It’s a daily art challenge that keeps my creative gears cranking. The concept is exactly what it sounds like, every day I tell a new story on a square.
I’ve made it to day 24 without a hitch (except for one day that I forgot about the project altogether and wrote a story a few hours late – oops!) Most days I think it has challenged my discipline more than my creative juices.
Every story is a surprise to me. The experience of letting the short short story unfold is one of the most enjoyable parts of the exercise. Some days the words need a lot of patience and I stare at a blank square for a long while. Other days, I get inspiration in traffic, waiting in line or talking to a friend, and I write down a starting thought. Other days, the stories flow easy. Some days, my friends have to remind me to write a story. (I should really set a daily alarm!)
Follow the stories on my artist page on Instagram or Facebook. And soon, the feed of stories will be updated regularly on my artist website, www.nathaniaaritao.com. Would love to hear what you think of the stories!
Here are a few more of the first stories, in order of appearance this March:
I tried out a different branch of my usual coffee shop this morning, where the barista who served me my extra cup of water asked if my name was Emily. She was inspired to ask because of my large earring, cut out of an old license plate, boasting the letter E. She later remembered my name when I returned to the counter to order my favorite mint tea, where the other barista asked if I wanted honey in my tea. I watched as he squeezed the packets into the cup, thankful for the thoughtfulness, but a little resentful that he took away one of my favorite pre-tea-drinking rituals. Pouring honey into the hot, colored beverage.
I love watching honey drip. Especially into a steaming cup of tea. The thick glazed rope, twisting heavily into a thinner thread, coiling and applying itself in the heated liquid, poured out of a larger glob of sweetness. With the wooden stirrer, I like to harvest all the stubborn honey that won’t freely drip at the end of the open packet.
Today is Friday, and I begin it much like I did my Monday. Sitting at coffee shop by the window, a steeping cup of mint tea before me. I got an early start to my morning, both on Monday and today. I guess you could think of it as an early start to my week. On Monday, my eyes didn’t fully open until the first sip hit my lips. Thanks to the heavy rain, I had missed my usual Sunday morning tea time at the nook I frequent – an important time that I set aside to reset, to journal, to catch up with my self between weeks. There and then I like to read poetry, passages from the Bible, and sit in peace.
On Monday morning, I think the universe was trying to console me, in some odd way repay me for rising so early. (Interestingly enough, it set the early tone for the week, since I’ve been awake before six am almost every day this week.) I sat at the corner of the shop, on a high chair looking out onto the street. First the sun woke me up with a brightness that it had failed to share in the previous days. My nose produced its usual beads of sweat in response. But the sun soon cooled off, as if it had just wanted a moment with me, obnoxiously trying to grab my attention. It was the sun’s version of a wave.
Minutes later, I watched a dog cross the street. It was the cutest thing, a caramel brown dog tottering across the city road. You would’ve thought he was just another citizen of the city, on its way to work, walking right on the crosswalk when the pedestrian light flashed green.
Later on, a large vehicle was paused at the curb, waiting for his signal to turn. On the lap of the front seat passenger sat an adorable little girl who waved at me and smiled without stopping. She had the most infectious smile and wouldn’t take her eyes off me or look away. I waved back. She continued to watch me, and I her from the brim of my paper cup, still steaming mint. Before they finally drove off, she gave one last shy wave goodbye. Or hello.
And just those little things, as I sat in a coffeshop, made my morning good. Today feels like another good morning, as I wait for the tea to steep. Dad and I just had breakfast and he’s already left for court. I am left here still giggling every time I look at this shot I stole of him telling stories of workers suing their bosses. Oh lawyerly humor!