Posted by: jeannineatkins | November 19, 2014

Small Starts

Hidden memories may stir and even sprawl if we stumble into just the right small thing. Proust famously ate a cookie dipped in tea, then wrote seven volumes. I’m reading Jodi Picoult’s wonderful new novel, Leaving Time, in which besides great themes of, mothers and daughters, grief, and elephants, a girl’s memories are raised when a dollar bill folded in the shape of an elephant falls from a book. Little talismans, jewelry, postcards, or stones picked up from a beach may hold the power to move us back in time.

New stories can also start with something small. I might have an idea or plot in mind, but I’m likelier to find an origin in something tiny and tangible, then spread out. Many of my poems come from reading thick books, which I leave with maybe half a page of notes, a clutter of little things that I ponder until they seem to release short stories.


Recently, a woman who I met when I visited her graduate class gave me two little rum-soaked and cream-filled buns to take home. “There’s a story to them,” she told me, sliding them into a plastic bag. “If I take your spring class, I’ll tell you.”

I thanked her and nodded, intrigued, but in a bit of a hurry. There was rum, cream, a cherry in the middle and maybe a story down the road. What else could I want? All the second or third or hundredth looks we’re willing to give can change what’s in our hands, or let us hear something new in the music made by repetition. Memory comes and goes, ephemeral, like much beauty. And so we hold things gently, like a baby bird, making room for heartbeats.


  1. LOVE this, Jeannine. xox

  2. So many great phrases here, Jeannine. “… memories may stir and even sprawl…” and “memory comes and goes… and so we hold things gently, like a baby bird, making room for hearbeats.” You always inspire and nourish me.
    Thanks once again.

    • Glad we can inspire each other, Burleigh.

  3. You killed me with your last four words.

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