The Ministry of Small Things

Photo by John Griswold



The interregnum of the seasons has arrived in the Midwest. Laurel leaves have fallen from their crowns, and snow and ice have yet to make diadems in the new reign. Big things are gloomy—the overcast sky, the dull landscape, the empty fields.

What rules now? Small, lively things. The fat squirrel that sits on my outdoor trash bin is a king looking for a way into the palace. Crows and Blue Jay argue like counselors in the tree outside my window. My indoor cat of fifteen years watches them regally then demands pets and treats before she retires upstairs to bask in the heat from a vent. On the bike trail, it is windy and about to rain, so no one is out but me and my forest cat, Newt, both of us free but choosing to spend time together warming his paws.

The day we reserve for thanks has passed, but good things still arrive daily, I believe, by work, circumstance, luck, and mystery. Human life on this planet tilting away from the sun often seems itself on the verge of another season. We may not know yet all we have suffered, let alone any of what we will. It is easy to feel small and alone. I am thankful for the constancy of small things.

John Griswold

John Griswold is a staff writer at The Common Reader. His most recent book is a collection of essays, The Age of Clear Profit: Essays on Home and the Narrow Road (UGA Press 2022). His previous collection was Pirates You Don’t Know, and Other Adventures in the Examined Life. He has also published a novel, A Democracy of Ghosts, and a narrative nonfiction book, Herrin: The Brief History of an Infamous American City. He was the founding Series Editor of Crux, a literary nonfiction book series at University of Georgia Press. His work has been included and listed as notable in Best American anthologies.