American literature art children creativity design dogs English literature French literature happiness quilts

Happy thoughts on the Vashon reading and quilt show


Honey Girl is sighing significantly at the bottom of the stairs, whining gently for her long-awaited walk, so I’ll have to keep this brief:  just wanted to say “WOO HOO!” about the fabulous reading on Saturday night!

The trilingual reading of The Frankenstein of the Apple Crate was a brilliant event at the Country Store on Vashon Island. The three readers—myself in English, Cécile Perruche in French, and Doctora Haydee Bonnet Alvarez in Spanish—were joined by Donna Liberty, ASL signer, so we were actually a quadrilingual event!

Many thanks to host Matt vonEgidy, manager of the Country Store on Vashon Island for the invitation to do the reading and put up the show of my quilts, “A Life in Quilts, ca. 1974—2019.”  You can see the small “Alice in Wonderland quilt” and the large couch throw, “Western Pacific” right behind us!

If you missed the event, not to worry: the book in all three languages is available at the Country Store (or on the Honey Girl Books website) and the quilt show and sale will continue until November 5 (and they are available via the website too).

American literature creativity humor nature wisdom

mistakes and self-revelation

Isn’t it great to laugh at other people’s mistakes?!

Today’s paper was a riot.

But seriously folks, my favorite non-political example comes from reading the new issue of The New Yorker last night after T’ai chi class.

I began laughing incredulously–with a huge sense of relief–when I read Nora Ephron admit that she forgot a key ingredient in a recipe she published in a book! Yikes! Funniest of all is the deadpan way she talks about that incident, inside a long reminiscence about Lee Bailey: “By then, I’d come to realize that no one was ever going to put my recipes into a book, so I’d have to do it myself. I included Lee’s recipe for baked lima beans and pears (unfortunately, I left out the brown sugar, and for years people told me they’d tried cooking the recipe and it didn’t work), along with my family cook Evelyn’s recipe for cheesecake, which I’m fairly sure she got from the back of a Philadelphia cream-cheese package.”* Re-reading this now, I’m more aware that it was Lee‘s recipe. That makes it even more horrible. To do disservice to a dear friend and cherished mentor must have made her feel really embarrassed and awful.

So, hahah!  at least it wasn’t us!

(Schadenfreude, one of our tawdry habits as human beings.)

The second topic on my mind this morning is self-revelation. As a writer, in any serious writing such as scholarship, I’ve been trained to stay out of the picture. My focus has always been investigating phenomena discovered in books written by other people, artwork created by other people, and weaving it together with history and criticism written by other people. Now that I don’t have to do that for a living, it has lost its appeal.

A new audience has become visible to me, as well as a new perspective on self-revelation. The insight came while reading Henry David Thoreau’s book, Walden, last night. (Yes Ephron and Thoreau–what a literary feast I had!)

Thoreau is by turns funny and Zen-master wise: “I think that we may safely trust a good deal more than we do. […] The incessant anxiety and strain of some is a well nigh incurable disease. […] This is the only way, we say; but there are as many ways as there can be drawn radii from one center. All change is a miracle to contemplate; but it is a miracle which is taking place every instant.” **

His description of Americans circa 1854 is not far from today’s profile of the workaholic: “The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly” (48).

But it was the opening pages with their frank self-assessment that I found most endearing (reminded me of other favorite autobiographers Saint Augustine, Montaigne, Rousseau, and Gide, but with a special turn all of its own):

“I should not talk so much about myself if there were any body else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience. Moreover, I, on my side, require of every writer, first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life, and not merely what he has heard of other men’s lives; some such account as he would send to his kindred from a distant land; for if he has lived sincerely, it must have been in a distant land to me.” (46)

Loveliest of all to me, as a seamstress in love with stitching, is the coat metaphor that wraps up this piece: “As for the rest of my readers, they will accept such portions as apply to them. I trust that none will stretch the seams in putting on the coat, for it may do good service to him whom it fits” (46).

A final poignant note: yesterday I shared the first couple paragraphs I wrote of “A Seattle Homecoming” with members of my West Seattle writing group. After a spirited discussion, I received their annotated copies of my work. One member wrote: “I would like to know you better through your writing.”

Well, I guess the stars are finally aligning…  though I feel like making a quilt instead of a manuscript. Or some combination of the two…

In the meantime, enjoy some pretty pictures of November in Seattle!

* Nora Ephron, “Serial Monogamy: My Cookbook Crushes,” The New Yorker (originally Feb. 13, 2006; repr. Dec. 3, 2018), 75.

**Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Civil Disobedience. Ed. Michael Meyer. (New York: Penguin, 1986), 48.


American literature humor loss nature trees

strange smoky weather brings back childhood memories



We rejoiced over our arrival here in Seattle in early July, when we discovered our amazing view of downtown across Elliott Bay. But look at it now.

The weather report is weird:  “77 degrees, Smoke.”

Honey Girl and I went for our walk as usual this evening and my eyes have been burning ever since. It is a very strange sensation to live in smoke. The neighbors I talked to on my walk all seemed kind of rattled by this too. “Where there’s smoke there’s fire,” we think anxiously, but it does not make any sense. We’re surrounded by water on three sides!


(map of West Seattle)

One of my favorite children’s books has a harrowing forest fire scene that I’ve never forgotten. It’s not Bambi, it’s Smokey the Bear. 

Title page Smokey with funny childlike signature.jpg

I so love this book. As you see, when the fire engulfs the little bear cub, separating him from his mother, Smokey follows his mom’s advice: “When danger threatens, climb a tree.”

Smokey and the forest fire.jpg

But still, it is a traumatic experience!  The text reads: “So up a pine tree Bear Cub went. Around him the forest fire roared and crackled. Flames licked at Bear Cub’s shaggy fur and singed his tender paws. But he closed his eyes and just hung on. When he opened his eyes again after a while, he could scarcely believe what he saw. Instead of the cool, green, shady woods, all around him stood hundreds of ugly blackened sticks with trails of smoke still curling from them.”

Smokey gets better with the little girl

The scene where the forest ranger’s daughter gets to play with Smokey was always my favorite. What a dream come true to play with a living Teddy bear!

However, the shrewd critic might point out a few flaws in this tragi-comedy. Where is Smokey’s mother, for example? And what about Bambi and Dumbo? Why do writers of children’s literature dispense with mothers so often?

Maybe because the kids secretly wish for that…

Then there’s the little problem of watching Smokey grow into a grown-up man-cub. Like the female creature dreamed up, then destroyed, in Shelley’s Frankenstein, the grown-up Smokey of reality might not be quite so nice…


Wish it would rain.