Reading Julio Cortázar’s essay, “Only a Real Idiot” yesterday, I felt such a joyfully liberating surge of life energy, for he captured how I feel, on seeing a hummingbird scratch his neck with his tiny foot like a dog, or a cornflower in glorious blue abandon alongside gritty Rainier Avenue, or José González in concert. Or my classmates doing Aikido at sunset, a Chinese busker twanging strange melodies at Hing Hay Park, or Toots and the Maytalls when they were here, so long ago in the pre-pandemic past…
“I am entertained, deeply moved; the dialogues or the dancers’ motions seem like supernatural visions to me. I applaud wildly, and sometimes the tears well up in my eyes or I laugh until I have to pee; in any event, I am glad to be alive and to have had this opportunity to go to the theater or to the movies or to an exhibition, anywhere extraordinary people make or show things never before imagined, where they invent a place of revelation or communication, something that washes away the moments when nothing is happening, nothing but what always happens.” (“Only a Real Idiot” in Around the Day in Eighty Worlds, p. 62)
It’s all about enthusiasm.
My latest creation–to be unveiled next week at West Seattle’s Summerfest!–is the Luxury Troll Boudoir. (If ever there were a folly, this is it!)
— Set in a picturesque cigar box, each features a troll doll with its own quilt, snuggled into a little bed made of vintage satin
— Comes with a booklet, Beautiful Thoughts for the Boudoir, with quotes and portraits by five inspiring French and American women writers
— Suitable for children or nostalgia lovers of any age
Coming soon to the HGBG shop on etsy!
Author portrait courtesy of https://aldianews.com/en/culture/books-and-authors/cortazar-movies
Trivia Quiz for To the Lighthouse (1927) and A Room of One’s Own (1929) by Virginia Woolf
with the answers below
For WSEA “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 5/22/22
I. To the Lighthouse
A. On Frustrated Yearning
1. The book begins with a scene of a young boy’s yearning, which opens the reader’s horizon to a long-awaited sea voyage. In a few lines, however, the dream of travel is dashed. Who is the first person to announce the trip’s impossibility, and why?
a. the protagonist’s nurse, because the boy is sickly and too weak for travel at present.
b. the child’s mother, who reminds him that he has schoolwork to do.
c. the child’s father, who announces that the weather “won’t be fine.”
d. a houseguest, who feels a west wind blowing.
2. On Comfort.
Among other things, words provide comfort to the child and it is usually his mother who speaks comforting words. Which of the following refrains is not spoken by the mother, Mrs. Ramsey?
a. “But it may be fine—I expect it will be fine.”
b. “Let’s find another picture to cut out.”
c. “Oh, how beautiful!”
d. “Well then, we will cover it up.”
e. “Think of a kitchen table, when you’re not there.”
3. Ordinary Misogyny. Quotes that we may find objectionable run through the narrative. Which is not from To the Lighthouse?
a. “They did nothing but talk, talk, talk, eat, eat, eat. It was the women’s fault. Women made civilisation impossible with all their ‘charm,’ all their silliness.”
b. “Treat ‘em like chickens, son. Throw ‘em a little corn and they’ll run after you, but don’t give ‘em too much. If you do, they’ll stop layin’ and expect you to wait on ‘em.”
c. “She was not good enough to tie his shoe strings.”
d. “There was Mr. X whispering in her ear, ‘Women can’t paint, women can’t write…’”
e. “She guessed what he was thinking—he would have written better books if he had not married.”
4. Extraordinary Restraint. Women react to men’s comments in ways that feel uncomfortably familiar—with silence, resentment, and smoldering rage. Which is not in To the Lighthouse?
a. “She had done the usual trick—been nice.”
b. “’Odious little man,’ thought Mrs. Ramsey, ‘why go on saying that?’”
c. “She would never for a single second regret her decision, evade difficulties or slur over duties.”
d. “She bent her head as if to let the pelt of jagged hail, the drench of dirty water, bespatter her unrebuked. There was nothing to be said.”
e. “If she had said half of what he said, she would have blown her brains out by now.”
f. All are in To the Lighthouse.
5. How long does it take before the Ramseys take the trip mentioned on page one?
a. two months
b. ten years
c. twenty years
d. one week
II. A Room of One’s Own and themes found in both books
6. Why does Woolf declare that “the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction” must remain unsolved in her work? Which reason is not in the book?
a. because there are too many great women novelists to synthesize into one conclusion
b. because until the 17th century, most women were too poor and uneducated to write anything
c. because throughout history, women have lacked the time, money and solitude necessary to discover their genius
7. Acc. to Woolf, what emotion dominates the books (by men) explaining women and their works?
8. Creativity: How to explain it? Woolf attempts variously to describe what it feels like to conceive ideas and create things. Which quote is not by Virginia Woolf in these two books?
a. “It is fatal for anyone who writes to ignore their sex. The mind must be focused on one’s sexual identity, for its limitations and biological demands matter more than anything.”
b. “She could see it all so clearly, so commandingly, when she looked: it was when she took her brush in hand that the whole thing changed. It was in that moment’s flight … that made this passage from conception to work as dreadful as down a dark passage for a child.”
c. “Thought … had let its line down into the stream. It swayed, minute by minute, hither and thither among the reflections and the weeds, letting the water lift it and sink it, until—you know the little tug—the sudden conglomeration of an idea at the end of one’s line: and then the cautious hauling of it in, and careful laying of it out? Alas, laid on the grass how small, how insignificant this thought of mine looked.”
d. “The androgynous mind is resonant and porous … it transmits emotion without impediment … it is naturally creative, incandescent and undivided.”
9. Woolf’s reality. Which of the following is not in A Room?
a. “If she begins to tell the truth, the [man’s] figure in the looking-glass shrinks; his fitness for life is diminished.”
b. “It is remarkable … what a change of temper a fixed income will bring about. I need not hate any man; he cannot hurt me. I need not flatter any man; he has nothing to give me.”
c. “The Suffrage campaign has done the unthinkable! Finally, it has roused in men an extraordinary desire to help women achieve their potential.”
d. “Imaginatively, she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history.”
e. “Any woman born with a great gift in the sixteenth century would certainly have gone crazed, shot herself, or ended her days in some lonely cottage outside the village, half witch, half wizard, feared and mocked at.”
10. What’s wrong with women’s writing of the nineteenth century? Which reason is not cited?
a. Ignorance and emotion. “Anger was tampering with the integrity of Charlotte Brontë the novelist. … Her imagination swerved from indignation and we feel it swerve.”
b. Lack of natural ability. “No woman has ever written as well as Dickens or Proust.”
c. Pressure of convention. “She was thinking of something other than the thing itself. … She had altered her values in deference to the opinion of others.”
d. Lack of female community and heritage. “They had no tradition behind them, or one so short and partial that it was of little help. For we think back through our mothers … it is useless to go to the great men writers for help.”
11. What advice does Woolf not proffer to young women?
a. “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
b. There must be a lock on that door, the door to your room.
c. “Adopt the name of a man for your writing; anonymity runs in our blood.”
d. “All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn.”
2. e. (Son Andrew makes that observation, describing his father’s philosophical writings.)
3. b. That quote is from Not Without Laughter by Langston Hughes.
4. f. All are in To the Lighthouse.
To all women: please write! write simply, write sadly, write with your heart or your anger…
Write about your lives, about your thoughts, about your past, present, or future, but write, and let the world know you were here!
For what it is worth, I’ve pasted below a photo of the books I’ve created during my time on this earth, inspired partly at least by my reading of Woolf’s essay during my time as an undergraduate….
Woolf makes me proud to be a writer. To exist. To forgive us all, and to hope… for more great writers will come! Please write!
And, of course, thank you for reading.
If you’ve read much of this blog, you’ll realize that until 2018 I was a college professor, lost in the whirlwind of conflicting thoughts… I was a complete novice at business, though I took a great course and do know how to sew and design pretty things. But still… even the MBA in a Box (which still sits on my shelf) was intimidating, and I felt like a failure–or completely INSANE to be doing what I do–quite often. And if you’ve ever tried to create anything or start a small business, you’ll also empathize and feel a surge of joy right now, on hearing that I JUST MADE MY FIRST BIG SALE today! The All Star Seattle Quilt (above) sold after just one day on Etsy!
So now, I’m riding on the wind, as I look forward to a wonderful session of T’ai chi, after the exhilarating Water Taxi ride to the waterfront… and it’s not even raining (right now).
All Star Seattle Quilts nos. 2 and 3 are underway and will feature the T-shirts of more local favorites! No. 2 will feature Pegasus Books, Easy Street Records, and Beanfish Tayaki; No. 3 will feature Elliott Bay Books, Easy Street Records, and Communion Restaurant. preorders available now! (6-8 weeks)
It’s been pretty damp out here lately. It’s easy to let your spirits fall flat and feel dreary. Even the computer sends out small, slightly ominous messages of warning, in the right-hand corner of the screen.
Yet I take heart in Emerson’s words this morning: “I am thankful for small mercies.” The beauty of green lush scenery and the ever-changing skies, the humorous way my computer seems to be speaking, commiserating about the weather… it’s all so endearing, so regular, so northwestern. It’s life happening right before our eyes. The passage which follows in Emerson rings strangely familiar too, to readers of Michael Singer and other contemporary writers on consciousness:
“The new molecular philosophy shows astronomical interspaces betwixt atom and atom, shows that the world is all outside; it has no inside.”
Emerson also reminds us, like Singer in Living Untethered (just got my copy and loving it!) that:
“Life’s chief good is for well-mixed people who can enjoy what they find, without question. .. To fill the hour–that is happiness; to fill the hour and leave no crevice for a repentance or an approval. We live amid surfaces, and the true art of life is to skate well on them.”
“Life is a tempest of fancies, and the only ballast I know is a respect to the present hour. … we should not postpone and refer and wish, but do broad justice where we are.”
— from Emerson, “Experience” in Selected Writings, pp. 350-352.
And then there’s “All Star Seattle Quilt” No. 1, finished yesterday! It was fun to stitch in some of my favorite natural scenes and landmarks from this city I love so much… and to blend them with fabrics from the many cultures which make this such a quirky, lively place to be: African block prints, Vietnamese tigers, Japanese cranes in flight, Mexican flowers in bloom–we have so much to be grateful for, in this outpost on the far western side of the country.
Hint: those T-shirts and the tiny pin represent local landmarks which will be featured in “All Star Seattle Quilts” Nos. 2 and 3, coming for summer!
And now, about that weather…
Feeling blah and still aching from the shoulder where I crashed down, quite incorrectly, during a speedy Aikido roll on Monday, I was surprised and encouraged by these lines discovered during my morning reading, and so I share them for you.
“Every man beholds his human condition with a degree of melancholy. As a ship aground is battered by the waves, so man, imprisoned in mortal life, lies open to the mercy of coming events.”
“God enters by a private door into every individual.”
“Our spontaneous action is always the best.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Intellect” in The Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Modern Library edition, p. 293-94.
Hang in there. You are not alone.
And some pretty pictures to remind us of what lovely things we can hold and create and appreciate, with our hands and simply by walking outside in nature, despite being shipwrecked in morality!
Featured is Alice in Wonderland Quilt No. 4, photographed yesterday at Green Lake in Seattle, WA.
Hello again readers,
I’m as surprised as the next person to see that I’m still in the grips of face mask mania, 111 days later. As the hilarious (yet dead serious) comedian and fellow seamstress Kristina Wong pointed out yesterday in a cool event hosted by Creative Capital, and my own experience has confirmed (see letter from Debbie), it does seem that something is wrong in this country, when senior citizens–our teachers, our parents, our beloved elders and fellow humans–must appeal to strangers for the protection they need from a dire plague. Hmmm.
At any rate, the face mask sewing continues, as does my desire to start producing the Respect Quilts announced some days ago! Some progress has been made, as you’ll see in the pics below. They show the fabrics I’ve gathered and the embellishments made to the Harlem Toile de Jouy by Sheila Bridges Design in NYC. (I especially enjoyed making the woman look like a teacher!)
Another day, another link in our connections, another chance for hope…
These face masks celebrate the peaceful #Black Lives Matter protests which have marked 2020 in Seattle and ushered in hopes for a more equitable future.
– Available in Large, Adult, and Petite sizes
– Attached by black cotton ties printed with colorful peace symbols. Extra long ties for all hairstyles!
– The latest in retro-chic style (see the June 2020 Vogue!)
– Sold in sets of two masks
– 100% cotton front and back. The fronts are in bright orange and red batik, printed with a black silkscreen of the Seattle cityscape. The backs are made of tight-woven white cotton for superior protection.
– Created from New York Times pattern (April 1, 2020): page A15
– Lined with interfacing for a crisp look with no ironing required
– Include the adorable HGBG puppy dog logo
– Free shipping to anywhere in the USA.
– 50% of proceeds will be donated to the local arm of the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union, the nation’s premier civil rights and civil liberties organization. Clients will receive a copy of the receipt from the ACLU when this fund-raiser is over.
– Your purchase supports a Seattle small business and promotes fair and equal civil rights for all!
-Limited availability; only 25 will be made. Order today from the Honey Girl Books and Gifts Etsy store.
Why? Because Black Lives Matter.
P.S. Wonder who that handsome smiling man is, in the background on the right? It’s Langston Hughes (1901-1967): a great African-American activist and writer, and judging from the touching voice of his poems, a beautiful human being. Listen to him recite “I, Too Sing America.”
Exhausted, heart-sick, anxious and wretched? Me too. But we need to get over it. I got a surge of new energy–and humility–this morning from reading the powerful article in the New York Times Op-Ed section by Chad Sanders (author of the forthcoming book, Black Magic). The article is accompanied by the image above, by Hanna Barczyk, which says it all: hey white folks, stop drowning black people in your crocodile tears!
Basically, Sanders is here to chastise us–white people like me who’ve written to our black friends this week–and to explain why our messages are misguided and tiring. Black people are drowning in our smug letters and texts, he says. Moreover, he points out that us telling people, “Don’t feel the need to respond,” is wrong on all accounts: it is oppressive, condescending and not appreciated by the recipient. (How would you like it if someone told you how to feel? or not to feel?)
Most usefully, he provides instructions on what we CAN do, if we want to do something meaningful. As he writes, “please, stop sending #love. Stop sending positive vibes. Stop sending your thoughts. Here are three suggestions on more immediately impactful things to offer instead:
*Chad Sanders, “White Friends, Fight Anti-Blackness,” New York Times (6/6/20): A21.
Being a good student, I immediately got out my wallet and visited the link on Anti-Racist and Social Justice Resources of my favorite local public radio station, KEXP. After studying some options, I chose to donate $100 to National Bail Out. I like their slim organization–run by volunteers–and their clear mission: this is a “Black-led and Black-centered collective of abolitionist organizers, lawyers and activists building a community-based movement to support our folks and end systems of pretrial detention and ultimately mass incarceration. We are people who have been impacted by cages — either by being in them ourselves or witnessing our families and loved ones be encaged. We are queer, trans, young, elder, and immigrant.” Learn more at www.nationalbailout.org.
In conclusion, please excuse me, black friends, if I annoyed you or wasted your time with my emails this week. And I thank you, Chad Sanders, for helping me understand how I can help with funding organizations like National Bail Out. On a lighter note, I’m thrilled to see one of my clients wearing one of my face masks to a local demonstration! (Looking good, Shep!)
p.s. I’m still moving forward on plans for the “Respect” quilt project, and the special offer of a Honey Girl quilt for only $100 is still good for one more day! See day 73 for details.
fyi: no face masks made yesterday, but production resumes today…
I’m excited today to announce a new idea afoot and to request any feedback you may have to share about the “Respect” quilt project which was inspired by the many beautiful fabrics I’ve purchased from Black-owned businesses around the USA this week (above):
The “Respect” quilt project: allies at work
The “Respect” quilt is a result of Black and white creators working together to honor Black women’s beauty, history, and resilience.
The first one, underway, is being created by a former teacher, a white woman, for a former student of hers, a Black woman in South Bend, Indiana. When in her class at age 15, the young woman wrote and illustrated a short story, Overcoming Adversity, which stayed in the mind of her teacher all these years. (Discussions are afoot about revising it and publishing it with Honey Girl Books and Gifts LLC.)
The “Respect” quilt features African fabrics (waxes and Ankara cottons), Afrocentric fabrics, such as Harlem Toile de Jouy designed by Sheila Bridges (NYC), and other fabrics purchased from African-American business women across the USA. It is the intention to celebrate and honor black womanhood that we all share.
Ideas? email: firstname.lastname@example.org
And yesterdays’ face mask production fyi, the final batch for North Seattle College! (if you look carefully, you’ll see that all 45 masks made over the past days are uniquely different, to honor the diverse identities of the No. Sea. College faculty, staff and students!):