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American literature art conflict creativity friendship quilts work

day 78, a way forward: the Respect quilt

Hello readers,

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: juliawsea@gmail.com

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!):

Face masks made on June 4 2020

 

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American literature art creativity English literature friendship happiness humor quilts

day 48, frivolous thoughts

If today’s newspaper were a living creature, it would come wrapped in a terrifying miasma of toxic effects. “Hot Zones Shift, Leaving No Hope for a Speedy End,” moans one headline, “Mystery Illness Linked to Virus Sickens Young,” screams another, and rounding out page one is an in-depth bleeding wound: “Trials of a Pennsylvania Street as Contagion and Fear Sped In.” Yet deep inside the guts of the paper, on page C5, is a heart beating wildly, “spellbound by desire and imagination.” Brought to us from an American poet named Wayne Koestenbaum, who I immediately imagined being friends with–he would be a prickly, intense, hilarious kind of friend, I think.

wayne_koestenbaum_pic

I seized upon the review of Wayne Koestenbaum’s new book, Figure It Out, the way a shipwreck victim might pull herself into a lifeboat, with relief and delight to be on familiar ground again, among the living. I love the whole article, and send out thanks to Parul Sehgal for such a fine interpretation of what must be a hard book to read. But it is the first paragraph that really got me:

“Here’s Something Strange: as babies learn to speak, they don’t merely imitate adult speech. They often produce phonemes—units of sound—not found in any known language: complex vowels, consonants and clicks. The linguist Roman Jakobson called this stage of language acquisition ‘tongue delirium’.”

TONGUE DELIRIUM!  WHAT A DELIGHTFUL THOUGHT!

He goes on to discuss what that means when an adult tries to recapture it in writing, because that is Wayne Koestenbaum’s gift, noting Lewis Carroll among others.

“AHA,” I thought, thinking of my Alice in Wonderland quilts, and the happy moments spent with that book. There’s where we go next. So many choices!

 

There is the delightful song of the Mock Turtle, for example, which begins, “’Will you walk a little faster?’ said a whiting to a snail, / There’s a porpoise close behind us, and he’s treading on my tail. / See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance! / They are waiting on the shingle—will you come and join the dance? / Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you join the dance?’”*

mock turtle

Or there is the impotent rage of the Red Queen, when Alice replies that she does not know the identity of the cards on the ground: “’How should I know?’ said Alice, surprised at her own courage. ‘It’s no business of mine.’ The Queen turned crimson with fury, and, after glaring at her for a moment like a wild beast, began screaming, ‘Off with her head! Off with—’ ‘Nonsense!’ said Alice, very loudly and decidedly, and the Queen was silent.”

The Mad Hatter’s song is very pleasant, sing it with me now: “’Twinkle, twinkle, little bat! / How I wonder what you’re at!’”

Let us all ponder deeply the Cheshire Cat. As Alice says, “I’ve often seen a cat without a grin, but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!’”

Tennel_Cheshire_proof

Of course, no foray into frivolous thoughts is complete without a few lines, at least from  “Jabberwocky,” (from Through the Looking-Glass): “‘Twas brillig and the slithy toves / Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: / All mimsy were the borogroves, / And the mome raths outgrabe./ Beware the Jabberwocky, my son! / The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! / Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun / The frumious Bandersnatch!”

And lastly, “The Walrus and the Carpenter” must be read aloud RIGHT NOW!, so it can stick in your head all day long:

The Walrus and the Carpenter / Walked on a mile or so, / And when they rested on a rock / Conveniently low: / And all the little Oysters stood / And waited in a row. / “The time has come,” the Walrus said, / “To talk of many things: / Of shoes–and ships–and sealing wax–/ Of cabbages–and kings–/ And why the sea is boiling hot–/ And whether pigs have wings…”

(this right before he and the Carpenter ate them all with bread and butter. LOL)

I don’t know about you, but I feel refreshed!  Those funny words created the effect of a “bain de mots” (word-bath, just as mingling with a group is known as prendre un bain de foule). A departure from grim headlines takes us back to a part of our brain that also needs companionship… the universe of unknown, imaginary, frivolous thoughts. Why not go there today?

(P.s. you just did).

___

Fyi, yesterday’s face masks:

Masks produced on May 5 2020

 

*Lewis Carroll, song of the Mock Turtle, p. 102; the Queen’s rage, p. 82; the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, p. 73; the Cheshire Cat, p. 67; “Jabberwocky,” p. 148; “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” p. 185.  From The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, ed. Martin Gardner, illus. John Tenniel (New York: W.W. Norton, 2000).

 

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American literature art children creativity design friendship happiness music wisdom

Day 32: “Shameika”: Très cool.

You really know you’ve been listening to the radio a lot when you know who “Shameika” is. And you actually know who’s being written about in the media. Case in point: Fiona Apple, and her song “Shameika.” (Or “Shameika Said I Have Potential. Shameika Said I Have Potential. Shameika Said I Have Potential.”—you just keep on wanting to say it. It’s hypnotic.) The song’s dissonant rhythms and jarring effects reminded me of walking down the hall in high school, by the banging of metal locker doors and kids throwing words around like hand grenades.

Très cool.

In today’s New York Times, not one but four music critics join voices to explain the many ways Fiona Apple’s album is a “bold, cathartic, challenging masterpiece.” (And I’m going to order my copy asap from Easy Street Records!). Critic Lindsay Zoladz addresses the Shameika song, writing:

“One of the album’s unifying themes is women and Apple’s relationships with them, not in a rah-rah #empowerment sense but in a much more complicated and often very raw manner. A standout is “Shameika,” named for a schoolmate of Apple’s who—in a eureka moment for the artist that she admits Shameika probably doesn’t remember—told our antsy, tortured, self-doubting future songwriter that she “had potential.” The verses are chaotic torrents of piano and percussion, and then the world suddenly stops as Apple sings, in an almost hammy, Elton John kind of way, ‘But… Shameika said I had potential.’”

That is all good and fine but when I saw the photo of Fiona Apple—skinny white chick with long dark hair—and that she was raised in Harlem, I knew that Shameika was black.  That is key to the song!!!  Because it builds on what the critic should know, (shouldn’t they?) and admit: if you’re a neurotic white girl and a black girl thinks you’re cool, well, you suspect that it may actually deep down somewhere be true. It’s a bit of white culture, don’t you know… And it’s an amazing feeling.

(Fiona Apple’s young life in Harlem was harrowing. According to her wiki-bio, “At age 12, Apple was raped outside the apartment she shared with her mother, step-father and sister in Harlem. She subsequently developed an eating disorder, purposely slimming her developing body, which she saw as ‘bait’ for potential predators. ‘I definitely did have an eating disorder,’ she recalled. ‘What was really frustrating for me was that everyone thought I was anorexic, and I wasn’t. I was just really depressed and self-loathing.'”

So you can imagine when Shameika said she had potential, it was really, really, really cool. It was ruminate all the way home in your head and write about in your diary cool. Those words lifted her, til she was soaring in the sky on the wings of cool…

Nice.

Can’t wait to listen more to my favorite station, KEXP, after my quiet walk around the neighborhood.

fyi: here’s yesterday’s face mask production, for a mother and two children (daughter–blue; son–red).

Masks made on April 19 2020

btw: Keep those orders coming! If you can be patient, I’ll just keep on sewing face masks! I’m loving the sewing, actually (as long as I practice T’ai chi, take care of posture, and dance around the room while working!). I also love connecting to people through beautiful fabrics and careful stitching. My hope is that the people feel someone cares about them, and the masks endow them with a sense of dignity and style. As if we too, all of us, despite all this bad and sad stuff that’s going on, we too “have potential.”

photo of Fiona Apple by Sachyn – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79308040

Fiona Apple joins the Watkins Family Hour house band for Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited at Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors series, August 8, 2015. Photo by Sachyn Mital.

 

Categories
art friendship happiness music nature

day 23: good vibrations

Hello again,

through the clouds april 11 2020

During a little walk around the neighborhood this morning, I enjoyed seeing the sun peeking through the clouds and immediately started singing in my head, “I Can See Clearly Now.”  (Even if I can’t).

Jimmy Cliff, we miss you!  Time for another concert in Seattle!

Also saw some cool driftwood furniture on my outward-bound journey, which was made even lovelier with a neighbor sitting there, on my homeward journey. A smile and brief chat really do make the difference.

Keep up those good vibrations, neighbors!

And finally, here are the face masks produced yesterday. One order includes three Petite-size masks for Easter baskets!  What a nice Easter bunny those kids know…

 

I Can See Clearly Now

By Johnny Nash

I can see clearly now the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day

I think I can make it now the pain is gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day

Look all around, there’s nothing but blue skies
Look straight ahead, there’s nothing but blue skies

I can see clearly now the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day
Oh what a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Johnny Nash

I Can See Clearly Now lyrics © Nashco Music, Inc

Categories
creativity friendship wisdom work

day 19: a kinship of intelligence

It’s a nice grey Tuesday out here in Seattle, a good time to be quiet and work. A Meditation:

“When you are troubled about anything, you have forgotten … how close is the kinship between a man and the whole human race, for it is a community, not of a little blood or seed, but of intelligence.  … every man lives in the present time only, and loses only this.”

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book XII, 26.

Yesterday’s production lies below; and off we go for more mask creation!

Categories
art creativity death friendship generosity music wisdom

day sixteen: lean on me, R.I.P. to a great musician

So much sorrowful news this morning. No need to repeat it here, you know what I’m talking about. But as I hiked around the quiet city this morning and felt so sad, a song started singing in my head and the image above came to mind. I just kept hearing Bill Withers singing “Lean On Me.” He died, you may have heard. Let’s just take a moment to sing that song, honor his memory, and remember what a difference he made.

03withers1-sub2-superJumbo

Lean On Me, by Bill Withers
Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow
Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on
Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won’t let show
You just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on
Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on
You just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on
If there is a load you have to bear
That you can’t carry
I’m right up the road
I’ll share your load
If you just call me (call me)
If you need a friend (call me) call me uh huh (call me) if you need a friend (call me)
If you ever need a friend (call me)
Call me (call me) call me (call me) call me
(Call me) call me (call me) if you need a friend
(Call me) call me (call me) call me (call me) call me (call me) call me (call me)
With thanks to Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Bill Withers
Lean On Me lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management
Categories
creativity design friendship health Uncategorized

day 14: face mask mania begins

sewing face masks day two April 2 2020

After another invigorating solitary walk this morning, I’ve been deeply focused on mastering the art of sewing cotton face masks.  The time flew by!  Pictured are my first four adult size, and one petite. I’m making them out of nice cotton, so they will last many washings. After all, they may become a semi-permanent part of our wardrobes in the days ahead…

Having a concrete way to help out during this crisis makes all the difference.  I’m offering them on a complimentary basis to medical personnel, and $5.00 each for other folks. Cash on delivery: pick them up at my home studio in West Seattle (with sufficient social distancing, of course). Thanks again to Farhad Manjoo and the New York Times for publishing the pattern and directions–that is a page I will treasure forever.

Wishing you a day of purpose–it’s the best route to happiness!

Categories
art creativity dogs friendship quilts

Holiday greetings to one and all!

I send cheerful wishes through the rain and fog of a dark Seattle afternoon. It’s 2:56pm; soon it will be pitch black. Gloomy ? not us. Why not? Easy. Q: What could be better than a nice big dog on a rainy day in a small house, to give you  a cozy feeling ?  Here’s Honey Girl with a clue.

Honey girl and Xmas tree Dec 2019.jpg

A: nothing.  Except maybe a nice big dog on a rainy day in a small house with an espresso machine. 🙂  Let’s crank up La Cimbali for an afternoon pick-me-up…

 

And what could be better than one Frankenstein wall-hanging? Two Frankenstein quilt/wall-hangings!  No. 2 and no. 3 are now for sale: grab one while you can, on the HGBG etsy store!

 

And put your feet up when you can. Take it easy on yourself this year.

Happy holidays to all!

Categories
creativity death design friendship quilts

Baby shower count-down, day three

It is now Monday night, and the baby shower is Saturday afternoon… will it get done in time? How will I do all that time-consuming hand-finishing, given my obligations to the Parks Department (Seattle Urban Nature Guide training starts this week), family visits, and a concert Friday night! (Should I cancel and stay home and work instead?) Such were my worries last night.

But after Qigong class this morning, I could only smile. It will be what it will be.  And in the meantime, each and every visit, obligation, and opportunity for joy (to listen to music, to see loved ones, or to visit the forest, for instance) will be fully embraced. It is fun to work hard and be creative, but one must not let the ambition for a big achievement  drag you into exhaustion. I know, because I used to do that all the time!

So I’m stopping for today. (Well, it is after midnight, but only a little.)

What you see in the photos here is the whole concept of the quilt at last.  It is a bright and cheerful riot of pattern and color from around the world, anchored in Seattle. It will serve to buoy up the little person who’s to arrive in this sea of humanity. If you look closely at the bottom right (the “end” of the story), Paddington Bear’s there, as always, to lead the little one on her way to the future…

Enjoy my favorite square too! She seems to be on the threshold, standing in a doorway; maybe it’s a portal to another world–notice the skulls on either side, in the bright red-on-pink Mexican design? It’s a story in the story: an homage to the dead in a gift to a  newborn.

 

 

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art creativity friendship generosity happiness memory quilts T'ai chi work

Day seven, happy again, and already looking forward to the next quilt!

Day seven and almost done.jpg

What a difference a day makes.  Gone are the dark clouds that bore down on my spirit yesterday. Today I finished up the machine quilting with relative ease and prepared a binding out of light blue cloud material.  It will give the quilt a light and airy feeling; hopefully it will help the little boy fall asleep and have happy dreams.

Two things helped make today more productive: 1) the confidence gained from yesterday’s struggles and the technical progress achieved; and 2) the happy prospect of meeting a new friend after work. We met to discuss the “Write YOUR Story” workshop which we’ll be teaching together this fall to local kids.

My new friend is a collector of vintage typewriters (is there any other kind?!). I remember them well; once upon a time, I wrote an entire thesis on a manual typewriter like the one pictured here.  It was hard work and definitely discouraged any rewriting one might think of doing. The anguish of retyping entire pages after finding a mistake, and having to measure the paper for footnote placements at the bottom, is still a painful memory.  Thank goodness for laptops!

portable royal typewriter.jpg

Yet in listening to his enthusiastic description of old typewriters, and anecdotes about the people he’s been meeting at a local typewriter repair shop, I started to feel enthusiastic for writing in ways I thought I’d lost forever…  It occurred to me that all kinds of new vistas may open up, like holding Type-Ins at a local coffee shop, or maybe setting up a booth for poetry-writing at the West Seattle Market next summer! The sound of clicking keys and the bell ringing as the carriage flies back and forth would bring a new dimension to the scene; it would prompt a flood of memories for some of us and intrigue others who’ve been raised on flat soundless screens. Who knows what little treasures of poetry and prose may materialize on site? Wouldn’t it be fun to get kids involved too?!

Meanwhile, I’m already thinking about my next baby quilt.  It will be for a fellow T’ai chi student at the Seattle Kung Fu Club who’s having a baby this fall, and everybody at the club will be invited to submit a scrap of fabric for the quilt.  The paper you see on the quilt-in-progress has the Chinese character for child; it will become a sign inviting donations of fabric for her quilt.

Connecting with these new people is the secret ingredient to happiness and creative development.  Getting to know people in my new/old hometown, and thinking of ways to enrich our lives together, gives me the impetus I need to keep going as a teacher, a writer, and as a maker of quilts.  That emotional foundation makes sense, even though I didn’t realize it until just now.  As Twyla Tharp writes in her wonderful book, The Creative Habit: “Without passion, all the skill in the world won’t lift you above craft. Without skill, all the passion in the world will leave you eager but floundering. Combining the two is the essence of the creative life.”

That’s it for now; bon weekend!