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…
Trivia Quiz for The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (1920; winner 1921 Pulitzer Prize)
(with answers below)
For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 4/24/22
1. Husband, Wife, Stranger? May Archer (née Welland) and her husband Newland Archer seem to understand and love each other in their own way. But they also find fault and misunderstand each other. What one trait does May not have, according to her husband?
a. she takes care of herself
b. she lets her imagination run wild
c. she is loyal and gallant
d. she prefers to ignore unpleasantness
e. she is a true New Yorker and knows how to act
2-5. Social Portraits. Familial, societal, and marital obligations loom large over the characters in The Age of Innocence; those characters who are unmarried or estranged from their families are seen as lonely outcasts. Yet even the most privileged seem pitiable. Match quote to the character. Characters include: a. M. Rivière; b. Newland Archer; c. Countess Ellen Olenska; d. May Welland
2. “’Sameness—sameness!’ he muttered, the word running through his head like a persecuting tune…”
3. “I want to cast off all my old life, to become just like everybody else here. … If you knew how I hate to be different!”
4. “You musn’t think that a girl knows as little as her parents imagine.”
5. “Ah, good conversation—there’s nothing like it, is there? The air of ideas is the only air worth breathing.”
6. New York, circa 1870: A Uniquely Historic Urban Setting. There are many famous and familiar places named in The Age of Innocence, where the action mostly stays in New York city. Which one of the following places is not named?
a. Grace Church
b. Washington Square
c. Metropolitan Museum of Art
d. a home on West 23rd Street
e. the Academy of Music
f. Central Park
g. the Empire State Building
h. Wall Street
7. Intimacy and nostalgia. Some of the most poignant passages endeavor to describe times past, longing, and how people who are otherwise intimate perceive life so differently. Which one of the following is not in the novel?
a. “You never did ask each other anything, did you? And you never told each other anything. You just sat and watched each other, and guessed at what was going on underneath.”
b. “Odd, he thought, how the thought of childhood keeps coming back to me—the result of seeing Clarissa, perhaps; for women live much more in the past than we do, he thought.”
c. “She was frank, poor darling, because she had nothing to conceal, assured because she knew of nothing to be on her guard against.”
d. “My good father abhorred hurry. But now we live in a constant rush.”
8. Style and technique. With her mixture of omniscience and interior monologue, Wharton’s narrative provides readers with a feeling of listening to the characters’ most secret and changeable thoughts. Which one of the following thoughts occurs to the hero, Newland Archer?
a. “Don’t let us be like all the others!”
b. “Women ought to be as free as we are—”
c. “We can’t behave like people in novels, though, can we?”
d. “It’s worth everything isn’t it, to keep one’s intellectual liberty; not to enslave one’s powers of appreciation, one’s critical independence?”
9. Keywords and thoughts recur in Wharton’s description of upper-class New York society. Which one of the following quotes is not drawn from Wharton’s book?
a. “keep out the ‘new people’”
b. “rather bad form”
c. “morbidly sensitive”
d. “low-toned comments”
e. “a naïve, generous country”
f. “it’s confoundedly dull”
g. “ritual was precise and inflexible”
h. “the occasion was a solemn one”
10-11. Maxims or life lessons. Similar to many of her contemporaries, Wharton peppers her novel with pithy bits of wisdom. Which two of the following are from The Age of Innocence?
a. “Living’s too much trouble unless one can get something big out of it.”
b. “The worst of doing one’s duty was that it apparently unfitted one for doing anything else.”
c. “It seems stupid to have discovered America only to make it into a copy of another country.”
d. “The children you don’t especially need, you have always with you, like the poor. But the bright ones get away from you.”
12. High tech and futurist scenarios. Which one of the following modern ideas and inventions is not in the Age of Innocence?
a. long-distance telephoning
b. 5-day Atlantic ship crossings, from the US to Europe
c. women’s suffrage
d. electric lighting
e. Debussy’s music
13. Age = wisdom? At the beginning, Newland Archer seems to be in his early twenties. How old is he at the end of the book?
a. 57 years old
7. b. (That quote is from Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway.)
9. e. (That quote is from Willa Cather, My Ántonia.)
10.-11. b. and c.
A special thanks to Carl and Daniel for the violets from their garden, featured in the nosegay seen above: a symbol of Wharton’s lost world and the nostalgia we all feel for long-lost times, places, and loves…
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.
One good thing about this pandemic is the creativity released around the world, when people have had time to do… well, whatever. People I know have been baking and planting gardens. Others have been making music. I’ve been sewing. But the best creation I’ve seen yet came to light today thanks to the New York Times article about the giant laughing kookaburra created in Brisbane, Australia by Dr. Farvardin Daliri.
I love Dr. Daliri’s thoughts on creativity: “My way of art is to worship what’s in front of me and appreciate with gratitude.” Noticing how people were growing depressed and anxious as the pandemic took hold, he says, “I think this is a time we need to reach out to each other. We may not meet all the requirements of people’s material happiness, but spiritually we can make them happy.” The article ends by noting that the kookaburra’s laugh is so infectious that it encourages real birds to join in. Check out the video; you will laugh too!
I’m smiling still… Thank you, Dr. Farvardin Daliri. You are making the world a better place, one smile at a time.
yesterday’s face mask production, fyi:
Today I went out into the “world” for the first time in eleven weeks, and it was strange. People seem tentative, spooked. “Convalescent” was the word that kept dogging my steps, even though I feel fine and just got a sterling bill of health. Everybody seems to be limping around, being super careful as if we’re emerging from a catastrophe or long illness, even if we’re perfectly healthy. Of course, some of them may actually be convalescing from an illness or COVID-19. But I think it’s deeper than that: our whole society is in mourning for what we’ve lost, and it will take some time for us to get our spring back.
Walking around on the breezy streets of the West Seattle Junction, which is usually jam-packed on such a beautiful day, most of the people wore masks. (My Honey Girl limited edition puppy logo mask was so comfortable!) It was weird at first to see those blank faces. Suddenly you cannot “read” people, and you realize how many psychological clues you miss, when a person’s mouth, lips, and nose are hidden from view. Seeing people with half-faces makes them look blank, or sad, or indifferent.
So here’s an idea for “the new normal”: smile. Just for the hell of it, smile. Make your eyes twinkle.
Smiles show, just from the eyes. I tested it with some people today and they said, “Yes, smiles show, even from under masks.” So smile! It shows! (and you don’t have to worry about the spinach between your teeth)
Photo credits: MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images https://observer.com/2020/02/coronavirus-crisis-face-masks/
Yesterday’s face mask production:
Q: How to be a good mom?
A: The best answer I can give, as a long-time member of that bittersweet club known as motherhood, comes from Epictetus (or the kids on the playground): MYOB, mind your own business.
As readers of The Art of Living know, there is a chapter entitled, “Disregard What Doesn’t Concern You.” It begins like this:
“Spiritual progress requires us to highlight what is essential and to disregard everything else as trivial pursuits unworthy of our attention. Moreover, it is actually a good thing to be thought foolish and simple with regard to matters that don’t concern us. Don’t be concerned with other people’s impressions of you” [or of your children]. “They are dazzled and deluded by appearances. Stick with your purpose. This alone will strengthen your will and give your life coherence.” The Art of Living, p. 20.
That’s all there is. Sounds easy, right?
It’s not. But it is a good goal.
If you can bite your tongue and think about how much you love your child, all the time, just that, you’ll be a great mom. [As kids are wont to remind us sometimes, they did not ask to be born. So our job is to accompany them in this journey of life. None of us chose to be born. And it’s hard to live with purpose. But what other life would you want?]
p.s. If you can do the same thing for yourself, you’ll probably feel much better about her, too. Works for husbands also. And dogs. Cats who pee on the rug, not so much…
fyi: yesterday’s face mask production, and packages ready for pick-up
Hello, here I am again. After listening by chance to Kraftwerk’s song about the pocket calculator yesterday (on KEXP, naturally), I have been thinking about how we love numbers. LOVED THAT SONG! Loved how it mocks our imagined control over life, “I’m the Operator of my Pocket Calculator” (as if the numbers did not control us). And loved that the DJ played it on the request of a 5-year-old girl.
On April 6, I wrote to a friend: “I’ve now got 22 face mask orders which will keep me busy for weeks. I have been making all kinds of lists and counting things, to control life, I now realize, it’s sort of funny. I started going for long solitary morning walks a while back too, and have been doing that consistently: today will be Day Nine. Not to mention that we are soon to enter Week 4 of Shelter-in-Place, and I’m on Day 18 of my blog chronicle of the crisis. hahaha what funny creatures we are. Makes me think of a children’s book: Magnus Maximus, A Marvelous Measurer. Pretty cute book.”
On Numbers. PART TWO:
Today, May 7: Today’s list is up to order no. 82 and I’m working on no. 52. I’ve made 270 face masks since April 2. It is Day 40 of my walks. I no longer follow a plan, rather I’ve come to prefer Short, Steep, and Solitary. (and Sunny, if possible). Easy to find out here, since our house is on the tip of a small mountain range. We are in Week 8 of Shelter-in Place, and I’m on Day 49 of this blog chronicle of the COVID-19 crisis.
Blah blah blah, numbers can only do so much for the spirit. Maybe that’s why Kraftwerk made their funny pocket calculator song. Very cheerful, wryly funny and catchy! Those high-pitched beeps work like an anti-depressant.
I’m off down the hill now, to blow all those numbers out of my head. Freed of that burden, the empty head will listen instead of striving to achieve some distant goal; listen to all the sounds my world has to offer—doubtless some mechanized pounding of pile drivers or tooting boat horns coming across Elliott Bay, but also the sea lions’ barks, sea gull cries, and other “little melodies.”
Thank you Kraftwerk, for opening up the fabulous world of electronic music, and RIP Florian Schneider. Wish I’d known you earlier…but I’ll never forget your music.
P.S. yesterday’s mask production:
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.
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?’”*
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!’”
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:
*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).