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children death loss memory

Trivia Quiz for “The Discomfort of Evening” by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

Trivia Quiz for The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

(winner of the International Booker Prize, 2020)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 11/20/22

(answers below)

A. Memoirs of a Child

1. Motivation. Multiple reasons lie behind the choice to write these (fictional) memoirs, yet none are explicitly stated by the narrator (who shares some features of the author’s own life). Which one of the following does not seem likely as a reason to write this book?

a. a great affection for family and desire to share funny and sweet stories

b. a victim’s effort to seek justice—divine or societal—for the suffering she’s endured

c. a novelist’s desire to shock city folk by exploiting brutal and grotesque aspects of rural life

d. a one-time believer’s want to expose harsh views promulgated by the Dutch Reformed Church.

2. Duration. How much time is covered in the narration?

a. Nine years: she is 12 years old at the beginning and 21 at the end.

b. One month: she is 10 at beginning and end, and the time goes only from December to January.

c. One night: it all happens on the terrible night her brother drowned, when she was 10.

d. Two years: she grows from age 10 to age 12.

B. A Strange Worldview

3. Maxims. The Discomfort of Evening includes numerous judgments and lessons on life by the young narrator. Which one of the following does she not say (or think)?

a. “Anger has hinges that need oiling.”

b. “There’s nothing here to smile about.”

c. “For our generation, professional prestige lay most significantly in the moral worth of one’s employer.”

d. “Everything that requires secrecy here is accepted in silence.”

4. Home sweet home? Which one of the following does not describe the narrator’s home?

a. They have only three TV channels: Nederlands 1, 2, and 3.

b. They live on a farm, with various animals including cows, rabbits, and chickens.

c. They consider stewed cow’s udder with mustard to be a special treat.

d. They are hiding Jews in their basement, the narrator thinks, because her mom stores food there.

e. Their home is beloved far and wide for the music, friendship, and joy one finds there.

C. People and Their Problems

5. Strained relations abound. Which one of the following is not in this book?

a. A brother sexually abuses his sister.

b. A boy sexually abuses a neighbor girl.

c. A girl masturbates with a stuffed animal.

d. A mother becomes grief-stricken, then numb, then suicidal, faced with her life’s challenges.

e. A father kills his son, to teach him a lesson.

f. A girl suffers from long-term constipation and her father tries to “cure” her.

g. A boy forces a girl to kill an animal as a sacrifice.

6. A difficult world surrounds them. Which of the following maxims is not cited?

a. “Crows in a farmyard are an omen of death.”

b. “You don’t take rotten mandarins back to the greengrocer’s.”

c. “Mum doesn’t like made-up things, because stories in your imagination often leave out suffering and Mum thinks it should be part of things.”

d. “I promise to make you feel wanted, loved and cherished every single day.”

e. “Sometimes it’s good to frighten them a bit.”

7. Death is the central theme and end of this book. Which of the following is not from The Discomfort of Evening?

a. “You die fast or slowly and both things have their advantages and disadvantages.”

b. “Since death is inevitable, it’s best to forget about it. Carpe diem!”

c. “Death never just happens to you, there is always something that causes it. This time it was you. You can kill too.”

d. “I asked God if He please couldn’t take my brother Matthies instead of my rabbit.”

8. Marieke Lucas Rijneveld is also a poet and some lines are poignant or remarkable. Which of the following is not from The Discomfort of Evening?

a. “I only saw her lips moving and my mother’s pursed shut, like mating slugs.”

b. “What more can a bear want?” [the mother asks]. “Love, I think to myself, like the warmth in the cowshed of all those breathing cattle with a common goal—survival.”

c. A maid screams: “There was no reflection of him in the mirror!”

d. “There’s a drowned butterfly inside me.”

e. “Their hands were always searching for something and if you were no longer able to hold an animal or a person tenderly, it was better to let go and turn your attention to other useful things instead.”

9. Striking symbols. Which of the following is not a symbolic presence in this book?

a. a pet hamster is drowned in a glass of water, while three children watch

b. a child is forced to break open her piggy bank (in the form of a cow), with a hammer

c. an IUD (or “coil” birth control device) is found in a baby book

d. a painting becomes uglier and uglier, while the person in the painting becomes mean and cruel

e. a sign says: “LOOK OUT! TOADS CROSSING,” beside a road littered with crushed bodies

10. The message? Which of the following is not a quote from this book, on family and religion?

a. “It must have been most irksome to find himself bound by a hard-wrung pledge to stand in the stead of a parent to a strange child he could not love. “

b. “I’m beginning to have more and more doubts about whether I find God nice enough to want to go and talk to Him.”

c.  “It might sound crazy, but I miss my parents even though I see them every day.”

d. “One day I’d like to go to myself.”

Open question: Some might ask whether such a brutal, depressing story should be considered as “art,” let alone win the prestigious International Booker prize. As Alice Walker wrote: “If art doesn’t make us better, then what on earth is it for?”

ANSWERS

1. a.

2. d.

3. c. (That quote is from The Remains of the Day.)

4. e

5. e.

6. d. (That quote is from a website of loving quotations [https://www.ftd.com/blog/celebrate/love-words], certainly not from this book.)

7. b. (That quote is a platitude of my own invention.)

8. c. (That quote is from Dracula.)

9. d. (That plot is from The Picture of Dorian Gray.)

10. a. (That quote is from Jane Eyre.)

P.S. The open question remains open; we questioned what it means to be “better,” among other things…

**********

Join us next month, on Sunday December 11 at 3pm, when we will discuss two classic stories that have been adapted into movies. You are invited to view the films and compare them to the stories (if time permits).

The books to read are:

1. Arthur Schnitzler, Dream Story. Also known as Rhapsody: A Dream Novel, it is a 1926 novella by the Austrian writer Schnitzler (128 pages). It was adapted into a film by Stanley Kubrick called Eyes Wide Shut (1999), starring Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise.

2. James Joyce, “The Dead.” First published in 1924, this story is the last one in the Irish writer Joyce’s collection of short stories, Dubliners. It is about 50 pages.  A film version of The Dead exists as well: it is the 1987 drama directed by John Huston, written by his son Tony Huston, and starring his daughter Anjelica Huston. 

Happy reading and viewing; hope to see you in December!

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English literature memory retirement wisdom

Trivia quiz for Iris Murdoch, “The Sea, The Sea”

                         Trivia Quiz for The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch (1978)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 10/30/22

With answers below

1. Why leave? Why go there? Many reasons lie behind the choice to leave London for a retreat, at the book’s beginning. Which one of the following is not cited by narrator Charles Arrowby?

a. “To repent a life of egoism”                      

b. “It is time to think about myself at last”

c. “It affords me a curious pleasure to … watch the violent forces which the churning waves, advancing or retreating, generate inside the confined space of the rocky hole.”

d. “I looked with timorous joy towards a stately house; I saw a blackened ruin.”

e. “(There is only one bed; I am not expecting visitors!)”

2. The Sea: a landscape of the mind. Charles reveals his changing feelings by reflecting on the sea. Which one of the following is not from Murdoch’s novel?

a. “Although the sea was fairly calm I had the same irritating difficulty getting out of it…. Swallowed a lot of water and cut my foot.”

b. “What is pertinent is the calmness… its sense of restraint.”

c. “The early dawn light hung over the rocks .. with an awful intent gripping silence, as if it had seized these faintly visible shapes and were very slowly drawing them out of a darkness in which they wanted to remain.”

d. “The sea was joyful and the taste of salt water was the taste of hope and joy. … Meeting my sea-dervish companion I shouted, ‘Now aren’t you glad you came to me?’”

3-6. Uneasy truths. The Sea, The Sea includes numerous lessons on life: some are of dubious value, others are heard then forgotten. Match the saying to the source. Characters include: a. Charles ; b. James; c. Rosina  d. local folks at the Black Lion inn

3. “A man would drown there in a second.”

4. “Every meal should be a treat and one ought to bless every day which brings with it a good digestion and the precious gift of hunger.”

5. “It’s so easy to frighten people.”

6. “People lie so, even we old men do. Though in a way, if there is art enough it doesn’t matter, since there is another kind of truth in the art.”

7. Marriage and desire: painful illusions. Which of the following quips is not from The Sea, The Sea?

a. “Our marriages have become a mere farce.”

b. “One of the horrors of marriage is that the partners are supposed to tell each other everything.”

c. “A marriage is so hideously private. Whoever illicitly draws back that curtain may well be stricken … by an avenging deity.”

d. “A long marriage is very unifying, even if it’s not ideal, and those old structures must be respected.”

8. The wisdom and mystery of James. As Charles mulls over his past, the reader gleans curious insights into his relationship with his cousin James. Which one of the following does not apply to James?

a. After Charles plunges into the sea, James rescues him in a miraculous way.

b. His London home is full of gold Buddhas, fetishes, and other oddities from the Orient

c. He was a Nazi sympathizer whose secrets, when revealed, caused a public disgrace.                       

d. As a boy, he was fond of custard cream biscuits, and he offers some to Charles during a visit.

e. He warns Charles to avoid myth-making, and to stay away from Hartley.

f. When reminiscing with Charles, James says, “What larks we had.”

g. At the end, Charles inherits James’s London house and moves there.

9. Titus: a Long-lost family member? Or a weird coincidence? Which one of the following phrases is not spoken by Titus Fitch to the narrator Charles?

a. “Are you my father?”

b “I want to go home.”

c. “Oh, the sea, the sea—it’s so wonderful. … A swim? Oh—yes.

d. “I’m against forcing people, I think they should be free.”

e. “We’ll get to know each other one day. There’s time.”

10. Happy ending? A chance encounter with some animals seems to put a happy ending on Charles’s retreat. What animals show up?

a. dolphins

b. sea turtles

c.  seals

d. rabbits

11. Yet one foe may persist: the mind. Which of the following is not a description of Charles’s thoughts toward the end of the book?

a. “My thoughts still had to be kept on a leash, and there were long dark passages down which they were straining to run.”

b. “My responsibility for Titus’s death, which now so largely occupied my mind, amounted to this: I had never warned him about the sea.”

c. “But suppose nothing happened .. and nothing happened…?”

d. “Time, like the sea, unties all knots.”

e. “Last night someone on a BBC quiz show did not know who I was.”

f.  “I have now been married ten years. I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest—blest beyond what language can express.”

ANSWERS

1. d. (That quote is from Jane Eyre.)

2. b. (That quote is from The Remains of the Day.)

3. d.

4. a.

5. c.

6. b.

7. a.  (That quote is from Père Goriot.)

8. c. (That reference applies to the employer of Stevens, in The Remains of the Day.)

9. b.

10. c.

11. f. (That is the ending of Jane Eyre.)

******

COME BACK NEXT MONTH, for our quiz on Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, The Discomfort of Evening (winner of the International Man Booker Prize, 2020).

Categories
English literature memory work

          Trivia Quiz for “The Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro

Trivia Quiz for The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 9/25/22

With answers below

A. The Journey

1. Duration and Motivation. Multiple reasons lie behind the trip undertaken by Stevens. Which one of the following is not cited as a reason by Stevens in his narration?

a. employer’s offer to pay for gas                  

b. visit to interview potential employee                    

c. no one to serve at Darlington Hall     

d. potential romance              

e. only 5-6 days

2. Landscapes of the Mind. Stevens reveals much of his psychology in reflections on the English countryside. Which one of the following is not from Ishiguro’s novel?

a. “I would say that it is the very lack of obvious drama or spectacle that sets the beauty of our land apart.”

b.  There were “long stones that stood on end, balancing themselves in a queer, miraculous way.”

c. “What is pertinent is the calmness… its sense of restraint.”

d. “While speeding along between large open fields … or else steering carefully through marvelous little villages … I found myself yet again turning over certain recollections from the past.”

B. The Memories that Reveal the Self

3. Maxims. The Remains of the Day includes numerous judgments and lessons on life. Which one of the following is not spoken by Stevens?

a. “By the very nature of a witticism, one is given very little time to assess its various possible repercussions before one is called to give voice to it, and one gravely risks uttering all manner of unsuitable things if one has not first acquired the necessary skill and experience.”

b. “The sad fact is that long-continued, pleasant normality becomes a bore.”

c. “For our generation, professional prestige lay most significantly in the moral worth of one’s employer.”

d. “There is one situation and one situation only in which a butler … may feel free to unburden himself… when he is entirely alone.”

4. A lofty, yet limited vocabulary: a sign of moral rectitude or rote thinking? Certain key words recur in Stevens’s narration. Which one does not run through The Remains of the Day?

a. dignity        

b. professional                       

c. restraint                  

d. error           

e. banter

f. loyalty                    

g. love            

h. role             

i. distinguished          

j. triumph

C. The Enigma of Other People

5. What one crucial moment captures the dynamic between Stevens and Miss Kenton?

a. The day she interviewed Winston Churchill in the library, contrary to the wishes of Stevens.

b. The morning they shared cocoa together in the quiet kitchen, while plotting a joke on the cook.

c. The night her aunt died, when he stood listening outside her room in the hall, but did not knock to offer condolences.

d. Their final decision to run away together to start a new life in South America!

6. Lord Darlington’s infamous career. As Stevens mulls over his past, the reader gleans increasingly unpleasant details of Lord D’s fall from favor. Which one of the following does not apply to Lord Darlington?

a. he used his home to conduct secret events that aided Hitler’s rise

b. he was a womanizer with several children he refused to acknowledge or help

c. he was a Nazi sympathizer                        

d. he forced Stevens to fire Jewish employees

7. Stevens, Sr.: the Archetypal Suffering Father? Readers of Balzac may see similarities between this father and Père Goriot. Which one of the traits does not appear in Ishiguro’s story?

a. a series of embarrassing humiliations       

b. an anonymous burial in a pauper’s cemetery

c. a bare garret room              

d. an absent wife        

e. a deathbed scene with little emotion                     

f. a cerebral hemorrhage                                

g. stilted relations with family

8. Tragi-comic asides. Stevens is enlisted to undertake the sexual education of a young man, Mr. Cardinal, at one point. What one phrase does Lord D. not proffer, to request this service?

a. “You are familiar, I take it, with the facts of life.”

b. “Sir David has been attempting to tell his son the facts of life for the last five years.”

c. “Be sure to remind him about consent, and treating women with respect.”

d. “Sir David finds the task rather daunting.”

e. “I’m terribly busy.”

f. “Be an awful lot off my mind.”

g. “Just convey the basic facts and be done with it.”

9. A chance encounter with Harry Smith challenges Stevens’s view of dignity and citizenship. What one phrase does Harry Smith not say in support of his views?

a. “There’s no dignity to be had in being a slave.”

b. “We owe it to the lads.”

c.  “The likes of you and I will never be in a position to comprehend the great affairs of today’s world.”

10. When Stevens is asked by a smalltown doctor, “You aren’t a manservant of some sort, are you?” his reaction is (choose one):

a. embarrassment                  

b. relief                      

c. shame                     

d. indignation

ANSWERS

1. d.

2. b. (That quote is from Daphne Dumaurier, Jamaica Inn.)

3. b. (That quote is from Sōseki Natsume, I Am a Cat.)

4. g. (“Love” is rarely mentioned in this work).

5. c.

6. b.

7. b.

8. c.  (That quote does not appear in Ishiguro’s novel; it was invented for the quiz.)

9. c. (Stevens voices that opinion, not Harry Smith.)

10. b.

Categories
English literature friendship memory

words, and a quilt, to wrap your mind around…

Making the All Star Seattle Quilts which are now keeping me busy brings to mind my hometown and all that I treasure about it. Is it any wonder that T.S. Eliot’s poem, “Little Gidding,” jumps into my thoughts? It too is about going home, time passing, things gone. Much about Seattle has changed too, since I grew up and first left town. Yet the symbols, imagery, and places in these quilts have all been chosen for their historical relevance and personal acquaintance–and there’s still enough to love. Sailboats, forests, mountains and bookstores, restaurants, record shops, and schools–all part of what makes living in Seattle so sweet, sometimes so heart-breaking.

Below some images from “All Star Seattle Quilt no. 2,” and some lines from Eliot’s beloved poem. Enjoy!


What we call the beginning is often the end

And to make and end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from.

And every phrase

And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,

Taking its place to support the others,

The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,

An easy commerce of the old and the new,

The common word exact without vulgarity,

The formal word precise but not pedantic,

The complete consort dancing together)

Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,

Every poem an epitaph.

And any action

Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat

Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.

Categories
American literature happiness loss memory

Trivia quiz on Edith Wharton, “The Age of Innocence”

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

Quotes                                                                                                         

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            

b. 42               

c. 78               

d. 85   

ANSWERS

1. b.

2. b.

3. c.

4. d.

5. a.                

6. g.

7. b.  (That quote is from Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway.)

8. b.

9. e. (That quote is from Willa Cather, My Ántonia.)

10.-11.  b. and c.

12. c.

13. a.

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…

Categories
art creativity death design memory wisdom

day 65: Clotho is awesome

Do you ever wonder why sewing is such a passion? Why it is so satisfying to create fine stitched work? Or to handle the smooth fabric and admire the tightly-woven, straight seams? If you suspect it’s connected to our desire for order, control, and symmetry, I agree. And I’d wager such longings explain the story of our mythic ancestress, Clotho, the Fate, who spins the thread of human life.

Clotho is one of our earliest fore-mothers, in a long line of women stitching. My history is probably like yours in some ways. I bet if you thought about your own family, you might find similar traditions of sewing, embroidery, quilting, or at least mending clothes (remember darning socks on a lightbulb?!)–arts and skills which are making a comeback at present, it seems… in this new Depression era.

My love of sewing is closely connected to my mother’s teachings, who learned it from her mother in Portland, OR, who likely learned it from her German-born mother. (That’s grandma as a tot, second from bottom right, and her mom sitting behind her with a baby on her lap.)

Grandma as a baby and her family White Salmon WA ca, 1915

Some of my fondest teenage memories have to do with sewing. (OK, I know! We were sewing store geeks!) Since I lived in the Bryant neighborhood and my friend lived in Laurelhurst, it was easy. We’d ride our bikes down to Stitch in Time, down by the U Village (before the U Village was chic), and spend hours designing our own special looks (Betsey Johnson was our idol), buying the fabrics, and then riding uphill—steeply—to our houses at the top of hills, to admire our stashes and make stuff. Both of us had learned it from our mothers with the help of Home Ed class at school. (Home Ed actually has a fascinating history and provides many key skills. I wish they’d put such “vocational” topics back into circulation in HS.)

Great-grandma's sewing machine

I am so attached to this heritage that I kept using grandma’s wrought-iron sewing machine (a 1928 White Rotary, above) until, after multiple attempts to repair it and after getting machine oil all over my hands one too many times, I sadly gave it up. (It’s still in the garage, of course.) My new machine, an industrial model Juki, was recommended by my sister-in-law, a fellow aficionado of textiles, who actually runs a flourishing interior design business in Seattle.

This is clearly a matriarchy of knowledge and skill, a source of power. Just look at our ancestor, Clotho, and her sisters!

Fates_tapestry_-460755563

Clotho is a mythological figure. In ancient Greek mythology, she is the one of the Three Fates or Moirai. Her role is a spinner; as she spins thread, she brings people to life. In this tapestry, called The Triumph of Death, or The 3 Fates, you can see how the three Fates work together. Her sister Fates, Lachesis and Atropos, draw out the thread of life (Lachesis) and cut it (Atropos). Thread represented human life and the decisions of Clotho and her sisters–how and when to begin, prolong, and end life–thus represented the fate of all people in society.*

WOW! That is one powerful sisterhood

I love how my quilts are now speaking to the face masks: Here is yesterday’s mask production, followed by two quilts from pre-COVID-19 days:

face masks made on May 22 2020

See how the ginkgo tree green, and the blue cranes, from “Kimono Silk Quilt no. 2” (above, left) have now shown up in face masks?  Also visible are face masks made of the black and white chessboard fabric, and black polka dots, from “Alice in Wonderland” small quilt no.1 (above, right). My stash is literally walking out the door! (not to worry, there’s plenty more)

 

Who cares if it’s geeky? Stitch on, sisters and nieces, near and far!

 

With love to Andrea, Shellie, and Jessie

 

info and imagery from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clotho and tapestry: Flemish, 1510-1520, Victorian and Albert Museum, London.

By This mediaUser:PriorymanOriginal workUnknown artist – Image by w:User:Prioryman, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53491807

Categories
American literature art Chinese literature creativity memory nature wisdom Zen philosophy

day 59: a good kind of weird: Fu shên (depicting soul)

A chance note in a newspaper article about ghosts in people’s houses led me back to Mai-Mai Sze’s book, The Tao of Painting, this morning, in search of insight about the art of capturing specters and ghosts. In early Chinese painting, Mai-Mai Sze explains, the literal aim was to represent the spirit of beings—deceased ancestors and figures of history, religion, and legend—who could influence and aid the living. The word for portraiture, fu shên, means to depict a soul.*

Today’s newspaper continues that tradition, in a way. The author, Molly Fitzpatrick, passes along portraits of nameless dead folks, and explains how they are making contact with the living. At its best, the article depicts their souls. Note the history of the young couple in Queens: the 31-year-old man shares the small space with his 27-year-old girlfriend (fwiw: both have professions that imply education; these are not typical “nut cases”). One night, he saw a small, older Asian woman in green scrubs standing at arm’s length from him in the bathroom. She appeared to be glowing, he said. On another occasion he awoke at night with the feeling that someone was tucking in his feet. He assumed it was his girlfriend, as they often tug the comforter back and forth, but it wasn’t. He explains, “It was so weird, dude. It was so weird.” But it is a good kind of weird!  As the reporter concludes: “But the incident left […] a lingering positive impression, as if whoever—or whatever—it was had been trying to make the couple feel more comfortable, or to mediate a potential conflict between them before it happened.”**

I would love to come back and haunt the living after I die too… with good karma, love and fellow-feeling. Laugh if you want, laugh if you can, but why not invest magical meaning into our daily lives? Who else will do it for us?!

😊

Peace to you, in the pandemic.

Yesterday’s face mask production (and some cheerful driftwood art).

 

* Mai-Mai Sze, The Tao of Painting, p. 42-43

**Molly Fitzpatrick, “Violating Spectral Distancing Rules” New York Times (May 17, 2020): ST 7.

Categories
art creativity French literature memory

day 57, how a mysterious necklace led to Baudelaire

Hello!

My morning walk took me on an unexpectedly southeastern route today, when I arrived at a corner, saw the sun, and turned abruptly to follow it. The warmth felt so good! That led across a bridge where I glimpsed this metaphor of change—a boat passing by—then to a park, site of the street art I captured a while back. It’s gone! All that is left are a few scraps of black paper. (We’ll have to just keep trusting the flux by ourselves, I guess.)

 

Shortly afterwards, it was while passing by a grocery store that I saw it: a mysterious black velvet necklace, elaborately jeweled in gold beads and embroidery.

mysterious necklace May 15 2020

Like a sunglass-wearing magpie, I stood transfixed, walked all around it, and poked it with my toe. In any other time, I would have picked it up, at least. (I might even have taken it home, washed it, taken out the seams, and stitched it into a new wall-hanging!) The temptation was great.

But no…

Instead I took a picture, and left it behind. But my mind took flight… into memories of Baudelaire. For you and me both, here are a few lines to share the pleasure, from “La Chevelure.” They show how an ordinary thing—hair—inspired the poet to conjure up the mysterious beauties of womanhood …  (English translation below)

“La Chevelure”

O toison, moutonnant jusque sur l’encolure !

O boucles ! O parfum chargé de nonchaloir !

Extase ! Pour peupler ce soir l’alcôve obscure

Des souvenirs dormant dans cette chevelure,

Je la veux agiter dans l’air comme un mouchoir !

 

La langoureuse Asie et la brûlante Afrique,

Tout un monde lointain, absent, presque défunt,

Vit dans tes profondeurs, forêt aromatique !

Comme d’autres esprits voguent sur la musique,

Le mien, ô mon amour ! nage sur ton parfum.

 

…  Fortes tresses, soyez la houle qui m’enlève !

 

“The Head of Hair”

 

Ecstatic fleece that ripples to your nape

And reeks of negligence in every curl!

To people my dim cubicle tonight

With memories shrouded in that head of hair,

I’d have it flutter like a handkerchief!

 

For torpid Asia, torrid Africa

–the wilderness I thought a world away—

Survive at the heart of this dark continent…

As other souls set sail to music, mine,

O my love! Embarks on your redolent hair.

 

Take me, tousled current…

Charles Baudelaire, The Flowers of Evil / Les Fleurs du mal, trans. Richard Howard, (Boston: David R. Godine, 1982), 30, 208.

from the sublime to the banal, here is yesterday’s mask production:

Face masks made on May 14 2020

Categories
children memory nature

day 43: May 1, memories of a sweet holiday

When I was a little girl, we used to celebrate May 1 by picking lilies of the valley (sometimes from the neighbors’ own gardens) and putting them on people’s doorsteps, then ringing the bell and running away to hide. From a distant hedge, we would watch the recipients’ reactions. That prank did constitute trespassing, I suppose, and the work occasioned some furious fits of giggles that led to hiccups, and possibly some uprooted plants, but no long-lasting damage. The neighbors smiled, as I remember, and even called out, “Thank you!” knowing full well that we were nearby watching.

Does anyone else remember doing that? Among all the strife, fear, and anger polluting our world today, it is nice to remember a time when wetting our pants out of giggling was the biggest fear on our minds.
Yours in nostalgia,
Julia

Photo of Lily of the Valley flower by H. Zell – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9592154

For the record, here is yesterday’s face mask production:

Face masks made on April 30 2020

Categories
memory nature

day 15: stop doing those things you like!

Duwamish Head on April 3 2020This picture is a metaphor.

I love walking on the edge of the bulkhead, out there beyond the yellow tape and orange cones–that’s my preferred place to walk when I go to Alki. It is thrilling to hear the waves splashing or crashing at your feet and echoing in the rocks below; it is inspiring to drink in the cool air and find only waves between you and the magnificent snow-capped Olympic mountains to the West. That feeling reminds me of scary-happy moments from childhood. My dad, with his Teddy Roosevelt attitude toward child-rearing, made sure of that! I well recall sweating at the very thought of Snoqualmie Pass, with memories of the wild terror of skiing on an Advanced Slope before I’d really learned how (no lessons of course; lessons were for sissies). Or the exhilaration of holding on for dear life behind a speed boat (with him at the wheel) while learning to water ski the same way. There would be great fun, then the inevitable: crashing, choking on the water, and then laughing hilariously, asking for more! Or crying and wanting to go home.

Learning by doing, that was his motto. Secretly, I think it’s cool. Even though I spent many years complaining and feeling sorry for myself. At any rate, all that scary-fun stuff is over for now.

Back to the photo: the metaphor is not about walking or skiing, it’s not about enjoying the edge.  It signifies everything we love doing in real time with real people. Today we are asked to stop doing that. It’s dangerous.

so it is with life as we know it.

sigh.

Maybe we’ll find other things to love doing. I’m loving those early morning solitary hikes around West Seattle. Who knew mornings were so refreshing?  (hahaha; no seriously)

My new business is face mask production: a sort of fun pastime, though I’d rather be making arty quilts or revising A Scary Tale of Spring… but it is good to be doing something useful, helping the world, instead of watching from the sides helplessly as disaster spreads like a mold, sucking in vitality, hope and security…

For info on face mask availability: see honeygirlbooks.com/

Hang in there; see you in the a.m.