Categories
American literature art children creativity French literature humor music nature quilts

Only a real idiot can have this much fun! (homage to Julio Cortázar)

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!)

Luxury Troll Boudoirs in progress, HGBG workshop, West Seattle (7/5/22)

— 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

Categories
American literature French literature nature

day 77, just getting by, with Mallarmé

Hi anybody,

So much turmoil and fear everywhere. Anxiety courses through my veins and it is only 9:02 am. No wisdom to share today.  Just “same as day 73, and every day since.” If I can help you, please contact me. If not, know I’m feeling the pain too. It’s a mute solidarity of misery and fear. But we can still hope for a better tomorrow. Or even a better 9:15am!  On that note, I’m going to go for a walk.  Here is a bit of poetry from Mallarmé–an excellent companion for bleak moments–to capture the angst and desire to flee from one’s own mind:

La chair est triste, hélas ! et j’ai lu tous les livres.
Fuir ! là-bas fuir! Je sens que des oiseaux sont ivres
D’être parmi l’écume inconnue et les cieux !

“Brise marine” by Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898)

And the gorgeous translation by my friend Henry Weinfield:

Sea Breeze

The flesh is sad, alas, and there’s nothing but words!

To take flight, far off! I sense that somewhere the birds

Are drunk to be amid strange spray and skies.

— Stéphane Mallarmé, Collected Poems, trans. by Henry Weinfield (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1994, 2011), p. 21.

Yesterday’s production of face masks:

Face masks made on June 3 2020

Categories
art creativity death dogs French literature nature storms wisdom

Day 72: ignite the finite (homage to Diderot)

Our lives are finite. We can only stand so much. Honey Girl’s actions during today’s thunderstorm prove it.

First, she was hiding in the bathroom because the lightning and thunder scare her. During a lull in the storm, I opened the door and she came out. A little. Then the thunder boomed and she went back in to the smallest place in the house: a tiny bathroom under the stairs. Her world is as small as she can make it. We can’t help it that sounds scare us, but being of a philosophical mind, we can find interest in the concept of being “finite.” And happily, it doesn’t have to scare us.

“Our lives are finite” feels grim; a death sentence. But if you examine the actual word and concept, it feels different. It feels a lot like peace.

finite, adjective and noun (from Latin finitus, pa pple of finire FINISH verb)

a. adjective. 1. Having bounds, ends, or limits; not infinite or infinitesimal.

b. Having an existence subject to limitations and conditions.

2. Fixed, determined, definite.

[Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, vol. 1, p. 962. Three other definitions follow, in math, grammar, and music.]

What I love about this definition is the concept of: “Not infinite or infinitesimal.” In other words, we do exist, we have the ability to act, we are not insignificant. Instead of despairing about our lives’ limitations, why not turn it around? Why not think of our bodies and minds as conduits through which we can make things happen. It’s the real potential at hand. Ignite the finite!

(For my part, I’ve already launched one long-term collaborative project with a distant friend today and I’ve got dozens of masks to sew, so my time feel’s short. I like it that way.)

As Denis Diderot once said, « J’aime mieux une belle chimère qui fait tenter de grandes choses qu’une réalité stérile, une prétendue sagesse qui jette et retient l’homme rare dans une stupide inertie. »

–Lettre à Falconet, in Esprit de Diderot : choix de citations, p. 61.

« I prefer beautiful fantasies that inspire men of genius to grandiose actions, rather than a sterile reality, supposedly the seat of wisdom, which enslaves their spirits to inertia.”

***

 

Yesterday’s face mask production, fyi

Face masks made on May 29 2020

 

*with thanks to Laurent Loty’s beautiful book (with Éric Vanzieleghem), Esprit de Diderot: choix de citations (Paris: Hermann, 2013) and the bookmarks commemorating events at Université Paris Diderot, in honor of French philosopher Denis Diderot (1713-1784), editor of the Encyclopédie and many other works of Enlightenment genius.

Categories
art generosity happiness humor nature wisdom

day 71, laugh with the kookaburra!

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:

Face masks made on May 28 2020 for No Seattle College 7

Categories
art creativity English literature music nature

day 68, Hey Jude take this sad day and make it better

It is so wet and forbidding outside today that my thoughts stay indoors. I tried various tactics—devoured the newspapers as usual, read through emails of (upset) friends and acquaintances, browsed a few favorite books,  but it was all pointing to disappointment, anxiety, and despair. You know enough about all that.

So, I listened to “Hey Jude,” instead.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_MjCqQoLLA

“And anytime you feel the pain

Hey Jude, refrain

Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders.”

***

Here’s yesterday’s face mask production:

Face masks made on May 25 2020

 

***

HEY JUDE

Hey Jude, don’t make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better

Hey Jude, don’t be afraid
You were made to go out and get her
The minute you let her under your skin
Then you begin to make it better

And anytime you feel the pain
Hey Jude, refrain
Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders
For well you know that it’s a fool
Who plays it cool
By making his world a little colder
Na-na-na, na, na
Na-na-na, na

Hey Jude, don’t let me down
You have found her, now go and get her (let it out and let it in)
Remember to let her into your heart (hey Jude)
Then you can start to make it better

So let it out and let it in
Hey Jude, begin
You’re waiting for someone to perform with
And don’t you know that it’s just you
Hey Jude, you’ll do
The movement you need is on your shoulder
Na-na-na, na, na
Na-na-na, na, yeah

Hey Jude, don’t make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her under your skin
Then you’ll begin to make it better
Better better better better better, ah!

Na, na, na, na-na-na na (yeah! Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude (Jude Jude, Judy Judy Judy Judy, ow wow!)
Na, na, na, na-na-na na (my, my, my)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude (Jude, Jude, Jude, Jude, Jude)
Na, na, na, na-na-na na (yeah, yeah, yeah)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude (yeah, you know you can make it, Jude, Jude, you’re not gonna break it)
Na, na, na, na-na-na na (don’t make it bad, Jude, take a sad song and make it better)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude (oh Jude, Jude, hey Jude, wa!)
Na, na, na, na-na-na na (oh Jude)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude (hey, hey, hey, hey)
Na, na, na, na-na-na na (hey, hey)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude (now, Jude, Jude, Jude, Jude, Jude)
Na, na, na, na-na-na na (Jude, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude (na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na)
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na (yeah, make it, Jude)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude (yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!)
Na, na, na, na-na-na na (yeah, yeah yeah, yeah! Yeah! Yeah!)
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude
Na, na, na, na-na-na na
Na-na-na na, hey Jude

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: John Lennon / Paul McCartney

Hey Jude lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Categories
health nature trees

day 60, listening to the sea, not the usual

Today’s morning walk took me back down the mountain to the sea. More precisely, from the tip of West Seattle to the point where Puget Sound enters Elliott Bay, at Duwamish Head. Walking along Alki Beach, I realized I had forgotten how much I love that place and how wonderful it smells, sounds, and feels. (If you wonder why we don’t go there every day, check out this view of the hill from down below, on the way back up.)

It's an uphill climb May 18 2020

While walking by the water, I was swept up in a deep feeling of peace, the waves’ calm rhythm reminding me of some long ago lullaby. We can’t spend all our time gazing at the sea, but we can listen to it more than we do.  For now, I’m listening to this ad-free ocean soundtrack, instead of the usual stuff. Or maybe I’ll turn it off too and listen to “nothing.” (Which is never really nothing; there is always birdsong, car noises, people talking now and then, far-off trains and sirens.)

Let’s give our ears a break, and our minds a rest. All that bad stuff will still be there when we tune back in.

See you on the other side of tonight,

 

Fyi: yesterday’s face mask production:

Face masks made on May 17 2020

 

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 design nature Zen philosophy

day 53: “Long in dream, a butterfly comes” (thanks to Bada Shanren)

Bada_Shanren_-_Lotus_and_Ducks_-_Google_Art_Project

Since nothing killed my spirit in the news today (or perhaps I’ve just become inured to the awfulness), my mind floated along peacefully during the short, sunny, steep walk and back up to our perch on the mountaintop. I felt like the luckiest person in the world!  My  gaze turned to another favorite book of Asian art, a book dedicated to Bada Shanren, to capture the peaceful thoughtfulness.

Chinese painter Bada Shanren (1626-1705) is the artist; born into the Ming imperial family, he fled and became a Buddhist monk before re-emerging into public life later, after 30 years. During the period when he created Lotus and Ducks, he was already a worldly man in his 70s.

Lotus and Ducks (pictured) is a hanging scroll of ink on paper, ca. 1696. It is absolutely hypnotic once you start gazing at it. “Yes, awfulness exists,” the ducks darkly gaze. But a quiet feeling of Zen awareness is also here for the taking–it flows through the lotus waving gently in the breeze (or is it rippling water?).

The last lines of the inscription capture the feelings perfectly, in their vague and hazy way of conjuring an image of natural beauty and hope amidst the wreckage caused by humans.

“Today we heave a sigh:

Wolves are besting tigers, bear gives birth to fox,

Long in dream, a butterfly comes fluttering along.” *

Lotus and Ducks Hanging scroll

—–

* Bada Shanren, trans. Stephen D. Allee, Lotus and Ducks, ca. 1696, in catalogue of In Pursuit of Heavenly Harmony: Paintings and Calligraphy by Bada Shanren from the Estate of Wang Fangyu and Sum Wai, ed. Joseph Chang and Qianshen Bai, Catalogue by Stephen D. Allee (Washington, DC: Freer Gallery of Art and Weatherhill, Inc., 2003), p. 66.

 

Thanks for giving us this beautiful book when it first came out, Steve! I’m so glad to have the opportunity to read it peacefully and enjoy discovering Bada Shanren in this quiet time (of quarantine).

 

Fyi: yesterday’s face mask production:

Face masks made on May 10 2020

 

Categories
art humor nature

day 51, dazed and dazzled

I realized I was dazed when I looked at the paper this morning and saw a photo of actor Peter Gerety. My first thought was not, “Oh that’s interesting, he is in a new movie called Working Man.” No! My instinct was relief!  I thought: “Oh good, I’m glad Grandpa is ok!”

[We’ve been watching Sneaky Pete these evenings, and last night’s episode captured Peter Gerety’s character, “Grandpa,” in the midst of a murder attempt gone bad. Made a zillion times funnier/sadder by the fact that he took out a hit on … himself.]

What does that tell you about the line between fiction and reality in our pandemic?! It’s fuzzy…like a lot of other stuff these days (our bathtub for one).

Dazzled, because the world where I live is so pretty! The mountains are out today, for sure—what you’re looking at are the Cascades, to the North behind the Space Needle and to the East above the stadium and Port of Seattle terminals. Enjoy the views! (and sorry about the terrible weather you are getting in the Midwest and East! ☹ )

 

Well, back to work now. Those masks are not going to sew themselves!

Fyi: yesterday’s face mask production:

Face masks produced on May 8 2020

Categories
art creativity happiness humor music nature

day 49, number numbers numbers! in homage to Kraftwerk’s calculator song

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.

CONCLUSION:

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:

Face masks made on May 6 2020