American literature art creativity design happiness health quilts wisdom

Emerson on the human condition

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.


Keep a green bough in your heart…

… and a singing bird will come.*

The sunny weather makes this a perfect day for a Quilt Show on my back porch! Today I’m unveiling the brand-new “Seattle Quilt” no. 4, which sports a green Seahawks T-shirt in its center, alongside “Seattle Quilt” no. 3 (with a navy blue Seahawk jersey) and “Seattle Quilt” no. 2, an homage to West Seattle. All three are available now!

*Proverb recounted in Neurodharma, by Rick Hanson.


Tai chi retreat on beach! bliss from Bandon, Oregon

Dear reader,
No worries today. I’m in a tranquil place, as I just returned from a blissful time on the Oregon coast, at a small Tai chi retreat on the beach at Bandon. (An annual event, if you ever want to join us! organized by local martial arts teachers, from Fusion Kung Fu, Seattle.) It was a pristine setting, and an inspiring and spiritually moving experience. Sensually rich! to smell the sea air, watch the birds (pelicans!), to hear those crashing waves while practicing the graceful spiraling movements of Tai chi–and some Aikido– on cool wet sand: that’s one route to nirvana.

The lesson I brought home: our little frustrations are just that. Little snags in a movement that will not be stopped.

Only we control how we move through space, how we inhabit our bodies.

and, my inner geek cannot help sharing this inadvertently funny message from the Sunset Motel staff:

creativity work

day 58, accepting our limitations, admitting our imperfections, and getting on with it

More grey weather outside, another onslaught of scary, outrageous, sickening news in the paper, another day of mounting worries and anxiety: what else is new? LOL. 🙂

So I took out a little book that sometimes helps and turned to the message for May 16:

there are four things conducive

to the uncovering of wisdom:

association with those who are virtuous

hearing wise and true teachings

listening well and deeply

practicing sincerely *

to which I would add: “looking carefully at the photos of your work before posting them!”

Face masks made on May 15 2020

That grey mask with the purple stitching was an experiment I conducted on inspiration from DJ Kevin Cole’s afternoon show yesterday on KEXP, when he issued a creative challenge to listeners to “use an inappropriate color.” For me, that meant using purple thread instead of grey thread on a grey mask. I was so happy with the results that I took a quick pic, submitted it, and patted myself on the back… until I looked closely at the pic, then the mask, and saw my error!  (one of the ties is not stitched correctly.) Yikes! I know it’s extremely small potatoes, in the big scheme of things, but I care that my work is as beautiful as I can make it. Luckily, this is one thing I can fix.  Yay for that!

Hang in there, any way you can, until tomorrow…


* Shi Wuling, Path to Peace

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day 57, how a mysterious necklace led to Baudelaire


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

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

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Inspiration strikes again! The “Seattle Sunset” pillow is born

Seattle Sunset with Buddha head.jpg

This new “Seattle Sunset” pillow is inspired by my love of my hometown, and the wonderful feel of satin and fine cotton.

I hope you like the photo essay showing how it came to be:

To order, visit !

American literature creativity humor nature wisdom

mistakes and self-revelation

Isn’t it great to laugh at other people’s mistakes?!

Today’s paper was a riot.

But seriously folks, my favorite non-political example comes from reading the new issue of The New Yorker last night after T’ai chi class.

I began laughing incredulously–with a huge sense of relief–when I read Nora Ephron admit that she forgot a key ingredient in a recipe she published in a book! Yikes! Funniest of all is the deadpan way she talks about that incident, inside a long reminiscence about Lee Bailey: “By then, I’d come to realize that no one was ever going to put my recipes into a book, so I’d have to do it myself. I included Lee’s recipe for baked lima beans and pears (unfortunately, I left out the brown sugar, and for years people told me they’d tried cooking the recipe and it didn’t work), along with my family cook Evelyn’s recipe for cheesecake, which I’m fairly sure she got from the back of a Philadelphia cream-cheese package.”* Re-reading this now, I’m more aware that it was Lee‘s recipe. That makes it even more horrible. To do disservice to a dear friend and cherished mentor must have made her feel really embarrassed and awful.

So, hahah!  at least it wasn’t us!

(Schadenfreude, one of our tawdry habits as human beings.)

The second topic on my mind this morning is self-revelation. As a writer, in any serious writing such as scholarship, I’ve been trained to stay out of the picture. My focus has always been investigating phenomena discovered in books written by other people, artwork created by other people, and weaving it together with history and criticism written by other people. Now that I don’t have to do that for a living, it has lost its appeal.

A new audience has become visible to me, as well as a new perspective on self-revelation. The insight came while reading Henry David Thoreau’s book, Walden, last night. (Yes Ephron and Thoreau–what a literary feast I had!)

Thoreau is by turns funny and Zen-master wise: “I think that we may safely trust a good deal more than we do. […] The incessant anxiety and strain of some is a well nigh incurable disease. […] This is the only way, we say; but there are as many ways as there can be drawn radii from one center. All change is a miracle to contemplate; but it is a miracle which is taking place every instant.” **

His description of Americans circa 1854 is not far from today’s profile of the workaholic: “The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly” (48).

But it was the opening pages with their frank self-assessment that I found most endearing (reminded me of other favorite autobiographers Saint Augustine, Montaigne, Rousseau, and Gide, but with a special turn all of its own):

“I should not talk so much about myself if there were any body else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience. Moreover, I, on my side, require of every writer, first or last, a simple and sincere account of his own life, and not merely what he has heard of other men’s lives; some such account as he would send to his kindred from a distant land; for if he has lived sincerely, it must have been in a distant land to me.” (46)

Loveliest of all to me, as a seamstress in love with stitching, is the coat metaphor that wraps up this piece: “As for the rest of my readers, they will accept such portions as apply to them. I trust that none will stretch the seams in putting on the coat, for it may do good service to him whom it fits” (46).

A final poignant note: yesterday I shared the first couple paragraphs I wrote of “A Seattle Homecoming” with members of my West Seattle writing group. After a spirited discussion, I received their annotated copies of my work. One member wrote: “I would like to know you better through your writing.”

Well, I guess the stars are finally aligning…  though I feel like making a quilt instead of a manuscript. Or some combination of the two…

In the meantime, enjoy some pretty pictures of November in Seattle!

* Nora Ephron, “Serial Monogamy: My Cookbook Crushes,” The New Yorker (originally Feb. 13, 2006; repr. Dec. 3, 2018), 75.

**Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Civil Disobedience. Ed. Michael Meyer. (New York: Penguin, 1986), 48.


art design happiness nature

nothing but beautiful views from here

I had no idea this house was in such a unique location! We are on the prow of the peninsula that is West Seattle. Watching the container ships, sailboats, and tugboats pass by in Elliott Bay is a new pass-time and it is hard to stop, once you’ve started. There is so much to see!

Upstairs bedroom view July 2018.jpg

see the tanker coming in on the left?

Dining room window July 2018

Ths stadium is lit up–must be a Mariners or Sounders game tonight.

Dining room window by night July 2018

Every night, it’s as if there were a living party going on across the bay, with that lit-up Ferris wheel turning and all the pink and purple lights blinking. I love how the tail-lights of the cars creeping up the hilly streets make three red lines curving up and over the horizon, alongside the skyscrapers, with the docks and black water below. These weird and blurry versions capture a nice sense of the place…and why I cannot tear my eyes from the windows here!

Night blurry curved

p.s. Here’s a big THANK YOU to Realtor Susan Anda, who helped us buy this house long-distance via the Internet, and with the help of my brother and sister-in-law, back in 2015. It was our fourth try, and we’re so glad that the first three did not work out. I grew up at 7107 39th SW, which I thought was paradise, given its lofty perch above the Olympics and views of the Vashon ferry going back and forth. But Elliott Bay is also quite beautiful, I now realize, and the city’s vitality is contagious–there’s so much to see and to do!

happiness health humor wisdom

day three, new rules

Hi on day three of the five-day meditation in a mirror challenge,

Since today is my birthday I decided there are different rules.

  1. I’ll describe the mirror, provide pictures of the meditation before and after, for your curiosity. (And to prove to my friend that I’m upholding my side of this deal. See post of 3/7).  Update on 3/20: the photos have been removed to protect my privacy.

2. I will make you readers “pay” for the insights and pictures of my life, by inserting advertisements for my products.

3. And you do not get my thoughts today. They’re the gift I’m giving myself.

So here are the photos of today’s event:


Site chosen: master bedroom of our beautiful Riverside historical house.

House for sale. This house will be listed on the local real estate market beginning next Wednesday, or contact Faith Fleming at Cressy and Everett. The mirror is a fine old-fashioned full-length mirror well-affixed to the back of our wood door. You’ll note the crystal-glass doorknobs which are all through the house.

On the dresser behind me is a lustrous vintage golden rayon fabric with a whimsical batik insert, bordered in black and white polka dots. That is the back of a quilt I made for us. I now have a business, Honey Girl Books and Gifts, which allows clients such as you to purchase such hand-made treasures for a modest price: labor ($25/hr) and $100 for supplies. It takes a very long time to make one, because it tells the “story of you”; inspiration takes place! Time and caring: that is all it takes. If you already have a quilt at home, I hope you treasure it. If you don’t, consider contacting me!

My feet are positioned almost perfectly, with heels touching, knees bent, and spinal column feeling flexible, firm and well-aligned.

Two shots to capture the time passing:


And this final shot is how I feel now!

March 10 no 4.jpg

Today is my birthday!  Gonna have a good time and play the Beatles, loud, all day, if I feel like it!