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bittersweet thoughts on the Ides of March

“Bittersweet” (or douce-amère, sweetbitter in French) sums up the memories that are seeping into thought this morning. Ambivalent and a little sad, a little happy.

What triggered it was the following email: “I last wrote to you on 3/10/20, two years ago, to cancel the writing workshop, Write YOUR Story.” The rest of the letter explains hopes for recommencing the workshop but still…

Two years have disappeared, two years of isolation, anxiety, and collective worry. Two years is a lot when you are only 8 years old. It’s been two years while those kids whose story, which never even got a title and remains unfinished, have been growing up. [BTW: The spring 2020 group story was a reverse fairy tale, modeled on “Hans in Luck,” by the Brothers Grimm. Our protagonist: a 12-year-old girl who loves gardening. In keeping with the original genre, our heroine is given, and loses, money and treasures one after another. At the ending, she’d be left with nothing, or at least no material profit. I was so curious to know how they’d spin that, the nothingness.]

It is bittersweet, the memory of covid-19 and all who have died, who were sick, who remain devastated by memory or physical disability, that plague. Equally fragile are those who got better but who remain terrified by the memory of having a plague.

Yet look at the sweet hopefulness in the children’s faces seen here. If ever we needed a reason to keep going, it’s in these faces.

Look at those adorable girls who joined the class in 2015, seen above. They are teenagers now, adults. Yet I bet they’ll remember the warm feeling of fun we all shared, how fun it was to write and illustrate Nabiki and Ruby: An Outer Space Fairy Tale.

That creative energy has to be good for the planet!

May your activities this week, as we head into the notorious IDES OF MARCH, be creative and good for the planet too. Despite the horrors that have transpired on March 15 in years past, history does not need to repeat itself. We can do better. We must!

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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.

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Right in time for MLK Day: Respect Quilt no. 14, and a quilt sale!

Respect quilt no. 14 is now done, and heading off soon to Atlanta, GA to celebrate a great American writer: Tayari Jones! In the joyful spirit of love and brotherhood, I am also offering a sale of 50% off all “Seattle” and “Respect” quilts now until Friday January 21, 2022, on etsy!

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goodness with an edge (hommage to Emerson)

In “Self Reliance,” Emerson warns against trusting in false allies and those of weak will, saying, “Your goodness must have some edge to it–else it is none.”

I translate this into a motto for my business, Honey Girl Books and Gifts LLC: We specialize in cozy, with an edge... Each of my quilts and books celebrates a work of literature or a group of people to be honored. They are canonical and non-mainstream, funny and scary and pretty, sometimes angry and always alive with feeling. Some are linked to fund-raisers for good causes; all use recycled materials from Goodwill and other thrift shops. All of them are different and they are not for everyone.

But when my people find them, how happy they will be!

(Above see Seattle Quilt no. 1, inspired by Sabrina B., winner of the Win YOUR Quilt drawing of December 4, 2021 at West Seattle Grounds coffee shop.)

How lovely to see a new design come to life. Coming in spring 2022: The Seattle Quilt with rainbow back!

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winners all!

A pattern is now emerging. Making quilts designed by people who live nearby is creating a sense of roots sprouting under my feet! We are winners all in this game of life, when we share the joy of creating.

  1. Winner of “Win YOUR Quilt” drawing, West Seattle Grounds coffee shop, June 10, 2021:

2. Winning quilt from November 20, 2021 Holiday Bazaar in the Alki Masonic Hall, West Seattle, WA:

Take your chance at designing–and winning–your own handmade art quilt, this Saturday, December 4 from 1-4pm, at the Holiday Makers Market at West Seattle Grounds coffee shop! The drawing will be held at 3:45pm, so don’t delay…

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morning thoughts on form, and The Form (art and T’ai chi) and the WSEA Water taxi!

This misty grey morning, as I peer out at Elliott Bay and think about the voyage ahead–down the hill in the rain, onto the water taxi and across the bay, up through Pioneer Square to Chinatown where I’ll do T’ai chi at the Seattle Kung Fu Club studio, I feel energized and serene. Reading Peter Ralston lately has been inspiring, and to practice T’ai chi and make quilts at the same time seems somehow philosophically coherent.

As Ralston writes in Principles of Effortless Power, “Only the ‘form’ survives of anything created and then passed on in time, since creativity resides within what is formless and this formlessness cannot survive, having never existed. Therefore, only when the form is being consciously created in this moment is it truly useful and representative of its origin” (xx).

The form, message, and feel of a quilt become visible over time, as seen in the photos below, dated 11/20/21 and 11/26/21. Once created, it is. You can feel it with your hands and face, snuggle under its warmth, enjoy its bright colors and patterns. It may fade if left in the sun, or be stained by some accident, yet a quilt will usually survive a pretty long time.

The Form we practice in T’ai chi comes to life in time as well. Yet once created, it is gone, until next time.

So far, I’ve learned about 20 minutes of the Wu Form. When I practice, I feel like I’m inhabiting a timeless realm where themes and refrains repeat through space, spiraling and stepping to some unknown beat. Can’t wait for class!

P.S. These photos of the water taxi and Chinatown are from July 2018, when we had just moved here. They do not represent the world as it looks today, on 11/27/2021. the fog hangs heavy over the water this morning… making the world just a little more quiet.

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T-shirt Models join forces with HGBG!

On September 26, I announced the search for ten people willing to model a T-shirt for my small business, Honey Girl Books and Gifts LLC, in return for a donation of $100 on their behalf to Fusion Kung-Fu and Movements Arts: a martial arts school that we all love in central Seattle. (That’s our teacher in the cover photo, with a Kung Fu student. The student may be taller than Sifu Michelle Pleasant, but I doubt she is mightier than our teacher.)

Today I’m delighted to announce that we did it!

We made an alternative economy happen.

We invested in this school, our community, because we are aware of the joy and convenience it gives us to learn martial arts, without travelling too far from home. (And we are aware of the high cost of Seattle real estate.) If you’d like to join the effort, please do!

Great thanks to all of those who contributed–I’m sure readers will agree that everyone looks marvelous!

Seattle really is that kind of place. Proud to be born here, to work here, and to have HGBG become a new member of SEATTLE MADE, a network of local artisans and creators who sell products all over town, even at SeaTac Airport. (Wow, what a thrill that would be; maybe one day!)

P.S. Get your own HGBG T-shirt for only $19.95 while supplies last…

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a quilt is born today!

I’m feeling a spring in my step today, as I wrap up the work on “Respect” quilt no. 12!

It will be available for sale soon, via the “Great Futures Gala and Auction” of the King County Boys and Girls Club, to be held online October 23, 2021.

Here’s to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America!

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Trivia quiz on “Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel García Márquez (with the answers)

Trivia Quiz for Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez (1985)

From the “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club of West Seattle

A. Stability Amidst Instability

1. The lives in this novel are fraught with instability wrought by civil wars, financial fraud, epidemics, environmental degradation, and huge variations in weather. Which of the following is not depicted?

a. Lorenzo Daza explains to his daughter: “’We are ruined,’ ‘Total ruin, so now you know.’”

b. Florentino Ariza realizes: “Human beings are not born once and for all … life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”

c. One of Florentino’s lovers is robbed but does not report it because she is a princess in exile.

d. Although they initially mourn their husbands, “The world is full of happy widows.”

2. Despite the ambient instability, persistence emerges as a central theme in the story. Which quote does not appear in the book?

 a. “Always remember that the most important thing in a good marriage is not happiness but stability.”

b. “His father had been right when he repeated to his dying day that there was no one with more common sense, no stonecutter more obstinate, no manager more lucid or dangerous, than a poet.”

c. “’We’ll grow old waiting,’ he said.”

d. “If only the picture could change, and I could always be what I am now!”

B. Secret Connections & the Voyeurism Which Allows Us to See.  Match the secret to the character.

The characters: a. Florentino Ariza; b. Fermina Daza; c. Barbara Lynch; d. Juvenal Urbino

The Secrets:                                                                                                

3. “chess became an incurable addiction that tormented him until the day of his death”

4. he was “a solitary man in need of love, a street beggar as humble as a whipped dog”

5. “she cried only in rage … she could never forgive her weakness in crying”                                                           

6. she wore a full skirt and no underwear on the days when she would receive her lover at home.

7. Love in the Time of Cholera takes place in a city with official squares and statues that resemble many a Latin American locale, but the most important actions transpire behind closed doors, out of sight, or in the dark. Which of the following is not a site of significance in this novel?

a. the Music School                                       

b. the brothel near the port     

c. under the almond trees in the Park of the Evangels                      

d. Leona Cassiani’s office in the R.C.C. (River Company of the Caribbean)     

8. Some of the secrets revealed keep their power to surprise readers even today. Which of the following is not a secret from this book?

a. One of Florentino Ariza’s lovers, Andrea Varón, shares enemas with him.

b. Fermina Daza discovers her husband’s infidelity by smelling not perfume, but the human odor of another woman on his clothes

c. Florentino Ariza seduced his ward, then a schoolgirl age 13, in what is called his “secret slaughterhouse.”

d. Fermina Daza harbors a passion for her chambermaid, Flora, and an insatiable desire for eggplant.

C. Maxims and Wisdom

9. As in many old-fashioned novels, maxims or moral lessons run throughout Love in the Time of Cholera. Which of the following maxims is not found here?

a. “Every person has a right to take care of themselves. He always did.”

b. “Wisdom comes to us when it can no longer do any good.”

c. “Music is important to one’s health.”        

d. “Love becomes greater and nobler in calamity.”

D. Sensual Style

Gabriel García Márquez is known for his “magical realism,” but one may arguably claim he is more of a sensualist, so strong and enduring are his bodily images.

Match the sensual quote to the thing evoked (designated as X). The things include: a. “the fate of unrequited love”; b. “the certainty of death”; and c. “masculine honor”.

Sensual quotes:                                                                                     

10. “At nightfall, at the oppressive moment of transition … a tender breath of human shit, warm and sad, stirred X in the depths of one’s soul.”                                                                                                  

11. “It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of X.”

12. It was said that the enormous hernias caused by pollution [on the testicles of local men] “whistled like a lugubrious bird and twisted in unbearable pain, but no one complained because a large, well-carried rupture was a display of X.”

ANSWERS

1. c.

2. d.  (That sentiment is lifted from Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Grey)

3. Juvenal Urbino

4. Florentino Ariza

5. Fermina Daza

6. Barbara Lynch

7. a.

8. d.

9. a. (That quote is from Dickens’s A Christmas Carol)

10. the certainty of death

11. the fate of unrequited love

12. masculine honor

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the joy of imagination, shared

Hello!

This morning, my mind and hands take up a new task that feels very familiar: researching and writing a quiz. A literary quiz, to be precise. As I remain wrapped in the warm glow of Gabriel García Márquez’s words, from the last pages of Love in the Time of Cholera, I am suddenly pulled to the computer. Because I suddenly realized these quizzes are a joy–simple and cheap to procure–and you may like them too.

I hereby vow to share the monthly quizzes I’ve been creating for the “West Seattle Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club with you, here on this blog. (I’ll even post the answers too!)

In a little while after it’s written, I’ll start with today’s, and then work my way backwards, on a daily basis, through all the books listed below, which we read during the months of covid-19 plague fears and lockdowns, back to March 2020 when we first met.

Because if there is one thing the reader realizes in finishing Love in the Time of Cholera, it is that lockdowns, however tedious and frightening, may give rise to new pleasures …

and all pleasures, like love, are meant to be shared.

(Like the dandelion-blowing woman from the Larousse publishing company, above, je sème à tout vent – I’ll sow [or throw] wisdom to the wind.)

The sooner, the better. You never know who might be waiting. And it’s never too late to start anew!

West Seattle Classic Novels (and Movies) book club reading list, March 2020-July 2021, titles read:

Jane Austen, Emma [March 2020]

Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

Daphne Dumaurier, Jamaica Inn.

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

Washington Irving, “Rip van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Charlotte Brontë, Villette

Iris Murdoch, The Green Knight

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Nella Larsen, Passing

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, film, dir. George C. Wolfe, adapted from play by August Wilson

Clarice Lispector, Family Ties

and Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel García Márquez, for July 25, 2021.