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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…

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Uncategorized

seen on this day

Bonne fête de la Saint Valentin ! Happy Valentine’s Day !


Here are some images of beloved sights from my world, and a favorite quote by Epictetus to warm hearts wherever you are:
“Faithfulness is the antidote to bitterness and confusion.”
The Art of Living

P.S. Being faithful applies to your self too, your principles, hopes, and dreams. Live deliberately, like Thoreau said. What better time than now? Back to “Respect” quilt no. 7 I go…

(Respect quilt no. 7, in progress)

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Uncategorized

family fun

At this dreary time of year, it is good to cheer up yourself.

You can start by remembering funny stories about those funny folks we call family. Everybody has some, right?!

Here are some favorite pics of mine, grandparents Kingsley and Dorothea Douthwaite. One captures them on their scooter–a shot printed in a motorcycle magazine in the 70s–and the other shows them with the first loaf of bread baked in the solar oven he built. They rode that scooter all around Santa Barbara, CA (Mom insinuated that Grandpa was too cheap to buy a car and he was known for a certain frugality). I remember the sharp tang of eucalyptus in the air. They were probably on the way to the store or the old folks home, where Grandma played piano.

We kids always thought that was so funny, how she didn’t get the irony of playing for the old folks, since she was an “old folk” herself. But she had the last laugh, I now realize. She did not have a piano at home. So she found one and an audience for her music too, outside the home. She proved by her music, her courage and generous spirit–in putting up with Grandpa, who was something of an outspoken curmudgeon / genius engineer / reproduction rights activist, for 60+ years–that age is an attitude. And happiness comes to those who take it. Even if he did make her sleep in bunk beds for most of their lives together, in the tiny wooden house he built on the hill. Before all the mansions arrived…

Between them, there’s Honey Girl, the ultimate comedienne. She’ll be 12 this year.

Love your family! if you can, surely you can.

Categories
art creativity design happiness quilts work

All done. Now what? Make more! and they’re on sale!

Day ten all done.jpg

We work so hard to finish projects, and we forget each time how the end brings a pang of sadness. I’m no longer needed to this creation. Its destiny is already unfolding, as my client mentioned using it as a Christmas gift for his little grandson.

I’ll make other quilts, of course, but none will be as this has been. None will have its own blog! It’s unlikely any of the other quilts will end up in Spain either. And I am all out of those pillow cases embroidered by my mom (“For Him”), though vintage bits of fabric with embroidery can be found at most any Goodwill or antique store.

Since this quilt is already spoken for, I’m going to whip up another “European Childhood” model starting now, so that it can join my repertoire.  The HGBG stock now includes: the “Western Pacific” design and the two Alice in Wonderland quilts, large and small. (Custom designs upon request).

If you want to get in on the good feelings, order your own quilt now! Get a 25% discount with code 09 on the HGBG website until 10/31/19! 

Categories
art creativity design

a quilt is born

a brief news flash from the world of Honey Girl Books and Gifts:

Number 13 in the Great Chain of Quilts est. November 2016, was just finished. This one is for Pam. The front features five lines of multi-colored cotton sewn in synchronized patterns, symbolizing the lives of Pam, her three children, and two grandchildren in ways that she will plainly see (and can read about in the “Story of Pam” that accompanies the quilt). The back features a soft fleece photo blanket designed and created by her daughter, where dozens of  family photos are arranged in loving company. That’s a nice model of how our minds work: photo memories on one side, symbolic patterns on the other: realism meets destiny.

Hope she likes it!

Pam's quilt July 22 2018

Pam's quilt back July 22 2018.jpg

Categories
Chinese literature dogs happiness health nature T'ai chi travel trees

Road trip day five and beyond: in our new home at last

Hi everybody,

Sorry to leave you up in the air like that, on the road trip! The fifth day began in Moses Lake–a vast and wind-swept desert setting. It was fun to see the sign for George, WA–I had not thought of that town since my days at WSU–and like every other tourist I could not resist:

 

 

As we spiraled down into the Columbia Gorge, signs finally started listing Seattle–what a thrill to the traveling trio, five days away from South Bend!

Seattle is on the sign.jpg

Snoqualmie Pass is beautifully mysterious, with its sudden waterfalls and misty views:

 

I drove for the last leg, with tears of joy as I realized that our dream had come true: we are home at last!  Honey Girl likes it here too.

 

That enormous moving truck made its way down our tiny street (a dead end) the very next morning. It was truly an engineering miracle to see him get that rig into the street, and to back it up all the way out. Hats off to Daniel, the North American Van Lines driver, who navigated the whole move like a true pro and is a nice guy too.

Here comes that huge moving van July 3 2018.jpg

I made a bee-line to the Seattle Kung Fu Club as soon as I could and I’m grateful to now be among the T’ai chi students of Grandmaster John S.S. Leong and his staff. (So far, I’ve been relegated to doing long arduous stretches for the duration of the 1 1/2 hour classes, but I look forward to learning the Wu Form in due course). It is wonderful to look into the eyes of people at the Seattle Kung Fu Club–they all look so vital, healthy, and alert.

Seattle Kung Fu Club

To go there, I walk down a dizzying street from our house on the top of a hill to Seacrest Park at sea level and take the water taxi 15 minutes to Pier 52 in downtown Seattle. Then I walk through Pioneer Square and beyond the eclectic mix of upscale art galleries and fancy restaurants alongside homeless missions and the people who gather nearby, to a tiny building in old Chinatown. It is a minuscule second-floor studio with an enigmatic grandmaster who inspires reverence among all of us sweaty people–just perfect. What a feast of sensations!  the dazzling water and lively boat traffic to see, the smell of diesel, the sound of the waves and the rumbling engine, then the strangely relaxing and familial smell of sweat and body warmth… it is just what all the “mindfulness” books suggest leads to wellbeing.  Check out the pics of the commute below. That long grey ship seems to be sending us a message to persevere in the inner arts and to stay strong with exercise… The pagoda-like entrance to King Street and the dragon mural at Hing Hay park delight the eyes and bring a smile to the spirit, every time:

 

 

I’m in heaven. With both brothers (and fabulous sisters-in-law) nearby, nieces, nephews, and one out of two sons close to home, family is finally near at hand. Yet there is much I do not know. Who knows what lies on the other side of that doorway in our backyard?

Threshold in back yard.jpg

Maybe it beckons to inner space: leading into the Space of Now. As philosopher Eckhart Tolle famously wrote, “you may be surprised that by becoming aware of the space of Now, you suddenly feel more alive inside. You are feeling the aliveness of the inner body–the aliveness that is an intrinsic part of the joy of Being.” (A New Earth, 252).

Thanks for joining me on this journey. There really was a rainbow waiting on the other side!

Rainbow on July 6 2018 with Nick's visit.jpg

Categories
conflict dogs storms T'ai chi wisdom

Day Ten: the brewing storm

ThinkstockPhotos-175009629MD.jpg29 days to go and the skies are churning. A storm is coming to South Bend this afternoon, they say, and I am looking forward to it. A storm breaks the tension, gives us a common enemy, and may even accelerate other life-giving events. 27 years ago in July, some thunderbolts gathered over Tempe, AZ, and may have hastened the birth of my son. Or so they told me at the hospital, when I  arrived…

The storm at home is as prickly as the heat today. Why? No big reason but several small ones. My partner is manifesting some old habits of passive-aggressive hostility, now that he’s being forced into concrete action and decision-making after many years of retirement. Honey Girl pounced and killed a small ground hog yesterday on our walk. I have felt and voiced unkind thoughts toward a number of people, mostly elected officials but still…

What to do?

What is there ever to do?

Practice the Morning Routine. Refrain from harmful speech. Bury the little grey critter, if it is still there.

Rejoice in the rain when it arrives!

***

 

Storm image courtesy of http://blog.gpcom.com/tag/severe-weather/

Categories
French literature friendship happiness health T'ai chi wisdom

Day Six: follow-up on day five, or what do Gaston Bachelard and Jeanette Lawrence have in common?

After finishing the morning routine yesterday, despite my sense of overwhelm, I came away refreshed and with two resolutions: 1. Buy Gaston Bachelard, Poetics of Space. 2. Send a card and check to niece, Kelsey Julia, on birth of her baby Jeanette. Look forward to getting to know the little girl and watching her grow up!

Both of these ideas were stirred up by feelings of affection. Affection for Bachelard (1884-1962), who was a post-master in a small town in France before becoming a celebrated philosopher of space. I discovered him and his body of work as a graduate student in French literature. In retrospect, he is one of the most important thinkers I enjoyed reading. With the accent on enjoyed!

I want to reread his famous book and, knowing that I’m leaving behind a nice research library at Notre Dame, I want to build up my personal collection and own it. It may seem stupid to buy books right before you move. It probably is, to some people. But for me, these are moving preparations for the spirit.

Bachelard will help me capture the feelings I have for this house and the new one too. His abstract and companionable voice will be a constant, if I want it to be, during this time of uncertainty. I love his way of describing what one might call the “spirit lives” of rooms, drawers, cupboards, and tiny spaces. This old house on Riverside has many, many places like that to explore and contemplate. It has been a kindly place to live during a tumultuous decade.

(Editorial aside: When we first moved in here, I was in the midst of my exhausting career in the Notre Dame upper administration. I was drawn to the darkest, most protected space in this house. I still remember how relieved I felt when I discovered it:  a large dark, window-less closet with a secret hiding place in it for valuables. Hmmm… I wonder what deep need that met!?!  And what space will feel most protective in the new house? or will that thought even cross the mind? I suspect going home after 34 years away is going to be emotionally interesting…)

If a brief dip into The Poetics of Space is enough, then I will pack it away and rediscover it some rainy afternoon. I certainly won’t regret having it.

The other affection is for my niece and her daughter, my family, closer to whom I’m moving in 34 days. Need I say more?!

That’s what happens when you do T’ai chi–you start to feel a really happy energy, deep within, and then that good feeling  opens onto the world as a whole.

(It sounds crazy, but it’s true.)

Photo of Gaston Bachelard, [1] Dutch National Archives, The Hague, Fotocollectie Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau (ANEFO), 1945-1989 bekijk toegang 2.24.01.04 Bestanddeelnummer 917-9599

Categories
children dogs happiness T'ai chi

Why do I do this? (Give trust a chance)

Honey girl eating grass May 6 2018.jpg

I write this blog for those who want to feel better and have a more peaceful life. But I also write this blog for me. It is a record that shows how determined I am to keep feeling good and experiencing less pain in daily life, as time goes by.  I do walk Honey Girl  every day and that helps. But where she can just chomp on some grass to get relief (like she was doing this morning), the various disturbances I feel now and then get stuck deeply in my system. Recreating a peaceful mindset is more of a challenge. Chomping on grass doesn’t work.

This blog reminds me that peace is possible, despite it all. But it is a daily effort.

Let’s take today as a case in point. This morning, I encountered a cluster of alarming icons on my phone screen. (I admit it: as soon as I opened my eyes, I looked at my phone. Bad habit, I know! But I’m just like you. We’re all addicted to those phones.)

Immediately, my stomach flipped and my shoulders tensed up, as I saw that my husband had called twice around dinner time, and my faraway son had called after midnight. Neither had left a message, as is their habit. I never know what that means, but it did not look good. Then I saw some texts. My Chicago-based son (with whom my husband was supposed to be dining last night with my brother and sister-in-law who were in town specifically for that purpose) texted the following message at 12:36am: “Hi, I just received an alarming call from Nick that you and Dad were worried about my whereabouts. If you can, can you give Dad my cell phone number. I forgot the details of his email for dinner reservations tonight and forgot to go. So I assume they were worried. Can you also tell him I’m sorry that I forgot.”

Well, as you can imagine, I immediately texted back to him and in no uncertain terms told him to deal with his own mistake and make his own apologies. Then ensued more texts. YUCK!   Whatever happened to waking up slowly on a peaceful spring morning?

Well, I tried to recapture the moment. I looked out the window, and opened it wide to take in the sight of a pear tree covered with white blossoms, to listen to the songbirds in the trees, and to admire the powerful St Joseph River flowing swiftly by down below. But that sick feeling remained in my gut.  It remained for a couple hours, until after I took Honey Girl for a walk and did my morning routine. In retrospect, it just makes me a little sad. And a little tired. (Actually, very tired.)

Anger management has been an issue with this family. I am a bit worried about witnessing the remnants of Rich’s anger at that son when he gets back later today. (See the book by Mason and Kreger on the bibliography: an essential help for living with hotheads.)

So what can meditation and T’ai chi do for all that emotional turmoil?  Like most people, I exist in a web of relationships. For better or worse, I do not seek to extricate myself from that web or to adopt monastic vows. So I must cope. And it is the coping that brings the joy, because it allows me to spread peace to the ecosystem where I am planted. It is a sad fact, however, that joy is personal. You cannot force others feel it. Nevertheless, it can be yours!

Bob Klein describes the typical person’s nervous system as a dammed-up mountain pass or blocked riverbed. T’ai chi and meditation are tools which allow one to chisel an opening in the stone, and allow the water/spirit/energy to flow through freely.  For daily practitioner of T’ai chi, life can be transformed. As he writes inspiringly, “When you speak or act, the channels have already been opened; you are satisfied with what you have created and now your creative spirit flows through. In other words, after you work on yourself, transform yourself, empty yourself, then you must trust yourself. You must trust that when you act or speak spontaneously, good things will come out.” (Movements of Power, 161).

Let’s give trust a chance.

Categories
creativity generosity happiness health trees wisdom

On health (and pharmaceuticals), calm, and joy’s return (no matter what he says)

Hi,

Well, this has been another tiring week, with much grading of papers and intensive course preparation as we begin the final stretch to the end of spring semester. (Three more weeks of ND and 76 days til SEA!) More showings of the house and cleaning loom on the horizon. An annual check-up I was looking forward to, since I’m feeling so good these days, became a startling event when an unexpected symptom was brought to my attention. Inspired by the recent New York Times article on anti-depressants by Benedict Carey and Robert Gebeloff, and my own desire to “get back to normal,” I had already convinced my doctor to slash my prescriptions so that instead of taking three pills a night (two typical “women’s pills” and one anti-depressant), I take one-half of one anti-depressant. Now I’m on a strict diet also and who knows how “withdrawal” from those medications will go? Grading and prepping took all my time, so that I did not even do the morning routine yesterday. Friends I’ve spoken to have revealed more scary health events—kidney, back, and eye problems. (Old people problems! Yikes what does that mean?) And my right hip has been hurting for the past two days, plus my sinuses were acting up. I was feeling old, apprehensive, and blah.

Those were my thoughts before the morning routine.

As I settled in, I picked up a book I love and read a passage about “Being Calm—The Presence of Being.” I’ve pasted it below for you.

Gazing out the window of the sunroom, with my heels touching and feet at 90 degree angles, my back straight and spine crackling nicely back into place, I let go of all that busy thinking and just looked. The sky was blue with puffy white clouds. A few cars drove by; no radios were blasting and there were no train whistles or sirens in the air. But there was so much bird activity! I saw cardinals, robins, sparrows, and a crow.

A bright red male cardinal made my heart soar with his beautiful song, but when I tried to take his picture, he hopped higher and higher up in the tree. See him way up on that dead branch?

cardinal in tree April 13.jpg

Later, a female cardinal showed up in a bush nearby. Last thing I saw of them, they were flying rapidly around the neighbors’ yards, him behind her.  They were pretty to watch, fluttering up and down in currents of who knows what emotion or feelings. Whatever it was, it looked exciting and fun!  (or maybe not. Maybe he was over-aggressive or creepy, and she was trying to get away. Now I see him way up in that tree again, alone.)

Suddenly, a sparrow flew up and I realized that other forms of life were right at hand: they built a nest right outside the window!

nest outside the window April 13.jpg

When the 30 minutes were up, my hip still hurt a little (T’ai chi should fix that). As for my mind, it feels all better.

P.S.  On what happened next.  Inspired by the happy feelings, I decided to give away one of my  “Spring Yellow Plaid” Honey Girl pillows to a young man who does carpentry work for us—who was just in the hospital for a serious operation. Since Rich works most closely with the workmen here, I went downstairs to see him and tell him my idea.

He immediately looked down, shook his head, and said, “I don’t think so. He’s not the kind of guy… blablabla negative negative negative.” I smiled and said, “But Rich, have you seen the way he looks at Honey Girl? How he talks to her?  He calls her Woofie Girl. He made a cement plaque for her in the backyard…”

But he just shook his head, looked down, and went shuffling off to do the crossword puzzle. That is a typical exchange between us. It used to bug me a lot and could even drive me to despair and great loneliness. But as you can see on the “Happy Clients” page of my fledgling business, I have learned to take his advice with a grain of salt (or not at all)! Typically, when he tells me not to do something kind and generous, I do it anyway.

And so I just turned away, saying in a pleasant, non-angry voice, “Well that’s ok. You don’t have to be involved. It makes me happy, so I’m going to do it.”

And now I am smiling again, looking forward to another good day. As Rousseau once wrote, “You must be happy.”  And as a long-lost fortune cookie added: “Don’t stop now!”

Chinese fortune cookie Don't stop now.jpg

 

The text from Peter Ralston, Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Power pp. 5-6:

BEING CALM—THE PRESENCE OF BEING

Sometimes we experience what we call “being calm.” It is thought of as a state of mind in which all the activity of mind is clear, at ease, and undisturbed. How this comes about is usually unknown to us; however, it is conventionally attributed to “self-control” and so we take credit for it. When I speak of calming the activity that we call “mind,” it is not to support the manifold assumptions that exist as mind, but to point to a principle that appears in the presence of what we’re calling “calm.” Being calm appears when our internal activity is aligned with the principle for which this is so. This principle seems tied to the presence of being, in which the mere presence of being is allowed to be, regardless of how it appears. In this, being is experienced without preference or aversion, no matter the form. What is the principle in which this is the case?

When the activity that occurs as mind is distorted into a form in which that activity appears to be disturbed or unsettled, it is often rejected and held as something wrong, something to be avoided. This relationship to what is apparently already occurring immediately severs us from the activity itself, putting us in the position of “fixer” rather than one of simply being. This occurs the moment we first ascertain that we are not calm. From this position we are not in the best place to correct this malady, should we hold that it needs fixing, and so a struggle ensues to find and move to a place in which the disturbance can be corrected. This way of holding calm makes calm almost inaccessible.

Being calm is essential to all that we do. Having a calm mind doesn’t depend on appearance. It doesn’t depend on situations. It is more powerful to see calmness not as something that we have to force into being, but as something already existing, or simply as a quality of being in which we can abide, something to be fallen into or uncovered. It can be held as a base or context to those qualities that we call non-calm, or different from calm. Thus we can see attaining calmness not as something that we do, like jumping from one item to another, but as a shift into the sea in which all things float.

It is our tendency toward constant reactivity that reveals to us the power of stillness.

[…]

By holding calm in the way suggested here, we can simply not “do” those things. … instead of trying to make those things disappear, we can simply let them be, not feed them energy and attention, and let them float in the base that we now call being calm. It is from this principle that we can be responsive and clear.

  • Peter Ralston, Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Power, pp. 5-6.