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!)
— 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
Trivia Quiz for To the Lighthouse (1927) and A Room of One’s Own (1929) by Virginia Woolf
with the answers below
For WSEA “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 5/22/22
I. To the Lighthouse
A. On Frustrated Yearning
1. The book begins with a scene of a young boy’s yearning, which opens the reader’s horizon to a long-awaited sea voyage. In a few lines, however, the dream of travel is dashed. Who is the first person to announce the trip’s impossibility, and why?
a. the protagonist’s nurse, because the boy is sickly and too weak for travel at present.
b. the child’s mother, who reminds him that he has schoolwork to do.
c. the child’s father, who announces that the weather “won’t be fine.”
d. a houseguest, who feels a west wind blowing.
2. On Comfort.
Among other things, words provide comfort to the child and it is usually his mother who speaks comforting words. Which of the following refrains is not spoken by the mother, Mrs. Ramsey?
a. “But it may be fine—I expect it will be fine.”
b. “Let’s find another picture to cut out.”
c. “Oh, how beautiful!”
d. “Well then, we will cover it up.”
e. “Think of a kitchen table, when you’re not there.”
3. Ordinary Misogyny. Quotes that we may find objectionable run through the narrative. Which is not from To the Lighthouse?
a. “They did nothing but talk, talk, talk, eat, eat, eat. It was the women’s fault. Women made civilisation impossible with all their ‘charm,’ all their silliness.”
b. “Treat ‘em like chickens, son. Throw ‘em a little corn and they’ll run after you, but don’t give ‘em too much. If you do, they’ll stop layin’ and expect you to wait on ‘em.”
c. “She was not good enough to tie his shoe strings.”
d. “There was Mr. X whispering in her ear, ‘Women can’t paint, women can’t write…’”
e. “She guessed what he was thinking—he would have written better books if he had not married.”
4. Extraordinary Restraint. Women react to men’s comments in ways that feel uncomfortably familiar—with silence, resentment, and smoldering rage. Which is not in To the Lighthouse?
a. “She had done the usual trick—been nice.”
b. “’Odious little man,’ thought Mrs. Ramsey, ‘why go on saying that?’”
c. “She would never for a single second regret her decision, evade difficulties or slur over duties.”
d. “She bent her head as if to let the pelt of jagged hail, the drench of dirty water, bespatter her unrebuked. There was nothing to be said.”
e. “If she had said half of what he said, she would have blown her brains out by now.”
f. All are in To the Lighthouse.
5. How long does it take before the Ramseys take the trip mentioned on page one?
a. two months
b. ten years
c. twenty years
d. one week
II. A Room of One’s Own and themes found in both books
6. Why does Woolf declare that “the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction” must remain unsolved in her work? Which reason is not in the book?
a. because there are too many great women novelists to synthesize into one conclusion
b. because until the 17th century, most women were too poor and uneducated to write anything
c. because throughout history, women have lacked the time, money and solitude necessary to discover their genius
7. Acc. to Woolf, what emotion dominates the books (by men) explaining women and their works?
8. Creativity: How to explain it? Woolf attempts variously to describe what it feels like to conceive ideas and create things. Which quote is not by Virginia Woolf in these two books?
a. “It is fatal for anyone who writes to ignore their sex. The mind must be focused on one’s sexual identity, for its limitations and biological demands matter more than anything.”
b. “She could see it all so clearly, so commandingly, when she looked: it was when she took her brush in hand that the whole thing changed. It was in that moment’s flight … that made this passage from conception to work as dreadful as down a dark passage for a child.”
c. “Thought … had let its line down into the stream. It swayed, minute by minute, hither and thither among the reflections and the weeds, letting the water lift it and sink it, until—you know the little tug—the sudden conglomeration of an idea at the end of one’s line: and then the cautious hauling of it in, and careful laying of it out? Alas, laid on the grass how small, how insignificant this thought of mine looked.”
d. “The androgynous mind is resonant and porous … it transmits emotion without impediment … it is naturally creative, incandescent and undivided.”
9. Woolf’s reality. Which of the following is not in A Room?
a. “If she begins to tell the truth, the [man’s] figure in the looking-glass shrinks; his fitness for life is diminished.”
b. “It is remarkable … what a change of temper a fixed income will bring about. I need not hate any man; he cannot hurt me. I need not flatter any man; he has nothing to give me.”
c. “The Suffrage campaign has done the unthinkable! Finally, it has roused in men an extraordinary desire to help women achieve their potential.”
d. “Imaginatively, she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history.”
e. “Any woman born with a great gift in the sixteenth century would certainly have gone crazed, shot herself, or ended her days in some lonely cottage outside the village, half witch, half wizard, feared and mocked at.”
10. What’s wrong with women’s writing of the nineteenth century? Which reason is not cited?
a. Ignorance and emotion. “Anger was tampering with the integrity of Charlotte Brontë the novelist. … Her imagination swerved from indignation and we feel it swerve.”
b. Lack of natural ability. “No woman has ever written as well as Dickens or Proust.”
c. Pressure of convention. “She was thinking of something other than the thing itself. … She had altered her values in deference to the opinion of others.”
d. Lack of female community and heritage. “They had no tradition behind them, or one so short and partial that it was of little help. For we think back through our mothers … it is useless to go to the great men writers for help.”
11. What advice does Woolf not proffer to young women?
a. “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
b. There must be a lock on that door, the door to your room.
c. “Adopt the name of a man for your writing; anonymity runs in our blood.”
d. “All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn.”
2. e. (Son Andrew makes that observation, describing his father’s philosophical writings.)
3. b. That quote is from Not Without Laughter by Langston Hughes.
4. f. All are in To the Lighthouse.
To all women: please write! write simply, write sadly, write with your heart or your anger…
Write about your lives, about your thoughts, about your past, present, or future, but write, and let the world know you were here!
For what it is worth, I’ve pasted below a photo of the books I’ve created during my time on this earth, inspired partly at least by my reading of Woolf’s essay during my time as an undergraduate….
Woolf makes me proud to be a writer. To exist. To forgive us all, and to hope… for more great writers will come! Please write!
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.
As dawn rises over this new day, I am filled with wonder and love for the bedrock of books. Books wise and curious, which draw me in every morning and sometimes allow for a marvelous coincidence to take place, a flame to flicker, as if the authors were hovering nearby, with smiles growing wide, because someone finally got it! This morning, the light of wisdom was sparked by an accidental discovery in Alan Watts (The Way of Zen) that led me back to a book I just finished rereading yesterday: the obscure, frightening, and yet comforting story called The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. (Hmmm. I suspect Gaiman’s story contains more wisdom than appears at first glance. To do: read it again some day!)
The passage from Alan Watts comes from his explanation of the intermediate stage in a student’s life as he (or she) pursues Zen Buddhist training: “The continued practice of za-zen now provides the student with a clear, unobstructed mind into which he can toss the koan like a pebble into a pool and simply watch to see what his mind does with it. As he concludes each koan, the roshi [master / teacher] usually requires that he present a verse from the Zenrin Kushu which expresses the point of the koan just solved. Other books are also used, and the late Sokei-an Sasaki, working in the United States, found that an admirable manual for this purpose was Alice in Wonderland.” (The Way of Zen, p. 167).
The passage from Neil Gaiman comes from the climactic scene where the seven-year-old hero is standing in a field as night falls, careful to remain inside a circle in the grass, as voices and shadowy figures taunt him. His friend, Lettie Hempstock, led him into that circle and instructed him to remain there no matter what happens. So he does. But it is so hard. Here are some key moments from the passage, and the coincidences I heard along the way. Do you hear them too?
I sat down with my back to the dead tree in the center of the fairy ring, and I closed my eyes, and I did not move. I remembered poems to distract myself, recited them silently under my breath, mouthing the words but making no sound. Fury said to a mouse that he met in the house let us both go to law I will prosecute you… I could say all the poem in one long breath, and I did, all the way to the inevitable end. I’ll be the judge I’ll be the jury said cunning old Fury I’ll try the whole cause and condemn you to death.* […] “You are hungry,” said the voice in the night, and it was no longer Lettie’s voice, not any longer. It might have been the voice inside my own head, but it was speaking aloud. “You are tired. Your family hates you. You have no friends. And Lettie Hempstock, I regret to tell you, is never coming back.” I wished I could have seen who was talking. If you have something specific and visible to fear, rather than something that could be anything, it is easier. “Nobody cares,” said the voice, so resigned, so practical. “Now, step out of the circle and come to us. One step is all it will take. Just put one foot across the threshold and we will make all the pain go away forever: the pain you feel now and the pain that is still to come. It will never happen.” It was not one voice, not any longer. It was two people talking in unison Or a hundred people. I could not tell. So many voices. “How can you be happy in this world? You have a hole in your heart. You have a gateway inside you to lands beyond the world you know. They will call you, as you grow. … You can come out, and we will end it, cleanly, or you can die in there, of hunger and fear. And when you are dead your circle will mean nothing, and we will tear out your heart and take your soul for a keepsake.” “P’raps it will be like that,” I said, to the darkness and the shadows, “and p’raps it won’t. And p’raps if it is, it would have been like that anyway. I don’t care. I’m still going to wait here for Lettie Hempstock, and she’s going to come back to me.” There was silence. … I thought over what I’d said, and I knew that it was true. At that moment, for once in my childhood, I was not scared of the dark, and I was perfectly willing to die (as willing as any seven-year-old, certain of his immortality, can be) if I died waiting for Lettie. Because she was my friend. Time passed. … The moon rose higher. My eyes had adjusted to the darkness. I sang, under my breath, mouthing the words over and over. [“The Mouse’s Tale” from Alice in Wonderland morphs into a snippet of a song by Gilbert and Sullivan, from Iolanthe]:
You’re a regular wreck with a crick in your neck And no wonder you snore for your head’s on the floor And you’ve needles and pins from your sole to your shins And your flesh is a-creep for your left leg’s asleep And you’ve cramp in your toes and a fly on your nose You’ve got fluff in your lung and a feverish tongue And a thirst that’s intense and a general sense that you haven’t been sleeping in clover…
I sang it to myself, the whole song, all the way through, two or three times, and I was relieved that I remembered the words, even if I did not always understand them.
*** (from Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane [New York: HarperCollins, 2013], pp. 132-133, 138-140.
* “The Mouse’s Tale” in Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—chapter 3, “A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale”.
The lesson: “I was relieved that I remembered the words, even if I did not always understand them.”
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.
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…
Today’s Holiday Bazaar in West Seattle was a little, well, bizarre, but the silver lining was to see several people, little kids and older folks (my age, that is) who were all enjoying the “Win YOUR Quilt” game. They were moving squares around, eye-balling the effects, seeing line and color like artists for a few minutes, and discussing it with their family and friends. It is a deeply pleasurable experience, that was visible on their faces.
For me, it was really a delight to see that.
Sorry I didn’t take pictures — it seems pushy and rude, so I don’t.
Eight people played the game, and the winning design is shown here. I’ll be back in touch when the whole thing is done, but for now, here is the formula which I’ve decided to start marketing. People love it!
QUILT MAKER’S KIT
Purchase a “Quilt Maker’s Kit” of 30 artsy squares by HGBG
Invite your friends and family over for a Quilt Making Party and Drawing!
Part One: MAKE A QUILT! game Public: Who can play? Everyone!
Ensure hands are clean, with wipes provided.
Browse through the quilt squares, choose 15 that you like. Put the other ones into a neat pile to the side.
Choose your layout: horizontal or vertical. (“Frankenstein” is vertical; “Respect wall-hanging” is horizontal)
Lay out your quilt squares in lines according to the blue taped areas on the table. It will create a design that is 3 squares x 5 squares (vertical), or 5 squares x 3 squares (horizontal).
Straighten it all up.
Take a photo with your cell phone. Congratulations! You are now a quilt designer and that is your first e-quilt!
Part Two: WIN YOUR QUILT! drawing Instructions
Each person makes a quilt and photographs it in the Make a Quilt game (above).
Each person writes name and contact information (email and/or phone) on a slip of paper.
Fold it and put the paper in a shoebox.
At a precise time, hold a drawing!
Notify the winner.
Contact HGBG. Details of the design and choice of fabric for the back will be discussed with Ms. Julia who will put the order on her to-do list!
The finished quilt will be ready in 3-4 weeks and delivered (in Seattle) or shipped.
QUILT MAKER KITS: Love the “Make a Quilt” and “WIN YOUR Quilt” games? Want to bring them to a family get-together or child’s birthday party? Get a Quilt Maker Kit (30 squares) & custom-made follow-up quilt for only $399.99 (plus tax)! Contact me! juliawsea@juliawsea
I’m thrilled that my work will be included in the items auctioned by the King County NAACP during the Live Virtual Event next week! Two “Respect” wall-hangings–“For Him” (left) and “For Her” (right) will be featured. Details below!
Here’s to the great work done by the NAACP in Washington state and nation-wide!
The “Respect” wall-hangings: civil rights artwork for the home!
There are many symbols stitched in these wall hangings, such as the three little birds which conjure up Bob Marley’s song, the state names, and the two pockets which represent resourcefulness, grit, and homegrown American sweetness. The artworks represent an effort to honor Black culture in the USA, so that the history of struggles, the ongoing connection to Africa, and hopes for the future live on.
– Three patches declare our political statement: 1) a portrait in yellow and black of slain civil rights leader Malcolm X, 2) a cheery reminder of Bob Marley’s song “One Love,” and 3) the slogan “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance.”
– The back of “For Him” is made of plain red cotton; “For Her” is made of a blue and green African print resembling a palm tree or long-necked woman. Both are bordered with Japanese block prints from Hosekibako, an elegant resale shop in Seattle’s Int’l District; “For Him” features white cotton with brown bamboo and flowers; “For Her” features a dark blue cotton with large black lilies.
– Materials: cotton, satin, denim, flannel
– Size: Height: 37”; Width: 57”; Depth: 1/3:
– Polyester batting (1/3” thick) assures lightweight warmth and a cozy feel.
– Quilted the old-fashioned way, with tiny knots of embroidery floss, tied on the back.
– The final binding is stitched on by hand, with tiny stitches to keep it safe and sound.
– Each wall-hanging has a cloth “sleeve” at the top, for easy mounting (with a stick or dowel and a couple nails).
Made in Seattle by Honey Girl Books and Gifts LLC: a woman-owned business, estab. 2018, by Seattle native Julia Douthwaite Viglione (daughter of G.K. “Jeff” Douthwaite, former WA state legislator and civil rights advocate).
It is hard to keep your head up, remain optimistic, and have faith in our fellow human beings when you read the daily newspaper. That is why I drink my coffee with wise voices from the past, and merely glance through the news. (No imminent end, good.)
This morning, my gloom has been accompanied by Ralph Waldo Emerson. He just inspired me to stop spending money on Etsy ads (screw you, Etsy), stop feeling guilty over rebuffing an obnoxious person who can’t take a hint (screw you, DS), and kick aside my usual low-grade depression. Must remember this feeling, and combat the darkness. Fight back. Give a shit.
What the hell do I care. Read on if you dare. Take it to heart if you’re really brave, if you think you can. And don’t tell me what you think. Just do your own life and get off the internet asap!
“Expect me not to show cause why I seek or why I exclude company.
I do not wish to expiate, but to live. My life is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, than that it should be glittering and unsteady.
Few and mean as my gifts may be, I actually am, and do not need for my own assurance or the assurance of my fellows any secondary testimony.
What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great [wo]man is [s]he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance,” Essays: First Series in The Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. Brooks Atkinson (New York: The Modern Library, 1968), 149-150.
The statement sounds false. Too simple. Too nicey-nice. But what if it were true?
The past four days at Whiskey Creek on the north side of the Olympic Peninsula, living in a small cabin located right above a rocky beach overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca, makes me think maybe that it could be true. In the media-saturated daily bad-news barrage that usually assaults us, we may neglect to realize that good things exist, and that the tides, waves, and currents which look so scary from shore, are doing nothing but rise and fall and wash along as they should. They pose no threat to us. That seaweed knows exactly what to do: it looks relaxed as its arms lazily stream this way then that… just floating, not flailing, just being not doing anything in particular.
And life moves along as it will. The kelp beds whose arms bob along the water’s surface are doing just fine. The driftwood bobs along fine too, until it bumps into the sand, rolls ashore, and becomes a hiding place for chipmunks and shore birds, sand fleas and other tiny creatures. Or rolls back into the surf with a big wave’s impact.
Nor do the herons suffer from the water’s ever-changing movements. They merely tiptoe their way on top of the kelp, like elegant green-footed ballerinas.
Life doesn’t have to be scary and stressful and alarming all the time.
Listen to the wind, the sky, and the voices of all those creatures who are with us here, day in day out. Hang out with them for a while, even if you have to concentrate to grasp their tunes, above the sirens, leaf-blowers, or TVs of our fellow humans muddling along in misery. They don’t own us.
Just ride the tides for a while. Good things do exist. And they are allowed to be easy.
Thank you Coco Mellors, and Whiskey Creek, for the reminder.
Trivia Quiz for The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford (1945)
For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 8/29/21
A. The Pursuit of Love and satire
1. Love and marriage. Some of the satire reveals the limitations of women’s lives in the 1920s and 1930s. Which of the following quips about women is not in the novel?
a. “X was an intensely dreary girl … who had failed so far to marry, and seemed to have no biological reason for existing.”
b. “Intelligent and energetic, but with no outlet for her energies, unhappy in her marriage, uninterested in her child, and inwardly oppressed with a sense of futility, she was in the mood either to take up some cause, or to embark upon a love affair.”
c. “No woman really minds hearing of the past affairs of her lover, it is the future alone that has the power to terrify.”
d. A male character says, “Starvation is good for women and beasts; it brings ‘em to heel.”
2. Politics and class. Arch comments on the English gentry run through The Pursuit of Love, though other classes, politics, and issues come under fire too. Which of the following quotes is not from the book?
a. “Uplifting the brother’s no easy job. I’m as busy as a cat with fleas, myself. Lord! How I hate sick people, and their stupid, meddling families, and smelly, dirty rooms, and climbing filthy steps in dark hallways.”
b. “That must be the great hold that hunting has over people, especially stupid people; it enforces an absolute concentration, both mental and physical.”
c. “I hate the lower classes … Ravening beasts, trying to get my money. Let them try, that’s all.”
d. “Left-wing people are always sad because they mind dreadfully about their causes, and the causes are always going so badly.”
B. The Characters
3. Which portraits of the narrator Fanny, and her cousin Linda, are not found in The Pursuit of Love?
a. “Her longing for love had become an obsession.”
b. “With my usual base habit of cowardice, I shrunk into my sloth, like a snail into its shell”
c. “As she had never in her life done so much as make her own bed, I could not imagine that Christian’s flat could be very tidy or comfortable if it was being run by her.”
d. “When I consider my life, day by day, hour by hour, it seems to be composed of a series of pinpricks.”
4. Linda’s character comes across strongly. Which of the following does not describe her?
a. “There was something furious about her, even when she laughed, which she did a great deal…. Something reminiscent of pictures of Napoleon in youth, a sort of scowling intensity.”
b. “She was a delicate, as well as a highly nervous child … too much crying kept her awake at night, put her off her food, and did her harm.”
c. Like her brothers and sisters, she could not stand boredom.
d. At age 20, she went to Oxford to study Law before becoming a journalist, then a spy.
5. Uncle Matthew: Terrifying or Threadbare? Which of the following pass-times is not enjoyed by Uncle Matthew?
a. hunting his children
b. hating his enemies, other people’s children, and foreigners
c. cracking whips at dawn “with a noise greater than gun-fire”
d. studying ancient languages
6. The Bolter. Fanny paints a portrait of her absent mother as one who leads a life where wicked things are known and rules are flouted. Which of the following mysteries does she not know about?
b. Continental travel
d. the Masonic pledge and rituals
C. Romance amid the War and Daily Violence
7. Although hunting kills animals daily, brothers fight in wars, and bombs fall on London, there is relatively little sadness in this book. Which of the following is not from The Pursuit of Love?
a. “He rescued the hare, waded out again, his fine white breeches covered with green muck, and put it, wet and gasping, into Linda’s lap. It was the one romantic gesture of his life.”
b. “Love becomes greater and nobler in calamity.”
c. “When she thought about the war it seemed to her almost a relief that it had actually begun, in so far as a beginning is the first step towards an end.”
d. “Nobody is killed in air-raids, there is a great deal of noise and a great deal of mess, but people really don’t seem to get killed much.”
D. Snappy Style. Match the quote to the character it describes. The characters include: a. Lord John Fort William; b. Moira Kroesig; c. Uncle Matthew
8. “I have only read one book in my life, and that is White Fang. It’s so frightfully good I’ve never bothered to read another.”
9. “To think I ruined nine months of my life in order to have that.”
10. “Poor old thing, I suppose she likes him, but, I must say, if he was one’s dog one would have him put down.”
1. d. That quote is from Daphne du Maurier, Jamaica Inn.
2. a. That quote is from Nella Larsen, Passing.
3. b. That quote is from Villette by Charlotte Brontë.
4. d. Linda did not study law, go to Oxford, nor pursue any profession.
5. d. Uncle Matthew, as we know from no. 8 below, only ever read one book: White Fang by Jack London.
7. b. That quote is from Love in the Time of Cholera.