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.
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!
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.
Life can be sweet. Hard but with moments of grace. As I was writing this, Richie Havens, “Here Comes the Sun” came on the airwaves thanks to my favorite radio station KEXP, and reminded me of this flowering tree seen recently in Chinatown. Yes, let’s have some hope! Spring is coming, hate has lost, help is on the way. Tomorrow Trump has to leave the White House by noon, and we’ll have new leaders : President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris!
After four years of Trump, it is amazing to survive intact. And after all those years in the drear darkness and punishing snow and winds of Indiana winters, I am surprised by the light touch of winter in Seattle–it’s a damp darkness, slow-moving but livable. While we await vaccines and better times, I gave myself a task of capturing the rage and despair inspired by Trump, but now that “The Ten Days til Post-Trump” is done and published, I am ready to move on.
We persevere, holding book discussions while shivering at a picnic table, finding things to do at home, suspending judgment, just getting by. My sewing gives me hope and love; I hope the feeling comes across and gives you a little lift. Here is a sneak preview of “Respect” quilts no. 7 and 8, in progress.
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.
A: The best answer I can give, as a long-time member of that bittersweet club known as motherhood, comes from Epictetus (or the kids on the playground): MYOB, mind your own business.
As readers of The Art of Living know, there is a chapter entitled, “Disregard What Doesn’t Concern You.” It begins like this:
“Spiritual progress requires us to highlight what is essential and to disregard everything else as trivial pursuits unworthy of our attention. Moreover, it is actually a good thing to be thought foolish and simple with regard to matters that don’t concern us. Don’t be concerned with other people’s impressions of you” [or of your children]. “They are dazzled and deluded by appearances. Stick with your purpose. This alone will strengthen your will and give your life coherence.” The Art of Living, p. 20.
That’s all there is. Sounds easy, right?
It’s not. But it is a good goal.
If you can bite your tongue and think about how much you love your child, all the time, just that, you’ll be a great mom. [As kids are wont to remind us sometimes, they did not ask to be born. So our job is to accompany them in this journey of life. None of us chose to be born. And it’s hard to live with purpose. But what other life would you want?]
p.s. If you can do the same thing for yourself, you’ll probably feel much better about her, too. Works for husbands also. And dogs. Cats who pee on the rug, not so much…
fyi: yesterday’s face mask production, and packages ready for pick-up
You really know you’ve been listening to the radio a lot when you know who “Shameika” is. And you actually know who’s being written about in the media. Case in point: Fiona Apple, and her song “Shameika.” (Or “Shameika Said I Have Potential. Shameika Said I Have Potential. Shameika Said I Have Potential.”—you just keep on wanting to say it. It’s hypnotic.) The song’s dissonant rhythms and jarring effects reminded me of walking down the hall in high school, by the banging of metal locker doors and kids throwing words around like hand grenades.
“One of the album’s unifying themes is women and Apple’s relationships with them, not in a rah-rah #empowerment sense but in a much more complicated and often very raw manner. A standout is “Shameika,” named for a schoolmate of Apple’s who—in a eureka moment for the artist that she admits Shameika probably doesn’t remember—told our antsy, tortured, self-doubting future songwriter that she “had potential.” The verses are chaotic torrents of piano and percussion, and then the world suddenly stops as Apple sings, in an almost hammy, Elton John kind of way, ‘But… Shameika said I had potential.’”
That is all good and fine but when I saw the photo of Fiona Apple—skinny white chick with long dark hair—and that she was raised in Harlem, I knew that Shameika was black. That is key to the song!!! Because it builds on what the critic should know, (shouldn’t they?) and admit: if you’re a neurotic white girl and a black girl thinks you’re cool, well, you suspect that it may actually deep down somewhere be true. It’s a bit of white culture, don’t you know… And it’s an amazing feeling.
(Fiona Apple’s young life in Harlem was harrowing. According to her wiki-bio, “At age 12, Apple was raped outside the apartment she shared with her mother, step-father and sister in Harlem. She subsequently developed an eating disorder, purposely slimming her developing body, which she saw as ‘bait’ for potential predators. ‘I definitely did have an eating disorder,’ she recalled. ‘What was really frustrating for me was that everyone thought I was anorexic, and I wasn’t. I was just really depressed and self-loathing.'”
So you can imagine when Shameika said she had potential, it was really, really, really cool. It was ruminate all the way home in your head and write about in your diary cool. Those words lifted her, til she was soaring in the sky on the wings of cool…
Can’t wait to listen more to my favorite station, KEXP, after my quiet walk around the neighborhood.
fyi: here’s yesterday’s face mask production, for a mother and two children (daughter–blue; son–red).
btw: Keep those orders coming! If you can be patient, I’ll just keep on sewing face masks! I’m loving the sewing, actually (as long as I practice T’ai chi, take care of posture, and dance around the room while working!). I also love connecting to people through beautiful fabrics and careful stitching. My hope is that the people feel someone cares about them, and the masks endow them with a sense of dignity and style. As if we too, all of us, despite all this bad and sad stuff that’s going on, we too “have potential.”
Getting back to my original intention now, sorry about the weirdness! (That was so yesterday.)
One of the most surprising results of our crisis has been the democratization of culture. I mean, the way we are coming to appreciate that “everybody has their own music.” That is, everybody has their own way of enjoying life, and even if we don’t like it, we benefit from the good feelings going around. We can now see why that matters. It matters because it provides us with a little happiness, and we can choose our own, whether we are making a Tiktok video, playing a video game, singing, playing music, practicing T’ai chi, meditating, or praying in our homes while waiting for better days, or … well anything that we’re all doing to stay sane and feel centered and try and enjoy today, without hurting others during this crisis.
A favorite writer describes music–or any beloved cultural pastime–like this: “If someone says, ‘Come walk on my path, it’s beautiful,’ all I hear is that they love me with all their heart and want to give me what they see as beautiful. It just doesn’t always happen to be my way. It’s certainly equal to mine, though. And I love it that their way works for them and brings them happiness. All these ways! There’s no path that’s higher than another. Sooner or later we begin to notice. The communication for that is: ‘I love it that your way makes you happy. Thank you for wanting to share it with me.'”*
*Byron Katie, Loving What Is, pp. 76-77.
After all, we are glad to be here, right? Now. No matter what. It’s what we’ve got and it’s ours.
The blocks pinned together here use strong colors and textures–lustrous satins in red, black, white and gold—alongside the cotton to create powerful emotional effects. It is fun to depart from the 100% cotton, washable quilts for kids I’ve been making lately, and to create something totally inefficient and impossible to replicate. Just for the heck of it. Just because I can. And because I have an audience! I’m excited to share this at the September 8 reading at Third Place Books Ravenna, in Seattle!
Below you’ll find a list of the passages from the book and their relation to the blocks of fabric. The last photo, of the black tuxedo pants with a black satin stripe, and the googly-eyed skeletons on an orange background, will be used to simulate the creature’s descent into madness and revenge.
If it’s too abstract to see the story emerge, come back tomorrow!
From Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein or, The Modern Prometheus, the 1818 Text. ed. James Rieger (U Chicago Press, 1974)
Letters from Captain Walton to his sister: Block one (top left): “There—for with your leave, my sister, I will put some trust in preceding navigators … I may there discover the wondrous power which attracts the needle; and may regulate a thousand celestial observations” p. 10.
From Captain Walton: Block two: (white satin with black and scary words on beige): “I shall commit my thoughts to paper … I bitterly feel the want of a friend” p. 13. “We were nearly surrounded by ice … round by a very thick fog” p. 17.
Frankenstein’s story: Block three: Dark blue city kept awake by lights: “These philosophers penetrate into the recesses of nature, and show how she works in her hiding places.” 42 “I possessed the capacity of bestowing animation” p. 48, Brown leaves: “Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil, as I dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave?” “At the top of the house … I kept my workshop of filthy creation” p. 50.
The Creature’s story begins: Block four: “The leaves began to bud forth on the trees. Happy, happy earth! … My senses were gratified and refreshed by a thousand scents of delight, and a thousand sights of beauty” p. 111.
Block five: The Creature’s story, cont.: Blue and white Toile de Jouhy evokes traditional village life: “My thoughts now became more active, and I longed to discover the motives and feelings of these lovely creatures” p. 110; “It was on one of those days, when my cottagers periodically rested from labour—the old man played on his guitar, and the children listened to him… when some one tapped at the door… it was a lady” p. 111. Red satin evokes the creature’s love of Safie and the DeLacey family.
Block five, alternate squares (black and red satin, with dressmaker dummy and Frankenstein head) The Creature’s story, cont. “No Eve soothed my sorrows, or shared my thoughts; I was alone” p. 127; “You must create a female for me, with whom I can live in the interchange of sympathies necessary for my being” p. 140. “I demand a creature of another sex, but as hideous as myself. Oh! My creator, make me happy; let me feel gratitude towards you for one benefit!” p. 142.
Block seven (black and orange): The Creature’s warning: “Man, you may hate; but beware! Your hours will pass in dread and misery, and soon the bolt will fall” p. 165.
Block eight (ships, sailing apparatus): “’Farewell.’ He sprung from the cabin-window, as he said this, upon the ice-raft which lay close to the vessel. He was soon borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance” p. 221.