Categories
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.

Categories
Uncategorized

Good things can be easy?… at Whiskey Creek it seems possible

“In real life, good things are allowed to be easy.”

–from today’s Modern Love essay in the NYT, by Coco Mellors.

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.

Categories
Uncategorized

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:

Categories
Uncategorized

wake up! (Thoreau inspires again)

I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up. –epigraph of Walden

“Every morning was a cheerful invitation,” writes Henry David Thoreau in Walden, “Morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me…. to be awake is to be alive. … I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do.” (Walden, chapter “Where I lived”)

May these images of spring from my neighborhood in West Seattle–including one photo of our very own chanticleer on Admiral Way, from last spring!–bring hope and inspire you to enjoy this day. Or at least keep trying to do so…

Categories
art friendship happiness music nature

day 23: good vibrations

Hello again,

through the clouds april 11 2020

During a little walk around the neighborhood this morning, I enjoyed seeing the sun peeking through the clouds and immediately started singing in my head, “I Can See Clearly Now.”  (Even if I can’t).

Jimmy Cliff, we miss you!  Time for another concert in Seattle!

Also saw some cool driftwood furniture on my outward-bound journey, which was made even lovelier with a neighbor sitting there, on my homeward journey. A smile and brief chat really do make the difference.

Keep up those good vibrations, neighbors!

And finally, here are the face masks produced yesterday. One order includes three Petite-size masks for Easter baskets!  What a nice Easter bunny those kids know…

 

I Can See Clearly Now

By Johnny Nash

I can see clearly now the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day

I think I can make it now the pain is gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day

Look all around, there’s nothing but blue skies
Look straight ahead, there’s nothing but blue skies

I can see clearly now the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day
Oh what a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Johnny Nash

I Can See Clearly Now lyrics © Nashco Music, Inc

Categories
art creativity generosity health nature trees wisdom

little ideas for an enchanted life

Fritillaria by Rory McEwen

Hi readers,

Did you ever discover a writer who seems to be saying what you wish you knew, or are in the process of discovering? As one with an active imagination (some might say over-active), this has happened to me on several memorable occasions, starting maybe with Richard Kraus (in the wonderful set of books known as “Bunny’s Nutshell Library”), later with Jean-Jacques Rousseau (the Confessions), and most recently with the books by Sharon Blackie. I have not quite finished The Enchanted Life yet but it is due back at the library so I’m going to order my own copy today and, to make my commitment public, share some tips here.

Little things to do, to make life feel more enchanting:

  1. Build an attachment to some “things” in the place where you live. This can be done by speaking or singing to some living creature (birds maybe?), touching (a special tree perhaps?), or otherwise learning to love some part of the natural world on a regular basis. It could be visiting a special stone on your daily walk, and addressing it as you pass.  As Blackie writes, “Like any new relationship, it is about building attachments to particular locations and features which, over time, become familiar and loved. You can learn to belong anywhere, in this way, if you choose. It’s an act of creation, and like all acts of creation, it’s also an act of love, and an enormous leap of faith” (55).
  2. Allow wonder back into your vocabulary, and seek out places that fill you with awe. Quoting philosopher William James, Blackie notes, wonder is “a key to human potential.” Such experiences “break us open, and invite us to open ourselves to the possibility that there might be an order of reality which lies beyond that which we can experience through our physical senses” (77). For me, this is the Pacific Coast and all the wonderful saltwater beaches of Seattle. I feel like a little kid again, walking on those slippery, sandy logs and looking for sea anemones in the cold and windy tidal zones…  (the pic below was taken at one of my all-time favorite places, the Quileute Nation beaches near LaPush, WA).
  3. Accept not-knowing. Consider each day a phenomenon that unfolds as part of a long-term mystery, instead of a list of chores to check off before you’re allowed back to bed. Embrace philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s maxim–“Life is a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved.” (88)
  4. Blackie’s book is full of little quizzes you can take, and concrete suggestions to improve your state of mind. For example, she suggests thinking about plants you love. As Blackie writes, “Scan your life, and you’ll find there are at least one or two plants that intrigue, comfort or inspire you. Like any good relationship, your connection with this plant will need tending. … Perhaps put a picture of it in your bedroom, or try growing it, or sit with it. Eat it if you can! The more intimacy you create, the more you will learn (just like in human relationships)” (251).

The image above is of a flower called Fritillaria meleagris (painted by Rory McEwen). I had never seen this flower until 2002, when I had the good fortune to make friends with Isabelle Pottier Thomas who then lived in Saint-Jean-des-Mauvrets, not far from my then-home in Angers, France. Once a week, I would drive out to Saint-Jean and we would go for long walks around her village, in the vineyards and orchards of the beautiful valleys near the Loire river, and our friendship gradually took on a wondrous shape of its own. It was an odd and awkward friendship at first, between two opposites–she the stern, reserved Norman, and me, the over-enthusiastic, naive American–or that’s how it felt, until we realized that each of us mirrored the feelings of the other, deep down. The Fritillaria was a fragile spring wildflower that Isabelle brought to my attention on one of those walks.  They don’t last long, so you have to enjoy them while you can. Neither did Isabelle, who died way too young.

I ordered some Fritillaria seeds this week. They are coming from very far away, and they won’t flower for months after I plant them, but the very fact that they are on their way now makes me happy.  I hope that the purple blooms will rekindle memories of those walks, and Isabelle’s feisty funny spirit will continue to enchant this life…

In the meantime, I’m going to the park again today with Honey Girl!

Me on the beach at Quileute La Push April 2019.jpg

Categories
art creativity design travel

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 https://www.etsy.com/shop/HoneyGirlBooksGifts !

Categories
dogs happiness health wisdom

Cheer up! let negative ions help

Hello on a cloudy day, one of many out we’ve now had here in my new home, Seattle.

Cloudy day with Space Needle Oct 9 2018.jpg

I knew that this cloudy, rainy weather was coming. I remember having cold wet feet all day long in high school, after riding my bike there in the morning darkness. But it’s different to be here now. I want to love living here as much as I did when it was sunny and warm in July, August, and September!  Being a bit older and wiser, I’m also aware of the dangers of depression and SAD.

So I recently read Heather McAuliffe‘s helpful book, Beating Seattle’s Grey, and I recommend it to everyone, no matter what cloudy sky you live under. Among the best tips I took away from from it are: 1) water is not the enemy, darkness is the culprit; 2) bright light is good for the mood; 3) decorate with color; 4) go out and get some bright light at lunchtime if possible; and 5) there are actually “rain shadows” in Seattle, created by the small mountain ranges upon which this city sits, and which allow some neighborhoods (Yay, North Admiral is one!) to be less rainy than others.  6) But the most intriguing scientific fact that I read, and which underlies McAuliffe’s advice about getting and using good rain gear, lies in the concept of negative ions. Negative ions are especially numerous in places where air meets water, as in waterfalls and mountain streams, but any body of moving water will do, I imagine. (The Saint Joseph River, back in South Bend, was always a nice place to walk also, even if the effects were less exuberant.)

As Bruce A. Mason notes in an article called “How Negative Ions Produce Positive Vibes”: “It’s time we get back to basics, people! The healing properties of negative ions have been recognized for thousands of years. Different cultures and societies have embraced the power of negative ions for centuries. The ancient Greeks recommended seaside health spas to cure skin diseases, and in the 1800s the English developed seaside resorts to treat the depressed and unwell. So if you’re able to seize the day and find a way to recharge in nature this season, run don’t walk and just do it!”

Ever since I read McAuliffe’s description of all the good done by negative ions, I’ve made it a point to walk along Alki Beach as often as possible when I’m out with Honey Girl. Although the skies are cloudy, the seas are choppy, and the air is brisk, it is still a beautiful experience. Honey Girl likes it too, as you can see from pics of today’s morning walk. (She’s not thrilled about rain and being wet, however.) I hope to make this a daily practice, even in the pouring rain (and possibly without the dog). Just think how many negative ions would be in the air on a day like that!

 

 

Categories
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!

Categories
dogs meditation memory nature trees

39 days to go. Day One: our trees are us

 

Today marks 39 days til we depart from the Midwest. That means 39 days to capture the essence of this region, to appreciate the people (and dogs) we have come to know here, and to contemplate what it means to return home after so many years spent in that vast region known to Seattlites as “East of the mountains.”

The trees seen here, laden with April snow and tender spring leaves, can be interpreted many ways. As I have gazed on them during my morning routine over the past year, my eyes were drawn to the point where the branches touch. You can see it in the right of the snowy scene. They touch gingerly yet steadily, tip to tip, jostled by the wind yet ever returning together. Neither one dominates. They look like friends, I’ve often thought.

Or, they could be likened to a teacher and a pupil. As The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting points out, “Old trees should show a grave dignity and an air of compassion. Young trees should appear modest and retiring. They should stand together gazing at each other.

Two trees crossing each other.

Two trees together yet separate.”*

Lovely thoughts.

Yet the Midwest where these trees grow can be a harsh environment for people. South Bend, Indiana is home to extreme poverty, violent crime, and thousands of people living in man-made misery. The state is a place where lawmakers systematically neglect the vulnerable, such as children born into poverty and elders lingering in nursing homes. Not to mention the chronic racism and homophobia that live on here in America’s Heartland… **

So the trees reaching in vain for each other could symbolize the human tragedy going on below.  They could remind people to try harder to fight these trends. You might think of the situation with the melody of “Ebony and Ivory” in mind, (in homage to the classic song by Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney),

Sycamore and Cottonwood,

Side by side in my South Bend neighborhood,

Live together in perfect harmony

Why can’t we?

***

* reproduced in The Tao of Painting by Mai-Mai Sze, p. 54

** https://www.southbendtribune.com/news/local/study-indiana-rate-of-kids-in-state-care-double-that/article_bf1139e4-1315-5c61-8774-1f228b2c71ff.html

https://www.southbendtribune.com/news/local/indiana-ranks-last-in-long-term-services-for-elderly-disabled/article_8a3e734e-efb5-11e7-9290-9f2188d5196b.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_Freedom_Restoration_Act_(Indiana)

https://www.courierpress.com/story/opinion/columnists/jon-webb/2017/11/07/webb-indiana-still-has-racism-problem/827560001/