Categories
American literature art children creativity design French literature quilts travel

Literary home décor made in Seattle, vient jusqu’à Paris!

Bonjour!  J’ai le plaisir de vous annoncer la venue imminente de Honey Girl Books and Gifts en France!  Dans ma valise il y aura:

Contactez juliawsea@gmail.com

 

affiche paris .jpg

Advertisement
Categories
art children Chinese literature creativity friendship generosity happiness wisdom work

quiet, happy anticipation… as a new group of people comes to life

Hello!

This morning is a time of quiet, happy anticipation over what lies ahead: the first meeting of a new group of kids who will form the “Write YOUR Story” team for Spring 2019! I only know two of the nine children enrolled, and as all teachers know, this moment before the names on the list take on the faces, voices and personalities of real people, is a thrilling time. You wonder who will be the silly, and who has a more serious turn of spirit, who will be a force of calm, which one will chat nonstop, and which one will remind you of still waters running deep. Of course, the same child can incarnate all those qualities, if you know them and see them long enough: we are all changeable creatures.

But the news was so awful today as most days; I almost felt numbed into sadness after reading the daily papers and weekly magazines we get here…  Until something reminded me of my role, which is to inspire people, and pushed me to seek out a finer sort of sustenance.  And so I returned to Mai-Mai Sze’s Tao of Painting  for a refresher.

 

What Mai-Mai Sze reminded me is that the little group of writers will create a spirit, an esprit de corps, that is unlike any other. It will come from each of us and form a collective feeling. How that happens is a mystery to me. But I find it endlessly fascinating anyway and I know no-one like Mai-Mai Sze to guide such reflection. Here, then, are some of her key thoughts on the Ch’i:

“Ch’i is an elusive term, one whose meaning can be sensed without difficulty but which no simple definition can cover. … it has to be grasped through intuition.

Its significance is perhaps best suggested by its literal meaning of ‘breath,’ if one remembers the ancient concept of breath as soul and spirit.The Sanskrit prana, the Greek pneuma, and the Latin spiritus have the same import as ch’i, likewise ruah in Biblical Hebrew and the term nefesh, described by Zohar as the breath and substance of the Fourth Sphere, the world of physical existence.  […]

The character ch’i is composed of ch’i (vapor) and mi (rice or grain). It is supposed to have meant originally the spirits distilled from rice or the vapor rising from the fermentation of rice or other grain. Ch’i (vapor) also stands for ‘clouds,’ and its old forms closely resemble bands or ribbons of clouds.  […] the original form of the character was made up of three wavy strokes, indicating clouds or vapors. The three strokes, the shortest at the top, the longest at the bottom, suggest the form of an ascending spiral, the sign of circulation upward and One-ward.  […]

Ch’i is manifest in men and things as breath and soul and spirit. In painting, Ch’i is both the creative resources of the painter and the essential vitality–spiritual, divine, and creative–that can be transmitted to a painting and perceived by the spectator. […]

That the meaning and importance of the concept did not essentially change may be seen in a passage from the XVIIIth-century painter Chang Kêng: ‘Ch’i yün may be expressed by ink, by brushwork, by an idea, or by absence of idea … It is something beyond the feeling of the brush and the effect of ink, because it is the moving power of Heaven, which is suddenly disclosed. But only those who are quiet can understand it.'”

–Mai-Mai Sze, The Tao of Painting pp. 52-55.

As you go about your day, stop for a second and witness life happening. In the short-term, you might consider the fact that you are still breathing, though you may have forgotten to do so. Secondly, look up! The winds are still creating swirling patterns of cloud and light, though you may rarely gaze upon them. Those are short-term examples of life going on. But what are you doing that is so important right now? Why not take a minute to consider the long-term implications of your time on this planet, too…

My work (self-imposed; I do it for fun!) is to meet with a group of young children and begin a new semester of “Write YOUR Story.” That is, my job is to inspire kids with patience and camaraderie (and a bit of toughness, to take criticism in stride) in order that we will be able to write a book together as a group. Then we’ll illustrate it, and finally, when all that is done, each child will write his or her own story. Their boundless energy and excitement may make it hard for them to sit still and listen, at first. Their nerves may make it hard for them to read aloud in smooth rhythms; they may stumble over the words, at first.

But I guarantee that sometime in the next fourteen weeks, an amazing thing will happen and only those who are present will witness it. (But you can make it happen too, wherever you are!)  Even the youngest children witness it, every semester. It is creativity: the ch’i in its purest essence, bounding to life again… and once it is expressed, our lives will be changed forever more. We will feel and remember that joy; it will give us wings!

 

Categories
art children creativity design generosity

Congrats to the caring professionals and Happy New Year to all!

Pair of Night pillows Jan 1 2019.jpg

Happy New Year, everybody!

To follow up on my post of December 17, “Tonight’s the Night!”:

Five caring professionals have come forward to capture the prizes in our second annual “Caring Profession Thank-you Week”:  a fire captain and a nurse from Seattle, two school teachers from South Bend, IN, and one school teacher from New Orleans, LA.

Congrats to all of you, and hope to see you and your feedback soon on the “Happy Clients” page of Honey Girl Books and Gifts.

Other big news: Tranquility Pillows are now available with Velcro fasteners or the traditional snaps, to make it easier for tiny or tired fingers to attach and remove the three cloth stars. As the tag says, “Snap on a star and let your feelings be seen. It’s as natural as a night sky.”

Night with velcro Jan 1 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
happiness health

welcome present!

bird on a branch june 26.jpg

Tell me, what is the Present hour?

—A green and flowery spray,

Where a young bird sits gathering its power

To mount and fly away

–from Emily Brontë, Poems, 1910  (second stanza)

Categories
generosity happiness health humor

another economical oddity

fyi: I just uploaded the Business Plan for my little enterprise, “Honey Girl Books and Gifts,” on my official profile on academia.com. I hope it will help other academics find the courage to follow their creativity beyond the quad.

If you read it, you’ll see it assumes a deliberately eccentric attitude toward capitalism!

98 more days til SEA!

Categories
dogs friendship generosity happiness Uncategorized

proud sponsor of puppy bowl!

two-dogs-playing-snow-motion-blur-breed-cairn-terrier-small-dog-mix-chihuahua-36335747.jpg

Honey Girl is proud to sponsor the second annual local puppy bowl!  You can see the action happening now: https://www.facebook.com/events/2019712311651171/

Drop by the Honey Girl Books and Gifts on-line store here to pick up a puppy-themed pillow in valentine flannel!* The pocket on the back is a perfect way to unplug from fake “friends” and reconnect with your loved ones.

Which hopefully include a dog.

 

***

p.s. Enter code “03” for 50% off any pillow until Valentine’s Day!

Categories
creativity health humor meditation T'ai chi wisdom Zen philosophy

small business, big business

zen-sand-stone-garden-dirk-ercken_67019

–Thanks to Dirk Ercken for sharing the Zen sand stone garden above.

Business is on my mind these days. It is a very new and odd sensation for a French teacher. In fact, it appears that I am moving through a fascinating phase of life: doing three things simultaneously that would seem impossible to coexist.

  1. finishing up my academic career with a full-time load of teaching (bright and highly motivated) students and all that ensues (grading papers, office hours, helping people revise their writing, etc.)
  2. launching a small business—the Honey Girl Books and Gifts “Valentine’s Special” starts Jan. 31.  Enter code 03 for 50% off a special pillow today!

and most importantly,

3. studying Zen philosophy and practicing T’ai chi daily to deepen my health, serenity, and well-being.

The soft and comforting gifts I sew are, for me, a source of marvel and joy.

 

“Marvel and joy?” you might wonder. “It’s just a home décor item.”

“Maybe to you,” I’d say.

[And I would think: the process is fraught with wonder, when you work with a 90-year-old sewing machine inherited from your grandma.

Great-grandma's sewing machine

There’s that spiritual thing, first, as if you’re surrounded by a small but ever-present group of benevolent ghosts, helping you on. And second there’s a physical reason for the sense of joy (and relief!) I get from finishing projects, because my machine is broken in back. So I have to hold the motor pulley against the hand wheel with my right hand and steer the fabric through the machine with my left hand. I know it’s insane. But I love the new creativity I’ve been feeling for the past year and wonder if it’s not due in part to activating some other sector of the brain, as I’ve become more ambidextrous. One day I’ll get it fixed. But for now, sewing on that White Rotary is sometimes like a contact sport, navigating the fat pillows under the cast iron machine to sew the hems is my battle.

Until it’s won!  And it is won, night after night, despite all the mistakes and revising and redoing. And they are beautiful little creatures that almost seem alive to me; thus naming them makes sense. Last night I made “Happy” in Spring Yellow Plaid and “Love is sweet” in Hearts and snowflakes.   (images coming soon on the HGBG website)]

“OK, ok,” you might reply, if I dared to say all that out loud, “I get that. Sort of. But isn’t it just a set formula for those pillows? Don’t you get sick of making them?”

I would answer “no.”  And probably look away, because that’s personal too, you see.

So I would think to myself:  [Absolutely not! It’s a refreshing change for a long-time workaholic academic. After so many years reading other people’s words and regurgitating them into new patterns, sitting on a chair, it feels so good to move around!  And my mind feels very alive working with the inventory of fabrics I’ve built up. I made the Tranquility Pillow ordered by Catherine into an asymmetrical, Chinese-looking design that emphasizes the emptiness and mystery of the forest. This winter model has a tiny creek (“le petit ruisseau”) running quietly along the sides of the wood, instead of a broad river or waterfall, such as I’ve put on other Tranquility Pillows.”

But that makes me sound kind of crazy. Just saw Phantom ThreadPerfectionists unite! (as if that were possible).]

So that is why sewing pillows feels like a marvel and a joy.

Sewing is difficult and highly detailed. I frequently hurt my hands with pins and needles and sometime the sewing machine needle goes right through a finger, as it did last night. I am a passionate artisan more than an expert and love the sense of being a beginner and constantly refining my art.

Beginning. Maybe that’s why the things I make sometimes have the quality of an accident. As Alan Watts describes in The Way of Zen:

“this is not a masterful mimicry of the accidental, an assumed spontaneity in which the careful planning does not show. It lies at a much deeper and more genuine level, for what the culture of Taoism and Zen proposes is that one might become the kind of person, who, without intending it, is the source of marvelous accidents.” (28)

***

Back to small business and big business coming together.

The fact of starting a small business pushes all kinds of very practical and time-sensitive issues to the forefront of one’s consciousness. Mind is bombarded with urgent demands and can easily become overwhelmed, with thoughts such as, “There are so many details to manage!”  “This business costs lots of money. Will it be worth it?” “Will I get paid ok, or will my clients rip me off?” Such thoughts cause the shoulders to tighten, the jaw to clench, and a panicky feeling to rise from the belly.

On the other hand, the fact of studying Zen and practicing T’ai chi and meditation on a daily basis pushes the Body-Mind—located in the Tan tien two inches below the navel–into a more powerful focus. By keeping our thoughts there while meditating or doing the Form, the body naturally starts to hold the back straighter and makes the torso feel tight and strong like a spring. Yet shoulders are loose and comfortable. Vision shifts as well, so that interesting things appear everywhere, every single day, all the time.

Will my new-found and hard-wrought serenity withstand the ravages of greed and competition?

I think so.

A business is sometimes small. It simply is.

The big business is life!

And the art of living well.

Good day to you, reader!

Categories
generosity happiness

new life or new attitude? just be care-ful

routine-passion-fantaisie-creation

Hello and Happy New Year, readers!

Let 2018 be a year of discovery, not routine. Even if nothing else changes, you yourself can change how you perceive things and–most importantly–how you perceive yourself. If each of us did a caring act toward our world and our fellow humans, each day, think of all the good that might result.

News update on the December outreach campaign of HGBG to the caring professions!  As of today, four free “Tranquility Pillows” (value $150 each) have been delivered to the following people: 1) to Jaime, an elementary school teacher in Texas; 2) to Sarah, a middle school teacher in North Carolina; 3) to Maddie, a nurse in Washington state; and 4) to Leo, a high school teacher in Wisconsin.  It will be interesting to hear back from them later, on how the pillow soothes the spirits of their students, patients, or themselves, after a hard day’s work in those demanding fields.

Our hat’s off to all those people who devote their lives to a caring profession in 2018. Thank you.

Categories
creativity happiness

change is in the air

4068c8a9570dfbd54554b5ad323c95bd--wind-tattoo-soul-tattoo

Got my name changed on Friday morning at the Saint Joseph County Courthouse. It was an interesting yet bland experience, though we two plaintiffs cheered together later, over the fact that both our name changes–mine and Gage, her son’s–were gestures of mother-son solidarity. 12/9/17. Julia V. Douthwaite is no more. Now I am Julia Douthwaite Viglione. It feels nice, after 31 years of marriage and 30+ years of working in academe, to be moving on and switching things up!

And it’s nice to “move on” and take your husband’s name after all these years, instead of the other way around. In fact the judge when making the declaration first started saying, “Plaintiff requests a name change in a case of marital dissolution,” until I gently corrected him, “Au contraire, your honor. I’m taking this name to honor my husband and sons.” He looked surprised.

I think it is a sweet gesture, even if some die-hard feminists may not approve. I used to be one, I know! But I figure, my dad is dead and Mom and Dad are the people whose approval I sought and achieved through my academic work.  Now that I’m leaving the academy (in just 201 days), I am shedding that identity for a new one with a rock’n’roll  Italian name!

An artistic one, who will soon be launching her own business!

—  change is definitely in the air  —

My name change makes me feel like a character in that article by Foucault (and a similar article by Barthes) about the “death of the author.” Except in this case, the author has vanished yet the writer lives on.

it feels like freedom.