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.


bright and happy!

Today’s production united scraps of fabric from all around my life to make a couple of bright and happy accents in the ongoing Respect Quilts! There are dancing feet from niece Dana’s quilt, crazed tulips and a rose garden from the Alice in Wonderland quilts, and red polka dot cotton from Honey Girl’s last bandanna (thanks, adorable groomer who made smell her good again)!

Finally, there are squares made of a fabric printed with the names of all the states from the USA to remind everybody how connected we are… you can be sure that Indiana and Washington will be in every quilt, to honor our mission, which is:

The “Respect” quilt project: allies at work
The “Respect” quilt is a result of black and white creators working together to honor black women’s beauty, history, and resilience.
The first one, underway, is being created by a former teacher, a white woman, for a former student of hers, a black woman in South Bend, Indiana. When in her class at age 15, the young woman wrote and illustrated a short story, “Overcoming Adversity,” which stayed in the mind of her teacher all these years. (Discussions are afoot about revising it and publishing it with Honey Girl Books and Gifts LLC.)
The “Respect” quilt features African fabrics (waxes and Ankara cottons), Afrocentric fabrics, such as Harlem Toile de Jouy designed by Sheila Bridges (Brooklyn), and other fabrics purchased from Black business women across the USA, including Our Fabric Stash in the Pike Place Market (Seattle). It is the intention to celebrate and honor black womanhood that we all share.

Next steps:
First, I’ll make one for Anyjah (“Respect” quilt no. 1) & another very similar to hers as “Respect” quilt no. 2. No. 2 will become the prototype “Respect” quilt for sale. (This is where I am at present.)
Then, with the help of Anyjah and others, I will launch a fund-raiser for the Boys and Girls Clubs of St Joseph County, IN & King County, WA. For every “Respect” quilt sold, 50% of proceeds will be donated.

Honey Girl Books and Gifts
July 10, 2020

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day five: the Elliott Bay moat, new tool of social distancing, and other news from West Seattle

Wow, there is some crazy shit going down out here in Washington state. Last night Governor Inslee issued an official call for WA residents to Stay At Home as much as possible for the next two weeks. Just minutes before that, we learned that the long cement bridge linking the peninsula of West Seattle (where I live) to the mainland was shutting down indefinitely.  Structural damage “suddenly” came to light and the city closed the freeway in one day, giving people only three hours to get home. Apocalypse now!

It’s scary to think what would have happened—would the whole thing have come crashing down? Or just bits?  Perhaps one lane would crumble off and sink into the Duwamish River before pulling the others down after it, as unwitting motorists went hurtling into the deep? Phew! That is one disaster averted, at least.

But now the short distance—about 1.4 miles—from here to downtown looks different. It looms huge, impossible, inaccessible.  That is because there is (and always was) a very very deep body of very very cold water between us.  Huge ships can be seen now and then as they slowly power through to the Port of Seattle docks, the ferries plow back and forth, tugboats and barges crawl by, and the water taxi runs once an hour. Otherwise, people rarely venture into Elliott Bay.

There’s a radical new tool of social distancing: the moat.

West Seattle may become the best Seattle yet!  safest, at any rate.  We’ll just be over here slowly and silently losing our minds!


More news:  The new sign is up for Week 2!  And a new quilt. This one is the large “Alice in Wonderland” quilt.

Week 2 photo

How many books are you reading these days? I’m up to four at once now, in small bits or long luxurious sessions after lunch, or before bed, or anytime really….  (that feels strange to admit).

What I'm reading today Mar 24 2020

W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog’s Journey (surprisingly addictive sweet and mindless fun to imagine life as a dog sees it); Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (Oof, that is a long book; but I promised to read it and it’s really pretty fantastic!), Peter Ralston, The Principles of Effortless Power (bedtime table essential to calm the mind); and Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence (funny and sarcastic portrait of snotty New Yorkers vying for power amongst themselves in the late 19th century).

Sad that the bookstore where I was to discuss David Copperfield has just shut its doors.

😦     I bet it’s a sad day all around.  Hope you’re ok.  Hang in there and I’ll see you tomorrow.

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materials and inspiration, from far away

“In the presence of good materials, hopes grow and possibilities multiply. And with good reason: some materials are so readily charged and responsive that artists have turned to them for thousands of years, and probably will for thousands more.”*

It was the thought of materials that made me stop and think. So when in Paris in November, I visited rue d’Orsel and stores at the foot of Sacre Coeur Church, where new fabric treasures can be found (in merceries or sewing stores such as Frou-Frou and Sacrés Coupons) , and the friperies of the Marais, where you can buy used clothes by weight (thus the store named Kilo). I found an otherwise ugly black jacket with gorgeous beaded detail that has since become part of the Frankenstein quilt! And in my suitcase, I had brought a tin that once held cookies and now held tiny bits of silk: samples for kimonos. My husband found them in a thrift shop in Japantown here in Seattle and gave them to me one day. (I’m afraid I whined something like, “What am I supposed to do with such small pieces of fabric?!” )  When you look closely at them, it is quite amazing to realize someone took the time to peel these bits of silk out of a catalog and remove the glue.

What more noble material than silk?  Its history is long and distinguished, as the internet encyclopedia reminds us, “The production of silk originates in China in the Neolithic (Yangshao culture, 4th millennium BC). Silk remained confined to China until the Silk Road opened at some point during the later half of the 1st millennium BC.”

The scraps of silk in my box are delicate and pretty, shimmery and perfect, each in its own way. Some have tiny scenes painted on them of birds, or a garden, or children at play, others bear delicate strokes of calligraphy in jet black ink. I carried them to France and back to the US without knowing what to do. I took them out and laid them on tables and beds on both continents, but felt exasperated by their flightiness. They fall or slip or flutter to the floor at the slightest provocation. In the meantime, I made a wonderful wedding quilt for a dear friend out of clothes worn by her family, and Christmas happened.

Then yesterday I suddenly knew! Maybe it was all the family love, or eating so many cookies, or going for a walk, or just letting time pass by, or reading a couple books about quilts, but I suddenly knew exactly what to do with that silk! It is now in the process of turning into a Log Cabin Style quilt, strip by tiny strip.  I’ll follow the precise instructions found in Quilts from the Quiltmaker’s Gift: the authors, Joanne Larsen Line and Nancy Loving Tubesing, are excellent guides and the illustrations by Gail de Marcken are delightful.  Let’s see how long it takes…  Here are some photos to document the way and the amazingly sunny day on which I started it!


Tugboat and barge on Puget Sound Dec 27 2019

Don’t you just love seeing tugboats on the water? They always seem like a moving metaphor to me, of the reliable strength of little ordinary things.

And here’s my favorite square, of a crane at home in the reeds:

My favorite square with crane

*David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art and Fear: On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, p. 18-19.  (How innocent that sounds now. Published only 26 years ago, Art and Fear nevertheless captures a hopefulness about our planet’s future, and our place in the world, that is sadly gone today for me. I’ve come to thinking about us as hurtling through space on this beloved earth towards a rapidly changing and uncertain future… but their advice about being creative is spot-on!)


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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

English literature happiness wisdom

here’s to you, future!


And what is the Future, happy one?

—A sea beneath a cloudless sun:

A mighty glorious dazzling sea

Stretching into Infinity.


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

but first, we have some traveling to do–about 2,160 miles!

Bye-bye South Bend, au revoir les amis, adieu Notre Dame. 

Indiana toll road.jpg