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Seattle Quilts are here!

Right in time to ring out the bad old year and usher in a brighter future, is my new line of Seattle Quilts! They feature calm images–whales, sailboats, (and a sailboat gliding over a whale), seagulls, rolling waves, the cityscape at dawn– alongside bright fabrics celebrating some of Seattle’s many cultures–Mexican florals, Vietnamese tigers, African wax prints, Japanese cranes in flight–plus a UW symbol and adorable kittens–what more could you want? With vintage linens and denims, materials new, old, and hand-made, it projects an inclusive, energetic, upbeat feeling.

Add a back made of black cotton with dayglo dogs in all shades of the rainbow and you’ve got BOLD!

Boldly we go, into the new… let’s hope an early spring will push through the snow!

Couldn’t help adding a few of my favorite things–Honey Girl’s footsteps in the snow, a laptop with stickers from the best radio station in Seattle (or the world, maybe), and other stickers from beloved local shops run by real people (a family in one case) and a feminist art studio in Spain; Salty Dog : a children’s book given to us by my dad the sailor. The Salty Dog books are by Gloria and Ted Rand: a Seattle author/illustrator pair whose work is charming and never fails to grab kiddos. P.S. See the hilarious laughing crows on our shed, by Stroble Art of Puyallup, WA. Then there’s Hello Kitty, just because.

Happy New Year!

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friendship loss wisdom work

Warm up your self, and forget the failures for now

flowers in snow Feb 4 2019.jpg

In these dark, cold days of February, it may be hard to stay focused on what is good in life. The snow is pretty but it is killing the spring flowers. The winter cold is natural, but it makes life precarious for the homeless and elderly. A loving relationship is great, but a partner can be so annoying to live with day in, day out.  Today’s New York Times features an article by experts extolling the virtues of failing for long-term success (and that we should even keep track of rejections as they pile up). Yuck!  To hell with that idea, at least in February. Maybe in April, when life seems easier…

Receiving rejection letters (or the silent treatment, worse yet), is a drag. I know, because I have been piling up quite a pile of rejections lately, in my new role as CEO of a small business. And since I’ve moved thousands of miles from my old friends, and left behind the community with whom I used to commiserate and complain, the rejections feel colder, more final somehow. I might as well just give up, right? No, no, no! Never.  Or at least not yet.

OK, so what to do?

Reach for help. In the absence of a flesh-and-blood friend, I reached out to a friendly guidebook last night, and it helped. Here’s the advice from Right Here with You, chapter on “Making Friends with Ourselves” by Moh Hardin:

“It is like this. If we have had a bad day and are feeling flustered, angry, and upset, and if in that state of mind, a mother asked us to hold her newborn baby, we would naturally hold it gently. Why? Because that newborn life is so obviously precious and fragile. Likewise, no matter how difficult our problems may seem, no matter the obstacles we face, our lives are actually precious and fragile…

Like picking up a newborn baby, we can make a gesture of friendship to ourselves. … Making friends with ourselves is an ongoing journey. It is not a one-time thing or a one-week project or even a five-year project.  It provides the continuity of the human journey itself. It is like the ground that we walk on.”  (Right Here with You, pp. 35-40).

The author suggests making a gesture of friendship to ourselves (“You go first; I’ll follow”) and practicing sitting meditation for ten minutes, to get back in touch with our breath and our feeling of life. Those tools are simple and free, and I bet they will raise your spirits faster than a making list of all your failures!

As another guide points out in the New York Times today (“How to be creative,” by Matt Richtel), “Boldness is a virtue.  … there is a moment in each of these creative flights where I become convinced that, ‘Yes, yes, I have something profound and wonderful to give to the world, and it’s going to be great; it not just deserves, but needs to be heard and seen.’ This is audacious, at least, and possibly delusional, and it is 100 percent O.K. In fact, it is the price of admission. You are allowed and encouraged to give in to this feeling of ecstasy. In fact, if not you, who?

So go ahead! Be delusional, take a chance on yourself, and keep on going. I’ll be out here doing the same…

 

 

Categories
creativity death meditation nature storms wisdom

people are like trees, and other fables

window from sunroom April 4 2018.jpg

I woke up with a start at 4:30am and have felt off-kilter ever since.

It seems that it must have been the tree branch, which fell off our neighbor’s tree last night and landed right outside our kitchen window that made the huge THUNK I heard. It sounded like a distant bomb going off.

Staring out at the windblown snow during this morning’s meditation brought more sad thoughts to mind, of death and weakness. The trees react vividly to the wind blowing their branches and, if we could watch ourselves from without, we’d probably say the same thing about ourselves. Sometimes I feel like a cedar, other times like an oak.

window from study April 4 2018.jpg

The cedar tree bounces and sways with every fiber of its being: from bottom to top the whole tree bows and flutters nervously. The maples and oaks more stiffly sway, hold their arms up to the sky despite the wind; but their tiny red and green budlets break off and fall down.

This weather reminds me of LaFontaine’s fable, “The Wolf and the Lamb.” A harsh little story! My own version, “April, the Cruelest Month,” inspired by life in South Bend, awaits below.

The sounds of tires slushing on the street below make me feel excited, like it’s Christmas time, then bewildered when I see robins hopping in the garden. How easily our minds are fooled and confused about what is, versus what is “supposed to be”!

A proverb in closing:

En avril ne te découvre pas d’un fil. Au mois de mai, fais ce qui te plaît.

(trans. “In April, don’t take off a thread. In the month of May, do whatever comes into your head.”)!!

Hang in there!  Only 4 weeks til May!

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page 20

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These pages are from Hey LaFontaine! Are You Ready for South Bend? (ten fables illustrated in a hand-made book, 2016).

Front cover

back cover

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children generosity happiness health humor social media T'ai chi wisdom

Bleak times, hopeful thoughts

These photos were taken yesterday and today. Not much happening except snow.

Living in the Midwest, we frequently hear dire warnings such as: “Stay home; it’s too cold,” and learn news of cancelled outings, gallery openings, and other fun life events ruined by winter weather. Why bother even digging out? It’s easier to stay in.

Outside there is more than a foot of snow. “Blizzard conditions through the weekend,” says the forecast. If all you have is a menu of this in mind, and a bunch of shoveling and slogging through the heavy cold stuff when you must venture out, not to mention the startling news blasting at you from the media devices you’ve naturally got close at hand, you may be in for some dark moods. Bleak thoughts.

But moods are situational. Things can change. Humans are adaptable thanks to our our agile minds. Minds like to do stuff, and a good challenge is an invitation to dig in. So how about a mind experiment? Here’s how it works: I’ll provide the content, you provide the alert mind. All you need to do is keep reading to add content. Then let it sink in, relax, move on, go about your day, and see what happens.

I know just the book to try it on: 29-year-old Rutger Bregman’s Utopia for Realists. It arrived in the mail yesterday. I heard about this book when I was in Paris last month; a glowing review in Le Magazine littéraire gave Bregman pride of place. He actually seems to be getting some traction in Europe and Canada. He’s a young Dutch guy from Utrecht, whose life sounds very different, and much more relaxed and happier, than what we know in the US. Universal basic income is the idea Bregman takes on; in fact it is the main thrust of the entire book.

“Are you kidding?!” I know, I know, I hear what you’re thinking. It seems absurd to even mention such legislation when the current ship of state seems to be full of greedy rats. But in 1968, there was a strong movement in favor of a universal basic income, and according to Bregman, it almost worked.  (Chap. 4, “The Bizarre Tale of President Nixon and his Basic Income Bill,” Utopia, 77-94).

Just think, a Republican president–Nixon–was the most ardent supporter of a basic income movement in the US of A.  Truly, one cannot rule out anything in national politics. This should encourage us to think wildly optimistic thoughts and pursue radical kindness towards our fellow men, at least just for fun. Why not? It was once the law of the land, almost… Now it is today, February 10, 2018. What if we each did, said, or read something optimistic. Time for the mind experiment, which comes to you from Utopia for Realists and How We Can Get There, by Rutger Bregman:

“It all starts with reclaiming the language of progress.

Reforms? Hell, yes. Let’s give the financial sector a real overhaul. … Break up [banks], if need be, so that the next time taxpayers won’t be left footing the bill because the banks are ‘too big to fail.’ Expose and destroy tax havens.

Meritocracy? Bring it on. Let’s finally pay people according to their real contributions. Waste collectors, nurses, and teachers would get a substantial raise, obviously, while quite a few lobbyists, lawyers, and bankers would see their salaries dive into the negatives. If you want to do a job that hurts the public, go right ahead. But you’ll have to pay for the privilege with a heftier tax.

Innovation? Totally. Even now, a vast amount of talent is going wasted. If Ivy League grads once went on to jobs in science, public service, and education, these days they’re far more likely to opt for banking, law, or ad proliferators like Google and Facebook. Stop for a moment to ponder the billions of tax dollars being pumped into training society’s best brains, all so they can learn how to exploit other people as efficiently as possible, and it makes your head spin. Imagine how different things might be if our generation’s best and brightest were to double down on the greatest challenges of our times. Climate change, for example, and the aging population, and inequality. … Now that would be real innovation.

Efficiency? That’s the whole point. Think about it: every dollar invested in a homeless person returns triple or more in savings on healthcare, police, and court costs. Just imagine what the eradication of child poverty might achieve. Solving these kinds of problems is a whole lot more efficient than ‘managing’ them, which costs significantly more in the long run.

Cut the nanny state? Spot on. Let’s ax those senseless, overweening reemployment courses for the out of work and let’s … quit degrading recipients.

Freedom? Sing it, sister.

The time has come to redefine our concept of ‘work’. … to spend more time on the things that truly matter to us.”

With thanks to Rutger Bregman, Utopia for Realists and How We Can Get There, Trans. Elizabeth Manton (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), 258-260.

Utopia for Realists Bregman

***

With those hopeful thoughts swirling in mind,

I am off to do T’ai chi now with Master Peng…. 

Bon courage till we meet again.

Categories
dogs French literature happiness humor wisdom

stop and listen if you can

 

Honey Girl is feeling frisky these days! As a part German Shepherd part Corgi, that’s not surprising; she’s a big furry creature who thrives in the cold.

Tonight’s walk made me feel keenly her physical superiority over mine. As I layered on the clothes and pulled things tight, hiding from the cold and squinting through the night, she trotted along gaily with her tail held high. She stopped confidently and sniffed deeply. She left a good trail in her wake and pulled short, sometimes, when a new discovery was afoot.

At times, she’d turn around and look at me, as if to say, well, something encouraging.

It made me feel humble, my blindness and fear of the cold. I strained to hear what she stopped to take in. I stumbled on the ice, while she watched in patient indifference.

Just then, I thought of Diderot! Denis Diderot is one of my favorite French philosophers of the Enlightenment (1740-89). He’s an expert at  irony and sarcasm, and his deadpan notes on mankind’s limitations are hilarious. Here’s Diderot’s description of man’s status vis-a-vis the wildlife of the world:

“Man’s perfectibility is borne of the weaknesses of his senses, none of which dominates the organ of reason. If [man] had a nose like a dog, he would sense odors all the time; if he had eyes like an eagle, he would be forever watchful; if he had the ears of a mole, he would be a listening creature… The human species is thus no more than a hodgepodge of individuls who are more or less crippled, more or less ailing.”

(Elements de physiologie, 1774-80)

I don’t know if Diderot ever read any Zen masters, but if he did he might have learned this kind of lesson, about Mind versus Body Mind:

“The Mind tenses up in fearful situations because it realizes that it’s really helpless. Only Body Mind, with its spontaneity, sensitivity, speedy reactions, power, and connection to the power of the earth, can protect you in severe circumstances.” Bob Klein, Movements of Magic.

Honey Girl’s playful delight in the snow, where she throws it on her back and rolls around rubbing her bum, is a fun site to see!