Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Are aphorisms poetry? I would say not, but the esteemed literary magazine, Ploughshares, and the anthology, The Best Ameriocan Poetryt of 2001 one, printed 45 of James Richardson's large collection of aphorisms as a poem. Anyway some stopped me -- some the way Zen koans do ... as mind stopping conundrums -- others are a little more graspable. Here are some:

Who breaks the thread? The one who pulls or the one who hangs on?

Patience is not very different from courage. It just takes longer.

What you fear to believe, your children will believe.

When my friend does something stupid he is just my friend doing something stupid. When I do something stupid I have deeply betrayed myself.

I lie so that I do not have to trust you to beleive me.

It's easier to agree on the future than on the past.

Back then I wanted to be right about my estimate of my abilities. Now I want to be wrong.

Below is a photo which offers a conundrum [definitely not an aphorism] Why were these two teens voted the "most radical" in their high school class. The hints are there. But IS that radical? Or highly conservative? Any thoughts? Leave a comment. By the way. with the current set up. I cannot reply to comments, so in a way you are safe.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

One Book Today

First and last, two more butterflies that I didn't show before. Today the paper tells us the honey bees are dying. Even quilted butterflies add a little cheer. Yes, like the frogs which disappeared in many locales a couple of years ago, the honey bees are leaving the hive and simply not returning ... apparently dying. It's not just a matter of no honey. They pollinate, as we all know. In Califorina it's a matter of the almond trees which need the honey bees. Millions are being imported from Australia ... will they remain healthy or will they die of whatever is killing the natives? We have to conclude that something about the world is askew, wrong, out of whack, messed up. No one knows what it is. The Powers That Be try to deny global warming and the ruination of much of the natural world. We can't possibly admit that the huge populatio of humans on this earth and their greedy use of natural resources might be tipping the natural scale in a way that is dangerous for all living things.

One book, not ten today: I finished Jim Harrison's THE ROAD HOME last night and spent a couple of hours before falling asleep and manyl moments today pondering. It is a novel of character -- also of generations of a Nebraska family with a great deal of Native American in the blood lines. I prefer character novels that really delve into the people and do not depend on plot or incident, although there must be plot, of course. Plot is always the most contrived and artificial component. Plot comes from cleverness; character comes from insight and love of humanity.

Harrison wrote a wonderful book called DALVA years ago which I liked very much. THE ROAD HOME manages to be both pre-quel and sequel, a neat trick. I was totally caught up in the first third which is from the point of view of Dalva's grandfather, Northridge, a half Lakota, half white who has accumlated a great deal of money and who prepares for his death. I felt powerfully the inevitable, and accepted death of a man who was almost a force of nature who lived by his own set of principles and had a deep connection to his Native American ancestry while being very "white". He was both a monster and a mystic in his way. It is for me very gratifying to read a novelist who respects, loves, I think [without sentimentality] Native American culture.

The remainder of the novel is about his immediate family, including Dalva, the half Lakota son she gave up for adoption, her mother, and a second son of Northridge's. Each has a long first person segment. We see the family from all those perspecives. They are priviledged, monied people, although they never "act rich". Because they have all the money they need and are able to be generous and to act on impules [as poor people can't], the reader feels a distance from them. [I speak of my non-wealthy self]

However, I felt that I know that family, more completely than I know most real people including family. When a very good writer writes in first person the reader sees through their eyes, but remains "Reader" knowing that no one sees himself clearly. The reader must always also be the critic. However, the joy of reading comes from making acquaintances and caring about people sometimes almost as deeply as about actual people I know. Creating a fully rounded character is the true wonder of fine writing. When the character is in a demanding situation, we measure ourselves against them, i.e., I understand the choice Dalva made at the end of the novel, but if I made a similar choice under similar cicumstances, it would be for a totally diffrent reason. Reading helps us understand such things about ourselves and may even prepare us for what we will face in the future or enlighten us about what we have done in the past. Certainly truly good writing is always more than entertainment.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Ten Books

I've begun participating in Swap-bot, a website that arranges swaps of ecclectic things, like poems on postcards, or, in this case, letters listing your ten favorite books. There are swaps that appeal to people who do scrapbooking and other "crafty" things. I read about it on the Artful Quilter's Web Ring. It's great for people who enjoy getting mail -- real snail mail even from strangers but with expected sort of things, I'm in the midst of getting poems on postcards, supposed to get a total of five, and I've got four so far. A fascinating variety! Also, of course, I had to send five which I did. Who sends to who is efficiently arranged by the Swap-bot genies.

So the current one that I've just prepared is a list of my ten "favorite" books -- a true impossibility. But I complied ten [sort of] with notes on why. Here they are:

Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit. The perfect epic fantasy; so engrossing I read the whole thing aloud to my daughters --something like 1700 pages -- not once but twice. We loved the movies too, but with caveats, of course, because no movie can equal our imaginative vision.

Mary Oliver's poems. She's been called simplistic, but she's also won the Pulitzer Prize and is the most purchased poet in the America -- because she looks at nature with a clear and sympathetic but not saccharine view.

View With a Grain of Sand, the only collection I've read of Wislawa Szyborska's poetry. A Nobel prize winner, this Polish woman has a wicked sense of humor, a deep sense of humanity, a clear, European view of politics.

Huckleberry Finn and Moby Dick -- the two candidates I put forward for Great American Novel. Very different, totally American, breathtakingly brilliant accomplishments in their different ways.

I Ching, Chinese ancient Book of Changes, to me the best of all wisdom books. I do not use it for prediction, I go to it at least weekly for it's balanced Taoist philosophy filtered through Confucius and Richard Wilhelm -- other translations seem shallow or pretentious, Wilhelm is poetic, if dated in some ways.

When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron -- and all the rest of her slender books based on her Buddhist point of view but without the jargon, just good sense and eternal verities. I thank Gary Hill for telling me to read her. I now tell all sorts of other people to read her.

Any book by Michael Pissell, a French "adventurer" who loves and understands Tibetan culture better than any other non-Tibetan I've ever read. I heard him speak and his knowledge and passion are wonderful.

Brother Karamazov which is my candidate for greatest novel ever written; but it get juggled against Don Quxiote. Totally different, of course, one darkly serious, the other sunny with a satiric bite.

Finally a choice more contemporary and popular: Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods because it starts out fall-off-your-chair funny, and then gives us a picture of the Appalachain Trail and the through hikers who are a breed apart, I wish I'd become a serious walker early in life -- I would have loved to do the Trail.

There are probably a hundred other books I could add to the list; this is what came to mind in response to the Swat-bot challenge. It will be interesting to read the two lists that will be sent to me. I suspect it will be less ecclectic -- but then I could be wrong. It's never wise to prejudge others.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

More Butterflies

Okay, so maybe it is an obsession. Here are four more recent butterflies; they are getting quite colorful. That may be directly due to the winter weather and the total BLAH view from my worktable window.

They are not large, 4x6", or the framed ones are 5x7", You'd think they wouldn't take very long, but counting pulling the fabrics, auditioning fabrics, tracing the pattern, cutting, sometimes fusing, sewing the shapes on, fusing parts, then the wing markings and antennae, doing the quilting around the butterfly it adds up often to5 or 6 hours.

I just read a descriptioin by someone who went to the forest where the Monarchs go in the winter. He said there were as many as two billion monarchs in that forest. When he went away he continued to hear, with stunned awe "the sussuration of two billion butterflies." I'd like to experience that.

So here are the one's I've been working on in the last week or so. I have only one more mat to make a butterfly, or maybe two, for and then I'll take a rest until that wall quilt takes a more distinct form in my mind. Meanwhie I've got other projects -- non-quilting ones -- cooking, percolating, whatever the proper term.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


When my daughters were in high school we went -- at least once, maybe twice -- all the way to Boston (300 miles) to shop at the real Filene's basement, i.e., the original bargain store on two levels beneath Filene's department store in Boston. They had been there a time or two when we went to Boston from their grandparent's home in Fall River, Mass. They understood the philosophy of bargain basement shopping: have an idea of what you hope to find, then have the flexibility to decide about things you find that you like but aren't immediate needs and don't be disappointed if the hoped for item isn't to be found.

We had a grand time and settled into a motel after the work out with our sacks of bargains. I think we had a good dinner somewhere but I don't remember. I know we stopped at a bakery and bought treats -- that was when Leslie discovered the delight of Napoleons. We then spread out our purchases, gathered the tags and compared what we paid with the original price tag and felt a smug, even righteous glow about how much money we had saved.

For the most part this kind of shopping is a woman's sport. I am always surprised how few women actually understand the mindset of this kind of bargain shopping. It is definitely a middle class game. Although wealthy people usually like bargains they don't get the same joy. They can buy the $100 jacket anyway; but if we know we won't buy the $100 jacket until it's at least half price, we feel we've outsmarted the forces of retail commerce. Unfortunately, most poorer people simply don't have the discretionary cash to buy except what they really must have. I think about these economic realities but I truly love textiles and what is done with them. I can wander in expensive stores and buy nothing but very much enjoy the feel of luxury fabrics and the way they are cut and draped and sewn. I'm very good at "just looking."

Once in a while, perhaps every six weeks or two months, I really feel an addict's urge to hit certain stores that reliably have bargains. In New York one is Daffy's which has many clothes imported from Italy. Their merchandise ranges from quite good to really schlocky, from tasteful to tasteless. Today I had in mind that the last boots of the season might offer up a pair of excessively plain ones that I would like. That was the ostensible excuse. But really it was just time to shop. In fact the boots were all horrible, nearly all the shoes were horrible too. But there were racks and racks of sale items. I happen to have the patience to look at such racks item by itme; because I look at tailoring details, I feel fabrics -- unless one has experienced this it's impossible to understand the enormous range of fabrics used in making women's trousers, blouses, jackets, skirts. I can almost O.D. on tactile sensations. The color variations are equally enormous, and the variety of cuts, is much greater than the uninitiated would guess.

I literally spent three hours just looking, mostly rejecting and sometimes greatly regretting that so many sale clothes are very small sizes. Store buyers seem to think their shoppers are going to be size 6 and 8 and America really does not have so many 6es and 8s anymore -- as the media tell us almost daily. After three hours did I come home with a bundle? No, I spent less than $40 for two pair of trousers and a sweater any one item had been meant to retail for over $50, so -- yes, I got the nice kick of getting bargains. Now that I've had my fix I'll probably stay out of stores again for some weeks. I'll probably wear the new brown pants and sweater tomorrow. Immediate gratification!

Thursday, February 22, 2007


I don't write much about science because it's definitely not my expertise. I read a lot of layman's science in quite a few fields but medical science especially interests me. In my job I've learned a fair amount about drugs and drug development and the diseases they are intended to combat because PR firms working for pharmaceutical companies are clients, so is the Dana Foundation which supports brain research. I've gained a better than usual layman's understanding and a decent vocabulary. My curiosity only grows and grows as I grow older and find some of these medical matters becoming personally important. Some months ago I wrote a little about making this small art quilt called "A WOMAN'S HEART" which shows the route of an angioplasty and/or stent placement such as I had over a year ago.

I spent the better part of today having my heart looked at by every "non-invasive" method available. There were EKGs of course, and an echo cardiogram which happens in a darkened room as a computer makes occasional spooky gutteral groans. I had a radioactive isotope injected so pictures could be taken of my blood glowingly pumping through the heart before and after a treadmill stress test during which the EKG ran and the blood pressure cuff sent it's readings. I lay on my back for fitteen minutes at a time while a reptilian {well, so it seemed although it was all metal as far as I could see] scanning arm curled around my chest and then uncurled, sighing every time it changed position. Then I lay on my stomach as it did the same all over again.

The preliminary word is that all is well. The M.D. will study the various pictures/printouts more carefully and let me know her summary in a couple of days. I was happy to stay on the treadmill for six minutes which I had not been able to do before the stent placement. And all without twinge in the replaced hip. So Hurray!!

As I lay unmoving under the dinosaur's necck, I thought what an amazing city this is -- which I often think. Thought yesterday in fact as I walked in Soho and the Village. Who knows what wonders of science are happening in some small suite of rooms on the first floors of these big buildijngs? Who knows which buildings hold a tiny 50 or 100 seat theatre where fascinating, or godawful, or mostly mediocre, new plays are being produced every week. Who knows in what half-rennovated brownstone a batch of people are watching man-in-the-street videos and Martha Stewart show segments and turning them into transcripts? Who knows what a lot of other strange and wonderful things are hapening down any street at any time of the night or day? To me this is the meaning of a major city as contrasted with a small town where, mostly the buildings hold less complex, less unexpected secrets.

By the way that picture in yesterday's blog wasn't a fit of ego. The guy helping me learn how to redo my blog told me that to put a picture in my profile, I need to have one on my blog. So it will, Ithink, eventuallly go on the profile page...once I can figure out how to put it there.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sensual, sensuous, pleasure

After two weeks of bone chilling temperatures, the day started great when I awoke about 2:00 a.m. and realized my sleep was distrubed not because I was cold and needed up pull up another quilt, but because I was too warm. I opened the window a crack and traded my warmest pajamas for cooler ones, then fell contentedly asleep. By 9:30 when I went out for coffee the breeze was almost wam, the sky perfect blue.

In the afternoon when I went to the Apple Store in Soho and had ten minutes extra, the sun was bright so I walked around a couple of blocks ... it felt like spring was near [this illusion always happens about now. It will turn raw once again soon.] Then after my hour of tutoring -- the new header look of this blog is the begining of what I'm learning -- over a few more weeks it will look much more interesting] -- it was still bright and warm so I wandered about, partly looking for a new fabric store and not finding it but finding many wonderful windows to look into. I had my camera but took no pictures, I was just enjoying the sensuality of semi-warmth after the biting cold.

Sensual pleasure which seem to me a little cerebral. The air was wonderful; I enjoyed it both because it felt so nice and because I knew it was a brief paue for pleasure. "Sensuous" seems less intellecutal and more personal, a bath, wonderful perfume, cheesecake, chocolate. When those words come up we can't help adding an x, and think also of "sexual" which can be both sensual and sensuous ... and simply splendid, of course. But for most of us sexual is less dependable than sensual and senusuous ... the latter we can enjoy alone, just poor the bath, light the candle, make some toast, sit in the sun.

On the subway ride home I began reading th newest Quilting Arts Magazine, the excellent lead article by the wonderfully named Lyric Kincaid who says: "We are aware of the feel of cloth from the time we are born and wrapped in our first blanket. It is our daily, intimate connection with fabric that allows textile art to evoke such an immediate response. As textile artists we work with a medium that has a powerful conection to the sense of touch. " Quite simply, we make art that is truly sensual and senuous and many of us do it almost intuitively because, indeed, we are sensual beings. We women, far more than most men, enjoy sensual pleasures without apology, often we feel and especially my generation has felt, it was our role to provide the sensual pleasure to others around us. We light the candles, bake the bread, wear perfume beautiful colored clothes; we buy soft sofas and make quilts for our beds. Sometimes we lose ourselves in busy-ness and forget to walk in the sun or really enjoy the cup of tea. Our skin is our largest sensory organ, even without sound or sight, sensual pleasure is ours for simply paying attention.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Old Dog, New Tricks

This is Tiger Leaping Gorge. I am goiing to mix metaphors -- tigers are, of course grander than old dogs, it's nicer to compare onself to a foolish, over-confident tiger than a mangy old dog. The tiger tried to leap the river which is only barely visible at the bottom {a very early part of the Yantze} -- he didn't make it. An island in the river marks where he fell.

So what am I talking about? Last week I installed MSWord on this Apple computer since the text edit program is very limited - doesn't even number pages. I am not a stranger to Word, it's the program I've used at work for a long time but I've never had to do the formating or learn the meaning of all the icons, etc. It's not so much a WHOLE new thing as an intricacy I have to learn -- and I will gradually as I need to do different functions. I've delayed several days, as is my habit with something new. But I've just written a document that will need serious editing so I'll learn more about cutting and pasting and so on.

New tricks in a way, or being a tiger and thinking I'm fully capable of jumping across that river ... maybe I am. That's to be seen. Once people "of a certain age" could settle into their old familiar ways, fall asleep in the rocking chair and do nothing more challenging than bouncing grand or great-grand children on their knees. That's almost impossible today nor do most of us want to ... there are things to learn, challenges to face, gorges to leap ... it helps if we've learned to swim -- many of use can, in fact, take very good care of ourselve.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Culture Time

Okay, I admit right off that I've been involved in lepedoptery again.. Huh? Come agiain? In plain English? Making more butterflies. But I'm not going to write about that and they are far from ready for photos. So this will be a culture break.

BOOK/AUTHOR: THE ROAD HOME, Jim Harrison. This is not Harrison's latest. His just-out book was the cover story of the NY Times Sunday Book Review a couple weeks ago and it was pure adulation. I knew I had this in my to-read bookcase. A fat book, over 400 pages, it turns out to be a per-quel to DALVA which was a wonderful surprise when I read it several years ago. Jim Harrison is from Nebraska, he is a story teller and a wise man. THE ROAD HOME is told by Dalva's grandfather, half Lakota, a failed artist, rich through no doing of his own. Scene after sence is richly human.

THEATRE: Wally Shawn, writer and actor, has been a familiar figure for many years. He is not a favorite but he is always interesting, he has a porcine look that is off putting and a family story that is equally off putting. I saw his THE FEVER Fridayn night. It is the sort of thing, like MY DINNER WITH ANDRE which he did at least 20 years ago, that one is glad to have seen even if it was not a positive experience. Shawn's dramatic device of a fever experienced in a foreign hotel was not strong enough to hold atention. His narcissistic ramblings about life, society, politics and the inequailty which he cannot actualy FEEL (even if it makes him vomit) was meant to make complacent NYC liberals question their assumptions. Perhaps it does. Liberal though I think myself, I am not in Shawn's class -- and I do mean class for New York is even more class divided than the deep South. The applause at the end of the evening was merely polite. Not one person jumped up for a standing ovation -- but that is only de rigour in the Broadway houses [this was off-B'way on Theatre Row] -- in big theatres people work themselves into some kind of ecstasy at the end of the evening to jsutify the exorbitant amount of money spent for the tickets.

POETRY: Belatedly, because it was a thrift store purchase, I'm reading the antholody Best American Poetry 2001. Few poems are moving me very much. The first in the book -- these anthologies are always published in alphabetical order -- is the one that is going to stick with me. It is Nin Andrews' "Notes for a Sermon on the Mount." I will quote only a few of the 13 numbered segments:
1. Pussies are not gods. They are created beings.
2. Unlike god, they do not always exits.
3. Dignified, majestic, intelligent, we must attend to them nonetheless.
4. Like all spiritual beings, pussies cannot be seen with the human eye at just any time of day.

If I go on you will become more and more shocked. Yes. she's talking about what you think she's talking about. She has printed books of poetry and won prizes and, as of 2001, lived in Ohio. A brave woman and fascianting poet. As you might have observed, my tastes are definitely ecclectic.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A Sort of Anniversary

I was surprised yesterday about having estimated the amount of background fabric correctly. I find in Friday's Wall Street Journal article on the benefits of aging that I should revel in one of the positives of a brain that's been around 60+ years. I quote from an article, "synapses that encode expert knowledge are written in stone," It seems that anything in which we have become expert, unless we let it lapse entirely, we keep and, in fact, improve. And I have been guesstimating fabric amounts whether for garments or quilts for many, many years.
Brain sceintiest learned about the capacity of well seasoned brains in experiements with air traffic controllers -- and for sure we want them to be at the top of their form ... do you ever think when circling a a busy airport how many other planes are nearby in the air? I do. Likewise, good news for the crossword puzzlers, which I am. As long as you don't stop reading, your vocabulary improves. This makes a good crossworder but as my daughters proved to me recently, it does not necessarily improve your Scrabble game where there's a dependence on word that are short and use the commoness letters ... oh, well...

This is my 100th post on the blog. I think I'll celebrate that with a few very favorite pictures never before shown on this or any blog and a few words about them. First of all, above is a sunrise in the steppes of Mongolia; it was lovely to wake early and walk to a hill above our ger camp and watch the sun come up. Then there is a valley in small mountains in the Gobi Desert with an "ovoo", a cairn or stones piled by passers by, marked with a blue [sky blue is the official color of Mongolia] kata (scarf) with various offerings added to the cairn by those with something to be thankful about.

Below, in the scanned group of four pictures: the top left is the marble tiles on the terrace around the sancturay of the Taj Mahal. This pattern is the pattern that is the background of my Migrating Monarchs quilt about which I wrote a great deal during December when working on it. Next to it is my favorite picture of myself in one of the most wonderful places I have ever visited, the high mountainside area in Tibet, some 30 miles outside Lhasa, called Drak Yerpa with many medtation caves used by mystics, including, legend has it, Milarepa. The monastery once there has been destroyed but a new stupa and some new cave shrines have recently been build. There is a snow storm in the distance over the valley below. A mystic place, incredibly beautiful and fortunately not on the tourist route so not likely to be further spoiled by the Chinese efforts to Disney-fy Tibetan sites for American and other tourists.

The bottom left picture is one of the best I ever took of my grandchildren and their mother, my daughter, Rachel. By now the oldest boy is a sophomore in college and the other two are in high school. And the sleeping man at the right is one of my series of pictures of people sleeping in public. I made a quilt of some of them -- I still occassionly take "sleeper" pictures because I am touched by how vulnerable are people who sleep in public ... and yet, also warmed by the fact than in a way, if the place is very public they are protected by the fact that if anyone were to try to hurt or rob the sleeper some witness would probably interfere. Yes! Skeptics, I believe people would protect the sleeper.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Cutting it Close

A few days ago I wrote that I might not have enough of the gray print to make four stars for this quartet, but I was going to keep on until I used up the print. WHEW! I made it ... this is literally -- I mean LITERALLY -- cutting it close. Here are the four stars, complete but without border yet. I had just barely enough gray -- here are the scraps that remained when I did the last triangle.

These little gray pieces were so small I swept them right into the wastebasket. You can see there's very little of the gold or very light fabric either, but I was certain there was enough because so little is needed for the star. So I guess this confirms the accuracy of my "eyeballing" estimates. But I think I'll try to avoid such close calls in the future.

Given that sense of self-confidence, I actually began doiing the NY Times Sunday crossword puzzle in pen! [I get the Sunday magazine on Saturday since it is delivered to me] It's not all confience, though I usually manage to finish the puzzles, but the paper has a coating so that most of the pencils I own look very pale and I find my mind actually works better when I can see what I've written more clearly. So it may be messy where the first answer is wrong, but I'll see how it works. I LOVE having the puzzle on Saturday, I can sit in bed and make myself sleepy mulling the last few tough words.

Speaking of confidence, even though all the street crossings are still messy with the remnants of ice and snow piled there by shovelers and snow plows, I went out twice today without my trekking pole -- walking like a person with no hip problem. In fact, I am convincing myself I AM now a person with -- well, hardly any -- hip problem. A residual stiffness that has to be worked through. But I now pronounce that episode ended, done, finished, over and consigned to memory ... a strong enough memory to remain cautious on those icy corners. It feels good to feel normal ... if a little older and more cautious.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

About Buddhism

People who've read this blog with some regularity know that I refer to Buddhist ideas often. I've been researching what Buddhism is about since approximately 1996 when I first visited Tibet. That visit was research about a traverler I was interested in writing about. After ten years I think I know quite a bit about Buddhism and have read a lot and find much to admire. I deeply admire the Dalai Lama and the 17th Karmapa [the one the Tibetans selected] I have never thought of myself as a Buddhist and follow none of the practices except that I try to be compassionate and I naturally am a questioner of all the tenets of all religions, whatever they be. I've heard some wonderful chanting, I love the scent of yak butter burning in lamps in Tibetan temples and I admire some Buddhis writers, like Pema Chodron, who are simple and direct and state ethical views I totally agree with.

[This photo is in the only functioning shrine left in Karakoram, at the Erdensu monstery complex -- All spellings wobbly -- in Mongolia.]

I read a magazine called "Shambala Sun" which is printed in Canada because it often has articles by Pema Chodron and it has beautiful illustrations. The January issue has sent me into considerable contemplation -- which I have been doing while working on my star quartet quil. An article by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoches, a man I admire, (the monk who diercted the delightful movie The Cup ) wrote that one cannot be a Buddhist without believing the four seals -- which are four basic tenets more elementary than the "four noble truths". I'm sure I've read this before but maybe the words weren't quite such simple English. One of the four is that all emotions are bad. Whoa! He is unequivocal. ALL emotions are bad.

While I can agree that all things are impermanent and that includes emotions, as well as all the universe as we know it. I not only cannot agree that all emotions are bad, I find serious dichotomy in the magazine itself, which has a long article on how to understand happiness. If it's BAD why are they encouraging us to find find ways to be happy?

But that's not the problem. Emotions are genetically programmed in the brainss not only of humans but of all the animals studied so far, from mice to man. Ours are far more complex, but who can doubt that animals have emotions as well? Can a part of our being which is necessary for our survival, or so Darwinians and I beleive, be a bad thing? I don't think so. Emotions like anger, greed, jealousy can be destructive; but they also have personal and socially positive outcomes in various circumstances. And positive emotions stemming from compassion, empathy, love hold the social fabric together as well as provide great personal joy. Yes, it's all impermanent -- but it's wonderful when it's happening, definitely good, and necessary to much of sensate life. We could not have become social -- and civilized -- beings without emotion. We could not even exist with out the programmed affection for babies that alll mammals exhibit. That cannot be bad.

I'll to keep on learning about Buddhism because it's a fascinating subject and the only religion that has never started a war. [No, Genghis Kahn was not a Buddhist!| It is the only religion that says one does not have to believe in a God, and is the only religion whose major living representative is the personification of compassion ... as Chenresig, an avatar of that attribute of Buddha. I will not claim to be a Buddhist ... and I don't suppose anybody gives a damn what I claim anyway.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day Poem

Rather than write about the first -- yes, first -- storm of the winter which isn't nice, fluffy, pretty snow, or even a sparkling ice storm but just slushy. mushy, yucky, I'll observe Valentine's Day -- not a day I have ever taken very seriously. But I try to share poems every so often believing familiarity breeds, not contempt for heaven sakes, but tolerance that can become fondness for the many who are not poetry readers, having been thorouthly scared off by ignorant school teachers.

This poem by Pushkin. He's not in most of our anthologies because we like our Russian literature fraught with neuroses or full of political upheaval. At college I worked for a few weeks as secretary in the Russian department, most especially for a professor doing a transalton of Eugene Onegin. He tried and succeeded in convincing me Pushkin stands along side almost all English writers except maybe, Shakespeare. The following poem seems to me perhaps to better most of Shakespeare's love poetry because I find it more mature, and far more generous than all the summer days S. likened his love to. We do not think of love and generosity in the same instance except when the love is for our children, and then generosity is basic. But few poets celebrate generous towards their mates or lovers. What isn't sensuous is usally about ownership and possession.

I loved you, even now I may confess,
Some embers of my love their fire retain;
But do not let it cause you more distress,
I do no want to sadden you again.
Hopeless and tonguetied, yet I loved you dearly
With pangs the jealous and the timid know;
So tenderly I loved you, so sincerely,
I pray God grant another love you so.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Well, what a pain! I just wrote a perfectly nice post, had it all done and then got curious and clicked the little "more" at the bottom of this screen. My post disappeared because I hadn't published it -- wanted to find out what the "more" might tell me ... This is an example of why I need the "genius" i talked to today. He was in his 20s, dark haired, patient and helpful, he was at the chic Apple store in Soho. {really neat architecture!]

I have a Procare contract for a year of tutoring, once a week. It got interrupted with the China trip and then the hip fiasco. But today I had some big needs [to purchase Word so I can get back to writng about TCB in a format that allows editing as the kindergarten Apple Script/Text Edit does not.] And to find out more about the intricacies of this blog program. As he answered my questions and deftly, quickly, adroitly clicked on the proper things and knew the lingo and labels, I realized something finally: I fundamentally believe machines are all dumb. It's the kick the Coke machine if it takes your money and doesn't drop down a Coke. But, in fact, all computers today are smart enough to tell you what to do IF you read their messages and symbols and actually expect there to be messages. I fail at both. I don't scan the screen for the messages, hints and so on because I don't expect them to be there. So I've got to keep in mind that the computer is working WITH me -- a fundamental difference.

I may eventually have a list of links in the sidebar, which I think I'm learning to do ... not tonight ... I can only process so much technical info at one time. I think I understand it. I'll experiment in the next day or two ... I fundamentally don't like to rush into such things. To young people it's like playing around, to me it's like practicing scales as I learn to sing, since I have a deep belief that I have a horrible singing voice even the scales are terribly daunting. This is a woman whose first ATM card expired before I got around to seeing how it worked in the machine ... however, I now do 90% of my banking with an ATM card. I CAN change, it just takes time.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Back to Quilting

I have been watching the great world and the many fascinating things in it; but I have also been quilting. Really I hav e. Here is #17 in the star quartet series. It's called "Boot-iful star" because the bright center motif looked like boots right from the git-go. It's a relatively simple quilt which went quickly. I entirely used up all the fabrics in the central portion so had to use different fabrics for the borders -- oops, that is except for the binding which is the background fabric of which I had enough to cut on bias binding In the picture it is finished except for the cat that gets added to each one, fused on -- the cats are from a fabric with about a dozen different cats and I had a fat quarter so I think I counted about 45 usable cats. I don't know if I'll do that many quilts but at this point it's beginning to seem possible. I haven't lost my fascination with Carol Doak's many variations.

In fact, I've got half the next one done .. or maybe not. It's this following picture but I may ot have enough of the gray backgrount print for the necessary four star squares. In all cases of choosing fabrics I've been an "eye-baller" not a measurer. One of my objectives is to use up flower prints and calicos that I am not terribly fond of. But as I go along on the new one, I waffle as I wonder if the gray will suffice, often I think no, sometimes I think yes. The only way to find out is to go on and see. If not enough then these stars go into the orphan block collection and I start over again.

This quilting business is all live and learn, don't take mistakes too seriously. Should there be enough gray print, great, if not, I've got a navy calico that would be a good backgound and I could use light blues or possibly, again, yellows or maybe pinks. So it's an ongoing adventure. I know some people take everything like a high school math test that will get them praise from teacher and parents. But I haven't been there in a long time. This is what used to be called a "hobby" and is nowadays called as "passion." But not a self-defining activity. I'm curious and I'm having fun. I like watching patterns appear, I like the great variety of stars possible, I like using up my stash, especially the sort of ugly fabrics like the gray -- which become much less ugly when put into something like this star. So that's it, no moral, no life lessons -- unless we really stretch our analogy making which I don't feel inclined to do tonight.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


This is about the "wisdom" of experience, in part. When I bought a digital camera I chose a small one that would fit into most purses I carry. I took it to the Empire Quilt Guild meeting yesterday but took no pictures. Today when I was going down to midtown to the main Post Office and to do a little shopping I took it out of my purse, although it was not heavy or in the way. And I thought: when I don't take it I always want it. Right!! So I left it on the table AGAINST my basic intuitive good sense.

You can guess the next plot point. After shopping I cut through the Hotel Pennsylvania lobby as I often do to go to a subway entrance. Usually in midday it is a quiet place but it was bustling. Why? I knew the moment I saw a gorgeous big white dog that I think wa a St. Bernard. Dog Show Week. Then I became aware that amongst the many people were many dogs, no two alike, all beautifully behaved, beautifully groomed, and being photographed by many people with complicated cameras. Of course, I had not even my tiny uncomplicated camera.

So nothing to do but wander around, ask owners, "what kind is that?" and say, "beautiful!' -- which was always true. A woman in the middle off the lobby, taking me for a "dog person," gave me a fat copy of the official booklet of the show and I have scanned pictures from it, which are better, possibly -- probably -- than I would have taken. On the right is a Weimaraner names Norbu -- a Sherpa name which seems a little odd for a dog of German background. In the center is a whippet which had no name attached. It undoubtedly looks much like the prize-winner whippett that escaped its cage at JFK before flying home last year and may still be alive and free somewhere in Queens -- the police get siting calls every so often. And the lovely standard poodle on the left is the cover girl of the booklet, Ch. Brighton Minimoto. I don't know why European dog breeds are given Asian names ... I know very little about the world of pure bred dogs. The booklet has lots of information so I may know more after I look through it more thoroughly.

This story has two morals: 1. take the camera! [I'd have loved to show you-all that big white dog that first caught my eye] and 2. New York is a city full of wonders, surprises and delights. Even a mundane trip to the post office may offer up something unexpected and beautiful.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Watching Strangers

The two women were deep in a quiet conversation. Thirty-ish, they had an early morning look although it was almost exactly noon -- but it was Saturday. Their hair looked uncombed, they wore no makeup. The blond was doing most of the talking. The brunet put a hand on her friend's knee and rubbed it. The blond put a hand in a coat pocket and pulled out a wadded tissue and dabbed at her eyes and nose. The brunet put an arm around her shoulder for a brief moment and talked to the blond with urgency in her face.

We were on the subway, I was about eight feet away, they spoke only to each other and I doubt the people nearest could hear what was being said. A scenario about lovers breaking up began in my head. I didn't want to stare so I looked around the car a moment as a tall, largish black woman dressed as homeless people often dress, layers of dirty looking clothes, a dirt colored hat pulled down over her head, moved in and sat opposite me. Lost in her world she did not see me, or anyone else, it seemed.

When I looked back at the couple, as I had to do, the blond was speaking; her animation had increased, as if her mood had shifted to a cheerier one. The brunet sipped from her tall Starbuck's styrofoam cup, did not meet the blond's eyes, looked across the car, her longish face grew longer, then she took a tissue from somewhere and wiped her eyes and nose. The blond kept talking but did not reach out to touch.

The homeless woman across from me rubbed her belly; I couldn't tell, because of her overall size and layers of clothes whether she was pregnant -- it was a pregnant woman's gesture but could mean a stomach ache

The pair had reached some accommodation; they talked with less intensity but still concentrated only on one another.

I cannot know what their story was. I don't need to know. On a cold winter Saturday morning both were sad; perhaps they shared the sadness, perhaps they caused one another's sadness. Meanwhile the possibly pregnant woman seemed to be alone and in need of personal care. A Buddhist practice exists called buddichita, [probablly misspelled] in which the practitioner attempts to take others' suffering in with each breath and project his/her inner peace with each exhalation; this is sometimes directed at individuals and sometimes at all sensate being if I understood what I read. I can understand the impulse to do that. However I have no ability to do any such thing; I am a watcher. Perhaps that is a step in the right direction, I hope so.

Friday, February 09, 2007

BRRR.. truly winter

It's cold. It's not been over freezing for about ten days. The last three days we've had wind ... that's bad everywhere when it's cold but it's almost diabolical in New York. We've had beautiful blue skies and bright sun. In sheltered spots -- which sometimes maybe an entire block -- it almost seems nice and comfortable. But then turn a corner -- Ouch! BRRRR... the wind slaps you, finds its way down the back of your neck and up the sleeves of your coat. Worst of all it hits you on the forhead and penetrates to the sinuses behind the cheekbones. Nasty. That HURTS!

Of course it won't last -- this is not Minnesota which must be truly awful. And it's not upstate where I lived some twenty years, in the Syracuse area ... which has had six to eight feet of snow in the last few days. I've seen that happen! it's beatiful if you're not stuck in it. The snow crew getsout efficiently clearing roads and homeowners start up their snow blowers and blast their way to the road, feeling bold and righteous and competent. I've had enough of it and am happy to be here in the so far snowless Big Apple, this winter, But I do like weather. It's a part of the challenge of living in the temperate zone.

I love to watch how people in New York dress themselves for the cold. Over on the East Side it's mostly fur coats and hats. On the middle class, PETA supporting West Side it's down. Many who are natives of much more southerly countries or islands, add layers of stoles and scarves over their coats. Many swathe themesleves in scarves like bandits about to rob a bank. they pull hoods up and only squinting eyes peer out. Then the occasional high school kid, usually talking a mile a minute and at mutli-decibels [often with a pepppering of vulgar words] goes strolling down the street with open coat flying like a sail and an inch of two of belly skin [if it's a girl] exposed to the cold. At a certain age the external world barely exists, everything is personal and usually fraught.

I've been wrapping myself in a knee length poly-filled coat with scarf and hat or earmuffs, gloves too, of course. Inside the coat, I'm warm enough. I have also a short black down filled jacket made in China, an inexpensive purchase a year ago at the end of the season. I find that the feathers tend to sneak out. Sometimes a feather works its way out on the outside, more often it's on the inside so that I might find myself with the random feather stuck on my back or my butt after I take the jacket off. So be it ... the season is short. It won't stay this cold long. But we'll be able to say we actually did have some winter ... it's not "merely" global warming we're surviving this week .. we'll complan abou the global warming part in August when it's too hot to sleep with any kind of clothes on.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Windows, an older series

Perhaps ten years ago I began making "window" wall quilts -- a variation of the traditional attic windows block. Many commercial fabrics lend themselves to being cut into squares or rectangles and framed as windows. The whole then seems to call for an interesting but not overpowering border treatment.

The above is called "Tang Horses" although I have no idea if the commercial fabric designer used Tang period horse motifs as inspiration. They were MY inspiration because I saw an exhibiton of Tang dynasty artifacts at the Metropolitan Museum, walked home remembering I'd been give some scrapes of the fabric by my friend Lynn from Florida who'd made a quilt for her daughter with the fabric. Within a week I had finished this which became and remains th largest of the windows series, it's about 48x48. The borders please me and I actually I like the fact that I had to use partial horses because that's all I had. I think it makes the whole more interesting that it would have been if I had had a lot of the fabric and had been able to carefully cut squares with horses perfectly centered in each.

This is my next to favorite from this series. In this case, not because of the pictures, although I like to use toile for the windows series. In this case, I had a fabric with several complex strips which became interesting window frames. It just gave me delight to use the complicated stripes that way.

I don't know how many windows quilts I've made. I've given away several, sold several, and at the moment have a dozen, including these two, which I hope to sell at next month's quilt show boutique. As I've written before, it's the fun of making that I enjoy. But once made I'm happy for them to go to other homes, preferably not to the top shelves of my too crowded closets.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Yes, I have a small quilt done enough to have photographed -- another star quartet, but I'm just picturng another butterfly because I'm contemplating life and death today. Actually I am not morbid but, truly, I think about the death part a lot. It hits me on the news every morning; I think the statistics are white sound for many. It is not for me, I HEAR it and picture those deaths, be they Iraqis or tornado vicims in Florida.
But in particular today's thoughts are about a co-worker only a few years older than I who retired about six years ago. She had many health problems including obesity and she said matter-of-factly that she did not expect to have much longer to live. I went with her and her best friend to the ballet a number of times, besides, of course, seeing her at work. I never felt we were close friends but I liked her and enjoyed her company.
Patrick, who owns the business has spoken to me about Ann occasionally since she left. He said a few days ago he couldn't reach her and did I have her friend's phone number. I did. Today he told me Ann died nearly a year ago and wanted no one to know, except the one good friend. She had no immediate relatives, only a very aged cat. No estate, only some furniture and personal possessions. Patrick said he couldn't help thinking of how a person can disappear so totally and even anonymously.
In contrast, as I told Patrick, a column in a paper yesterday told of a homeless man, coincidentally on 21st Street where our business is, but not in our block, who had made friends with everyone on the blockwhere he hung out. He did not beg, but people gave him money, food, clothes, haircuts. He gave people advice, told women they looked lovely and befriended kids. Sometimes, if he had a little money, he took a room in a $40 a night Times Square area hotel. Apparently he did that at the beginning of this cold spell, and he was found dead, probably of heart attack or stroke, a couple days ago. The people on the street were devastated, as of the writing they had collected $10,000 in cash and pledges to have a cremation and a memorial for him.
Ann wanted privacy and that is what she got during her final illness. The homeless man wanted a cadre of friends and being a friend was his only vocation apparently, and he got just what he wanted. Perhaps he needed medical care he did not seek. Two ways to chose to live and end a life. Not what most people want but who's to say either death was sad beyond the sadness of any life ending?

Monday, February 05, 2007

I Promised a Great Poem, Here It is

The butterflies just keep materializiing ... not a bad thing, really.

I was reading the introduction to a poetry anthology last night and found a reference to an Emily Dickinson poem I was unaware of but it was quite a first line: A Day! Help! Help! Another Day! ... So I looked it up and that's about all of the poem I like so I'm not going to quote it. If you have the Thomas H. Johnson (ed) complete poems, it's #42. The writer, poet Robert Haas, went on to say that any poet would be happy to write one poem that lived on after her or him. Dickinson wrote 70 that are worthy of lasting for ages -- out of the 1775 in this edition. 70 great poems! We all know a few, or at least parts of them ... they're short, we should have memorized our favorites. I've got, maybe three largely by memory.

The resemblence may be distant but I think of Emily and Vincent Van Gogh as being alike. Unknown in their life times and household names today. Vincent wanted to be known; Emily apparently did not. Their work gradually came to light and millions are enriched by knowing of it, seeing it, reading it. How strange. How wonderful. How astonishing, really. The saying is "cream rises." I have some doubts about the general applicability of that. Surely many wonderful, wonderful poems, short stories, novels, painting, musical compositions have utterly disappeared.

Here is one of Emily's great poems: You're read it but it bears reading every once in a while, as do at least 69 others...

Tell all the truth but tell it slant --
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explnation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind --

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Search & Discovery

My energy was so high this morning, right after breakfast, before getting dressed, I was standing atop the step stool looking through the highest shelf of the walk-in closet wondering what quilts were stashed there ... [Perhaps standing on step stools and lifting bulky stuff from over my head is not the sanest thing to do less than 3 months after a hip replacement, but all went well] I knew is was the day I was going to wash the flower/dragonfly quilt Leslie slept under when she was here and said she would like to have. Actually I've been sleeping under that quilt so I wanted to find an interesting replacement. I promised to send the quilt when I had another Bea Oglesby Butterflies book. Leslie does not quilt but she embroiders complex designs on jeans jackets.

Well, I found a couple quilts I should never have spent time making. Bad ideas, badly executed. Then I found the whirling star quilt which I had forgotten existed. It's not well quilted but I like it and it's the right weight and size. I'll be sleeping under whirling stars for a while -- will it give me exotic dreams?

I still don't know just what is in a couple of containers way up there. Then I contemplated the top shelves of two other closets, where I found more mysterious containers of quilts, some see-through plastic some not. I didn't haul everything down but did some straightening; Here is a terrible photograph of the quilt I'm sending away taken some time ago when I was afraid to stand on a stool which I should have done to get some perspective. There is no -- as in Zero, Zilch, Zip -- in that corner of the apartment except the wall lamp that gives me light for reading in bed.

I've been taking quilting much more seriously the last three or so years, in terms of color and attention to quilting, but I am not a maker of heirloom quilts. What I do is for my pleasure. I think the wall quilts are nice enough to sell. Most bed sized quilts are utility. I had maybe twice as many for a while. Then a few years ago I sent many, I don't know how many, to Rachel for storage in her attic. I made no record of which ones - I should have. Then came Katarina and a call for quilts from the societies. I sent three that would fit in a box from here and told Rachel to send what she could. As it happened she discovered many displaced persons were at a closed military base on Cape Cod, so she took the whole batch to them. I was a little flummoxed realizing I had no idea what quilts they were. I was happy they had gone to people in need; but I am a diary/record keeper [though sometimes a sloppy one] and I had let that record escape me. Ah well ...

Some surprises remain in these closets and this morning's exploration convinces me I should find a needy charity for a few more, maybe several more quilts. Preferably some distance away where I won't be embarrassed by skimpy quilting and triangle points that got blunted. Suggestion's are welcome.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

More Butterflies

They warm the cockles a bit, don't they? Reminding one of spring blososoms and walks along green paths. So we have butterflies in February just when we're experiencing brisk cold days with crystaline blue skies ... just when a scientific board that some of the world's governments many have to take seriously have said unequivocably -- as most of us knew -- Yes, global warming is a fact. It may be ameliorated but it is irreversible. Big changes are alelady underway. Duh!!

So I'm contemplating big matters like the melting glaciers and shrinking of Greenland and that storms and droughts and all kinds of things are going to happen and that a lot of people sleeping peacefully last night in their mostly flimsy Florida homes were struck by a terrible tornado which destroyed their homes and killed 15 of 20 of them. The next minute I am looking at butterflies I made to be matted pictures and getting picky ... I decided three would be better as postcards with borders that would add a color and pattern interest the mat doesn't. The one on the yellow background above remains a picture -- it's visually strong enough. Others weren't and will be replaced in the next week or so. Postcards are always usable, perhaps sellable.

... So, I'm not so much rambling as juxtapositioning [ha! how's that for an excuse?] ... the big issues and the petty ones are all mingled in my mind ... as in most people's, I think.

Or how about the lead article in tomorrow's Times Magazine about "designer dogs"? it's full of the children's riddles, what do you get when you cross a Laborador and a poodle? A labradoodle. What do you get when you cross a beagle and a basset hound? A bagel. No kidding. Jez-Louise! At one point the article points out that in most pounds you have all sorts of mixtures that might have such unlikely names if some breeder set up the liason instead of letting dog-nature take its course in the suburban backyards. So the environment is changing and people with too much money and too little good sense fall for marketing gimmacks that suggest it's better to pay several hundred dollars for a dog than to go to the shelter and fine a cutie to take home. As we old foggies have been fond of saying for a few hundred years, "what is the world coming to?" We don't know but we do know butterflies are free.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Thursday poetry

I thought I'd do "Poetry Thursday" as a web site suggests but I kept forgetting when it was Thursday. Well, it's Thursday and I know I did a bit of poetry yesterday, sort-a, kind-a ... so obviuosly I like poetry that's not necessarily serious. That's what we've got today, including a picture that's a kind of pun. [If you don't get it, that's okay. Not many people actually concentrated in college on 20th century literature -- a fun but mostly useless persuit, as I can attest -- so if you want to know what this is about, add a comment and your email address and I'll explain, perhaps at painful length. Here's the picture which I'm really very fond of, it's from Cape Cod.

First poem by Jonathan Williams called, in French: Les Matins dans la Rue Fleurus no. 27
Gertrude Stein
arose at nine
and arose and arose and arose
and arose.

That's very short so I'll add my favorite limerick which surely has an author but I've never heard who it might be.

The Rev. Henry Ward Beecher
call the hen and elegant creature.
The hen pleased with that
laid an egg in his hat,
and thus did the hen reward Beecher.

I promise, next time I do this, I will offer up a deeply meaningful, movingly profound poem by someone astonishingly brilliant and insightful. But in the deep gray days of winter, a bit of levity can be considered some kind of gift.