Amy Tan

I am rereading with my youngest friend, Katelyn Chen, Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club. Katelyn, age ten, is our featured poet for this week.

I deemed the book too mature and complex for her, but she tells me she has read it before, and she suggests that we read it again–separately, but concurrently. Of course, she and I concentrate on entirely different things in the book: I on the finely-sculptured psychological relationships, and she on the details of the plot, which she remembers with sharp precision. Our task for this week is to read one chapter only and list in seven sentences the important concepts found there. I think our seven will diverge.

Because Katelyn is, like the characters in the book, an American-born daughter of Chinese parents, the book resonates with her. She thinks the characters are clearly presented, whereas I find myself getting lost in the cross-stories of the four women and their children. I return again and again to the chart of how each is related to the other. Still, it is an illuminating and satisfying read, and I’m glad to be revisiting the novel, accompanied by a set of very young eyes.

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March 29

This award-winning quilt design (left) by Muff Fregia is entitled Plum Line. It introduces William Carlos Williams’ classic poem (below).

Readers new to Williams’ work might be puzzled by his imagism. It helps to understand that Williams’ work often simply captures an image. Here, the image is a slightly apologetic note left on a refrigerator door, an explanation for the inconvenient truth of plums gone too soon.

 

 

This Is Just To Say

William Carlos Williams – 1883-1963

I have eaten 

the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

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March22

The essays of E.B. White are gentle and often perplexed understatements that wrap the beauty of life in the most careful of words. Below see the obituary for his beloved dog, Daisy.

In window four, with apologies to the venerable Mr. White, I try my own obituary for Brinkley, written directly to her.

OBITUARY

Daisy (“Black Watch Debatable”) died December 22, 1931, when she was hit by a Yellow Cab in University Place. At the moment of her death she was smelling the front of a florist’s shop. It was a wet day, and the cab skidded up over the curb — just the sort of excitement that would have amused her, had she been at a safe distance. She is survived by her mother, Jeannie; a brother, Abner; her father, whom she never knew; and two sisters, whom she never liked. She was three years old.

Daisy was born at 65 West Eleventh Street in a clothes closet at two o’clock of a December morning in 1928. She came, as did her sisters and brothers, as an unqualified surprise to her mother, who had for several days previously looked with a low-grade suspicion on the box of bedding that had been set out for the delivery, and who had gone into the clothes closet merely because she had felt funny and wanted a dark, awkward place to feel funny in. Daisy was the smallest of the litter of seven, and the oddest.

Her life was full of incident but not of accomplishment. Persons who knew her only slightly regarded her as an opinionated little bitch, and said so; but she had a small circle of friends who saw through her, cost what it did. At Speyer hospital, where she used to go when she was indisposed, she was known as “Whitey,” because, the man told me, she was black. All her life she was subject to moods, and her feeling about horses laid her sanity open to question. Once she slipped her leash and chased a horse for three blocks through heavy traffic, in the carking belief that she was an effective agent against horses. Drivers of teams, seeing her only in the moments of her delirium, invariably leaned far out of their seats and gave tongue, mocking her; and thus made themselves even more ridiculous, for the moment, than Daisy.

She had a stoical nature, and spent the latter part of her life an invalid, owing to an injury to her right hind leg. Like many invalids, she developed a rather objectionable cheerfulness, as though to deny that she had cause for rancor. She also developed, without instruction or encouragement, a curious habit of holding people firmly by the ankle without actually biting them — a habit that gave her an immense personal advantage and won her many enemies. As far as I know, she never even broke the thread of a sock, so delicate was her grasp (like a retriever’s), but her point of view was questionable, and her attitude was beyond explaining to the person whose ankle was at stake. For my own amusement, I often tried to diagnose this quirkish temper, and I think I understand it: she suffered from a chronic perplexity, and it relieved her to take hold of something.

She was arrested once, by Patrolman Porco. She enjoyed practically everything in life except motoring, an exigency to which she submitted silently, without joy, and without nausea. She never grew up, and she never took pains to discover, conclusively, the things that might have diminished her curiosity and spoiled her taste. She died sniffing life, and enjoying it.

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March 15

This week we revisit the morning pages presented in Julia Cameron’s classic, The Artist’s Way. As the sun rises each morning of this new season, Cameron suggests that we begin every day with longhand, stream-of- consciousness writing.

This morning creation is not refined art; it is a way to channel creativity/gratitude/anger/ memory/thoughts/feelings. Morning pages can be affirmations, descriptions of life as you wish it to be, anything to unblock and allow your art and creativity to flow.

I find it helpful to reread morning pages to remember what I have wished for and to reflect on how my dreams and desires have revealed themselves in unexpected and appreciated realities.

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March 8

“Hope” is the thing with feathers

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

                            –Emily Dickinson

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Down in my solitude under the snow,
Where nothing cheering can reach me;
Here, without light to see how to grow,
I’ll trust to nature to teach me.

I will not despair–nor be idle, nor frown,
Locked in so gloomy a dwelling;
My leaves shall run up, and my roots shall run down,
While the bud in my bosom is swelling.

Soon as the frost will get out of my bed,
From this cold dungeon to free me,
I will peer up with my little bright head,
And all will be joyful to see me.

Then from my heart will young petals diverge,
As rays of the sun from their focus;
I from the darkness of earth shall emerge,
A happy and beautiful Crocus!

Many, perhaps, from so simple a flower,
This little lesson may borrow,
Patient today, through its gloomiest hour,
We come out the brighter tomorrow.

                                        –Hannah Flagg Gould

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March 16, 2020

Reluctance by Robert Frost

Out through the fields and the woods

And over the walls I have wended;

I have climbed the hills of view

And looked at the world, and descended;

I have come by the highway home,

And lo, it is ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,

Save those that the oak is keeping

To ravel them one by one

And let them go scraping and creeping

Out over the crusted snow,

When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,

No longer blown hither and thither;

The last lone aster is gone;

The flowers of the witch hazel wither;

The heart is still aching to seek,

But the feet question ‘Whither?’

Ah, when to the heart of man

Was it ever less than a treason

To go with the drift of things,

To yield with a grace to reason,

And bow and accept the end

Of a love or a season?

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