Welcome to My Crazy Quilt! Enjoy the Story Scroll. . . .

110 West 80 St-4R, NY, NY 10024To my readers, longtime and new, WELCOME! Blogging is a shared experience. On a personal level, my blog delves into self-discovery as I stitch together a story in the moment. It is my verbal crazy quilt. With you, it is my joy of connecting.

No crazy quilt is the same. Textile artists toss aside geometric perfection for small, unpredictably shaped patterns. My grandmother, in the tradition of mountain mothers before, created free-flowing art that warmed her family on winter nights. She patched together scraps of twill, denim, corduroy, children’s outgrown clothes, men’s shirttails, worn-out dresses, and cotton sacking into “memory gems” of life. There is a story for every patch.

Your visits are pure pleasure and your comments always treasured.

Keep scrolling or check out the category buttons: Characters, Creatives, Musings, Places, The Good Stuff on the sidebar. Or for a quick read, visit my portfolio.

Throwback Thursday: Where Are Mandela, Truth, Reconciliation?

NMandLast year, Nelson Mandela’s death gave me pause. Not so much music and dancing in the streets but rather a singular moment when, for once, a pundit went to a real place: “The man was not a saint. He was a man. We may not think we can live up to what he did. But what we can reach for is one light within ourselves and connect positively with others in our own way.”

“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” — Rivonia Trial Speech, 1964

Mandela spent almost 20 years in this bare cell on Robben Island. “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”— Rivonia Trial Speech, 1964

In the 1964 Rivonia Trial, the apartheid South Africa government sentenced Mandela to life imprisonment for political offenses, including sabotage. He was incarcerated on Robben Island for 18 of his 27 years in prison, where he contracted tuberculosis and received the lowest level of prison treatment.

In the winter of his life, Mandela connected with the other side—in reconciliation. They bridged a great divide and prevented a bloodbath in a country already ripped apart. Although a pragmatic, indeed charming, politician on the world stage, Mandela tapped into his humanity, not sainthood. “If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal,” he said. “Two of these roads could be named goodness and forgiveness.”

We all grow and change throughout our lives. When we connect with others—even in modest ways—our light within shines forth.

“I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances.” ― Nelson Mandela

“I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances.”

That may mean pulling together a fractured family . . . building a home for someone in our community . . . supporting an organization that lifts up someone to find a purposeful life . . . ladling a bowl of soup for someone who is hungry and cold . . . feeling the heartbeat of beautiful music, art, or words and sharing it . . . loving our planet, even by way of how we dispose of garbage . . . working with integrity . . . following our faith authentically, whatever it may be. . . .

Whether we have the power to fulfill a long list or a shorter one, no one will keep count. There is no score.

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”― Nelson Mandela

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

Mandela said many things, but this one seems fitting for the season and one worth living out long after we have vacuumed up dried pine needles that trailed to our doors when we threw out the Christmas tree: “There is no passion to be found playing small—in settling for a life that is less than the one you are living.”

We all can do our best. There is no measure, for the light within is not a number.

The world is not black and white, though easy to see that way. Instead, it is a brilliant rainbow of gray.

"The value of our shared reward will and must be measured by the joyful peace which will triumph, because the common humanity that bonds both black and white into one human race, will have said to each one of us that we shall all live like the children of paradise."--Nobel Peace Prize Address, 1993

“. . . the common humanity that bonds both black and white into one human race will have said to each one of us that we shall all live like the children of paradise.”–Nobel Peace Prize Address, 1993

Where is Mandela?

Ferguson, Missouri. Staten Island, New York. Cleveland, Ohio: Where are truth and reconciliation?

“This Little Light of Mine” — Soweto Gospel Choir, 2011

Signatures of Nelson Mandela and the Soweto Gospel Choir

Signatures of Nelson Mandela and the Soweto Gospel Choir

“Asimbonanga” (We have not seen him)/”Asimbonang uMandela thina” (We have not seen Mandela) — Johnny Clegg & Savuka, composed in 1987 and performed in 1990. “It is music and dancing that made me at peace with the world–and at peace with myself.”–Nelson Mandela, 1990


My friend Dr. M.M. Tahir contributed this moving image and message.

My friend Dr. M.M. Tahir contributed this moving image and message.

Photo Credits:

Nelson Mandela’s prison cell on Robben Island courtesy of Paul Mannix

Candle courtesy of Bangin/Gnu Free Documentation License

Supernumeray Rainbow courtesy of Andrew Dunn, http://www.andrewdunnphoto.com

Signatures of Nelson Mandela and Soweto Gospel Choir courtesy of Australian National University School of Music (author: Peter Ellis)

Innocent Abroad: Miss Bunny Eyeballs French Art

My mother’s formal first name was Frances Marion. However, like any southern dowager, she had a perky nickname: Miss Bunny. She counted Kitten, Buttercup, and Binky among her best friends.

On her Grand Tour, Miss Bunny took to French culture: cup after cup of sugary-sugary café, croque monsieur, and comfort food in the provinces. As for art, her period taste took a downturn after the Impressionists. Miss Bunny was quite the critic.

Miss Bunny

Miss Bunny

"Picasso. "Woman Reading." I can't swear to it, but I think I saw this poor soul in a midway tent at the state fair in nineteen and forty-nine.

Picasso. “Woman Reading.” I can’t swear to it, but I think I saw this poor soul in a midway tent at the state fair in nineteen and forty-nine.

My stars and garters.  I have double vision.

My stars and garters! Do I have double vision?

Picasso. "The Kiss." Oh, dear. Rubber necking.

Picasso. “The Kiss.” Oh, dear. Rubber necking.

Brancusi. "The Kiss." Just like two telephone poles stuck together.

Brancusi. “The Kiss.” Just like two telephone poles stuck together.

Rodin. "TheKiss." I do believe they're havin' more fun.

Rodin. “The Kiss.” I do believe they’re havin’ more fun.



Longwood Gardens: Chrysanthemum-Burst

Brightened crppd Depth of field yellow chrys. large_pe_pe_peLast Sunday, sunshine beckoned, and we followed. It was a “cool-blue-gold” autumn day, ideal for a turn through Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. The Chrysanthemum Festival is a no-miss November event. The Orangery, or conservatory, is lush spectacle.

Depth of field part of big chrys-sm perspective_peThe festival tangibly reveals Asian sensibility. The art is pure, with more than 80,000 blossoms nurtured and trained into aesthetic forms.pink and lavender chrys bright and closeup_pedepth of field yellow-lavender chrys_pedepth of field lavender and pink chrys_pe

2014-11-09 12.46.45John Alex Floyd, Jr., PhD—former editor-in-chief and longtime dean of horticulture at Southern Living—urged this sojourn when I moved to Delaware. Although nestled in the historic Brandywine Valley of southern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware, Longwood Gardens is a yearly hot spot in the magazine. Southerners can’t resist its renowned museums and gardens. Neither can the world.  The linguistic music  of French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Arabic, and a half dozen more languages fell upon my delighted ears as I strolled among shields, spirals, cascades, balls, and chandeliers. The common language: “Ahhh!”

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Dr. Floyd would have proven a most welcome walking companion, sharing compelling botanical details and the long history of these blooms. But he was in Sweet Home Alabama, so I gloried in ignorant bliss, stooping, gazing upward and downward, glancing side to side, stepping backward and forward, and then rounding once again my beaten path. I covered 4 acres in a fleeting four hours.

2014-11-09 13.10.56Despite this homage to Asian perfection, my thoughts turned to Alexander Pope, the 18th-century English poet and passionate gardener. (He penned “The Rape of the Lock,” a mock-epic, either a delicious bite or literary irritation, depending on your brush with a general-ed English syllabus.)

Longwood Gardens’ choreographed plant spectacular of colors, shapes, patterns, and textures embodies all that Mr. Pope prized in nature and reflected in his poetry: elegance, harmony, and balance.

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A couple of Mr. Pope’s lines echo the setting:

“Where order in variety we see,
And where, though all things differ, all agree.”—Epistle to Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington (l. 15–16)

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Other foliage interspersed among the chrysanthemums heightened the joy—from grand-scale creations to miniature peeping delights. A surprise bird of paradise perched amid the splendor.

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The crown jewel of the festival is the 1,000-bloom chrysanthemum. Only a handful of individuals practice the ancient art. It is a triumph of architecture, horticultural expertise, and brilliant design technique. The story unfolds every autumn.

“If you would be happy for a lifetime, grow chrysanthemums.”—Chinese proverb






College Credit for “Wasting Time on the Internet”

“At Penn, students can get credit for ‘Wasting Time on the Internet'”

Damn, that’s a good headline.

I recently spotted it in the Washington Post (while aimlessly wandering the Internet).

The_ScreamHad I been a parent bankrolling my offspring’s major in creative writing, the article might have prompted a screaming “WTF?” text. Too late! My kid already would have commenced the mindless trolling.

However, I am a nonparent, so Abby Ohlheiser’s article hooked me. Admittedly, if my college career had involved the Internet, I would have signed up for a course titled “Wasting Time on the Internet” (taught by poet Kenneth Goldsmith).

So what’s up with all this mindless Internet engagement? Per Mr. Goldsmith’s syllabus, “students will be required to stare at the screen for three hours, only interacting through chat rooms, bots, social media, and listservs. . . . Distraction, multi-tasking, and aimless drifting is mandatory.” (Subject-verb agreement of the previous sentence might trouble a grammar Nazi who does not recognize the thrill of this ride.)

Resized Edited Devices for credit for net surfing_peMs. Ohlheiser writes: “Goldsmith says he hopes the distraction will place his students ‘into a digital or electronic twilight’ similar to the state of consciousness between dreaming and waking that was so prized by the Surrealists.”

I would like to fancy myself falling into this creative state, but my 6:30 a.m. snooze-button battle gets in the way.

Despite the shock of the headline, the course  requires reading of critical texts. One term rang a distant bell: affect theory. While studying literature in the era of the early Compaq computer, I probably bumped into it.

On the day I read Ms. Ohlheiser’s article, the name of Henri Bergson briefly trotted through my brain. However, I couldn’t Google any terms because I was on deadline for an article about redecorating a tot’s room that will last through her teen years. It’s written on the sixth grade level for harried mothers who like to read about such projects and fantasize about attempting them.

Thus far, it’s a hopeless, indeed  impossible, assignment.


I do not live in a writing paradise. This busy audience will glance at the lovely pics and perhaps skim some captions. If I am truly successful, they will consider the how-to steps that the copy desk managed to cut and then cram into a box compromised by a costly digest-size ad. This will happen only if they actually subscribe to a hands-on publication as opposed to finding free info on the websites of beleaguered lifestyle magazines.

To return to the rarefied world of Mr. Goldsmith: I find his brief auto-bio fascinating. In 2013, he “penned” his experiences on Dazed Digital. Click or go with my condensed form:

* New Age-Transcendental Meditation parents

* Drugs out of boredom

Infinity Lite 1280px-Ford_Fairmont_sedan_2_pe* No more drugs because of an inspiring drawing class in which a car was no longer a car but rather “an amalgam of color, shape, and form” (That recalls the transformation of my 1992 Toyota when a mother-boat blue Ford smashed it in 1997.)

* From sculptor (Rhode Island School of Design) to “text artist” to poet

* Radical modernism fan of Joyce, Stein, Beckett . . .  (I cannot argue with his taste.)

* An English professor and poet followed by a “thinkership” rather than readership (I like the sound of that.)

* Poet Laureate of MoMA  (pretty cool)

* Founder of  UbuWeb (Here I can catch a plethora of avant-garde works by the likes of Philip Glass, Jorge Luis Borges, and Allen Ginsberg collected since 1996. Free!)

* A one-man mind machine

800 px Edited Infinity Lite Cnn.svg_peMr. Goldsmith details some of his literary adventures in his Dazed Digital essay. As someone frustrated by current media, I reveled in the description of his tome Seven American Deaths and Disasters: 

I wanted to find out: what are the words we use to describe something that we never thought we’d have to describe? I transcribed historic American radio and television reports of national tragedies as they unfurled. The slick curtain of media was torn, revealing acrobatic linguistic improvisations. There was a sense of things spinning out of control: facts blurred with speculation as the broadcasters attempted to furiously weave convincing narratives from shards of half-truths. It was as if the essence of the media was being revealed while its skin was in tatters. It felt like a Godard film. . . .

After that nice turn of phrase, I pondered the “bourgeois” meaning of the waking-dreaming state suffered by my business communication students.

Waitress_at_Czech_Beer_Festival_peActually, they spent a lot of time between waking and non-REM sleeping. They were exhausted: some worked a 30-hour week (or more) while taking a full load of courses.

I will never forget the bright woman who lived in her car and begged relatives to babysit her toddler while she was in class—until she pulled enough shifts as a server to afford cheap daycare and enough square footage for a bed, table, and chair. She always showed up for class, executed sharp presentations, and never passed out.

My students did not get credit for wasting time on the Internet. They had no time to waste. If they committed plagiarism after a thoughtful definition, well, they got zip credit.

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* * * * *

For more information about Kenneth Goldsmith, visit the Poetry Foundation. Short bursts are available via Twitter.

Edited Marcel_Proust_1900-2_peOn a personal note, I will mention arguably the most innovative novelist of the 20th century: Marcel Proust, who wrote A la Recherche du Temps Perdu (In Search of Lost Time). Biographer William C. Carter beautifully explores the author’s world in Marcel Proust: A LifeWarning: if you tackle this novel, you must abandon the extra time you blow surfing the Net, as it is 3,000 pages long.


Server courtesy of Jini Suchmel, FlickrČeský pivní festival Praha 2009

Wednesday Short: Fall Leavings

girl-in-yellow-sweater-1936.jpg!BlogA few yellow leaves fluttered by as I glanced out the kitchen window. I touched a cool windowpane. Sweater weather—at least for today. Autumn colors bleed in October, then trickle thinly in November. I will buy a rake. . . .

Canada comes,

Cooling the Blue Ridge leaf by leaf,

Bronze, vermilion, copper, and yellow flame

While the morning moon burns white in blue.


Umber splotches rosy dogwood,

And birds snatch at candy-berry clusters.

My face upturns to catch the sun’s glow

Through lidded eyes.

James_Guthrie_-_To_Pastures_New_1883The wind stirs twigs and branches,

Brushing leaves back and forth,

And a dry rain falls,


Early frost pales the trees and

Thins chirping, buzzing, whirring—

Cézanne_Cour_d'une_fermeCall-and-response night song.

I mourn the rasping choir.

I look for the farmer’s geese,

Snowy flecks in a browning field.

But he has sold them,

And the pasture gate swings, half-open.



Girl in Yellow Sweater, Prudence Howard

Lane at Alchamps, Arles, Paul Gaugin

To the Pasture New, James Guthrie

Farmyard, Paul Cézanne