Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Things Literary

book cover
We went to a superb event on Saturday evening, hosted by Field's End. New York Times best-selling author Ann Hood came to Bainbridge Island and gave a writing workshop in the afternoon. In the evening, we gathered to hear four excellent actors read from her wonderful book, Knitting Yarns (a collection of essays, edited by Ms. Hood). After the reading, she spoke about the book, about her life, and about how she came to be interested in knitting; she was gracious, funny, witty, and engaging. After that, we gathered in the bistro next door for a fun, informal reception and book-signing.

Ann Hood is also the author of Comfort, a memoir about her life after the passing of her daughter, Grace. I read it after Katie died; it was a deep, beautifully written, stirring book. Who could have guessed that I might have the privilege of meeting its author a few years later, of looking her in the eyes and telling her, mother to mother, that I had been moved by her work?

Knitting Yarns is about so much more than knitting - its stories include family, life-changes, pets, community, gender roles and more. Gregg and I laughed until we cried, nodded in agreement, and listened with pleasure as each actor brought to life the voice of a character who had something vital to say about the craft of knitting. Do check it out, even if you are not a knitter.

Being a new member of the Field's End Core Team is already enriching my life and stimulating my imagination. Everyone has been welcoming, and I am excited about the possibilities ahead. If you live locally, check out the upcoming offerings at!
My grandfather, Morton, in the library
Meeting Ann Hood is one of many serendipitous things that have happened since I started working through The Artist's Way (serendipity is one of the effects predicted by Julia Cameron, author of AW). I have been busy writing, listening, studying, observing, and reflecting. My (waking and sleeping) dream-life is richer than it was before - another of Julia Cameron's predictions for those who are practicing The Artist's Way. 
Nana Emilie in the library
Memories swim up to the surface from deep down in the depths of consciousness. Perhaps this is why, today, I remembered a small item which used to sit on my grandfather's desk in his library. He and my grandmother were avid readers and book collectors.
Morton's desk
It was a ceramic paperweight, very simple, made in the shape of an open book. Someone had written these words in rough black letters on the white-glazed pages:
Do more than look; observe.
Do more than read; absorb.

I wish I had thought to keep this paperweight after my grandparents' passing. I read the words dozens of times, and yet forgot all about it - until today. Wondering where the quote originated, I looked online, and Google revealed the source:
Do more than exist; live.
Do more than touch; feel.
Do more than look; observe.
Do more than read; absorb.
Do more than hear; listen.
Do more than listen; understand.
Do more than think; ponder.
Do more than talk; say something.
- John H. Rhoades
Wise words, suggesting an intentional approach to living - to move beyond the superficial and go a step farther, deeper.

This led to a search for photos of the home where my mother grew up. The house is still standing, but the property has been subdivided, so the orchard is gone.
My grandmother designed this house in every detail (with an architect's help), including the recycled brick
The entry hall, with portrait of my great-great grandmother
The staircase my mother descended on her way to her wedding in the garden
My brother and me with Nana Emilie on the south side of  the garden.
Living room
More living room
I loved this house for its exquisite, understated beauty; it informed and shaped my taste in furnishings and interior design, and inspired me to study the subject. 
And yet more living room
I'm grateful to my grandparents for their love of books, beauty, education, culture and their appreciation of all of the arts, which they freely shared with us. I'm thankful to have happy memories of this house - including the recently rediscovered wisdom of John H. Rhoades.


Elizabeth said...

I am struck by how several years ago you wrote on your need to "figure out" what came next for you as your son moved on to college and then adulthood, and you left the early years of intense grieving. And here you are! Doing such amazing and enriching things. You are, again, an inspiration, Karen. I love that you got to meet Ann Hood. I have read much of her writing and am so looking forward to that new book. I'm a knitter, too, and I haven't done it in so long, so perhaps now is a good time to start. I'm struck, too, by your words about "intention."

Thank you for a wonderful post. The photos and memories of your grandparents are beautiful, too.

Busy Bee Suz said...

I love this post. I love that your family history has shaped your love of the written word. Great photos of your Mom's home….if those walls could talk. :)