Last week I was visiting Port Townsend, Washington. Among other wonderful things, this town has a couple of terrific book shops.
I found these three books (in the photo above). Later when I stopped for tea and scones in a tea shop, I put the books down on the table in front of me. Then I looked over and thought, ah! Another Poem!
Do you go to art museums, or do you skip them? Perhaps you wish you knew more about art? If you’ve been curious about where Impressionism fits into the development of Western art, or how to make sense of modern and post-modern art, then this book will help you fill in the gaps – painlessly! In many ways, I think this book is better than a museum visit – it’s like having your own private art guide and teleporting to art museums all over the world.
Do you like art? Then you should definitely look at this book! Or, if you are like me, and you’re somewhat self-conscious about your knowledge of art – read this book! Each of 100 significant pieces of Western art (almost all paintings) from the Middle Ages through 2000s is shown on one page with a text “sketch” of the artist’s beginnings and career, and then, turn the page, and the next two pages (left and right) contain insets of specific parts of the painting with historical and technique notes. Each piece is put into context for the overall arc of the development of Western art, including cubism, modernism, and post-modernism. Almost better than a museum! Another book that will make you feel smarter at the end!
Have you ever seen a sight that jumped out at you as if it were a poem?
Last week in a café I spotted a woman with stack of books. A collage of unusual titles. When I asked her about the books, she said she’d just come from Half-Price Books and these were the books that grabbed her.
If you’d like to check out their titles, here are the links in Goodreads.
In the school where she goes she has a new teacher. In first grade they are learning to read and she knows the English alphabet, so she is not behind. Her parents made sure she would be ready if they could leave their homeland, and she is staying with relatives who are kind, but she still does not know them well.
Her new teacher asks her about her name. “Jia?” she says, and she says it very closely to how it should be said.
Jia, shy, mumbles “You can call me Joanne.” Her real name is Jia An, but her relatives have said that it is better sometimes to have an English name. Joanne is close, for an English name.
“Joanne?” Her teacher frowns. “Hmm. I like the name ‘Jia’ better.” She smiles. “Let’s call you Jia.”
When her teacher says her name, Jia thinks of how her mother used to say her name: Jia An, little flower of peach and beauty. The story of her name goes back to her grandmother. Jia’s parents wanted to honor the grandmother by giving Jia her grandmother’s name. But the grandmother said, no, my name is too common a name. Choose a name that is more beautiful. Her parents decided on Jia An, and in that way they would honor the grandmother.
Jia liked her mother’s name because she thought it meant “courageous.” She wanted to be fierce. But her mother only said, you have a different path from me. Your name means beautiful peace: Jia An. You can be beautiful and be strong.
And now this path has brought her to a classroom in an English-speaking country that her parents longed to be in. Each day her teacher leads the class in learning to read. Each day she calls Jia by her own name, not the English names her cousins use in their classrooms. Gradually Jia discovers that she is good at reading in English, and gradually she reads so much that books are her secret world, a world into which she escapes, a world in which she is safe. In books she can explore the worlds of strange places and new ideas.
Eventually she becomes a writer. She writes stories of traveling across space to visit far-off worlds like the planets of the solar system. Her grandmother’s voice has faded, and instead she falls asleep thinking of the book she is reading, and of the travails of its characters. She never forgets her parents and her grandmother. They are there with her, in her heart.
“There’s something in me that likes / to imagine the things I’m afraid of, / for example, the future.” – Chase Twitchell, “Stripped Car”
I spend a lot of time avoiding thinking about the future. Yesterday the tea leaves told me that things were about to change for me. I usually don’t believe in that stuff, horoscopes and tea leaves and palm readings, but the tea leaves insisted on being heard. After that I took the bus to the Central District and had a yoga class at Misty Yoga. There was a new instructor and I couldn’t hear her calling the poses very well, so I left the yoga studio and headed downtown. The red meringues at the All Seasons Bakery called to me as I walked past on Second Avenue, so I went in and bought a half-dozen. They cooed as they came out of the case and rode along in the pink box they came in. Then it was time for the rain and so I ducked into the library and hid out for a while until it stopped. Such a quiet sound books make when they want to be read! Finally, the light rail took me back to Beacon Hill and when I came in the door, the tea leaves apologized and told me they were mistaken. Things were not about to change for me, they said. We’re sorry, but they are going to stay the same for awhile. That’s all right, I said. Me and the red meringues were just about to keep each other company.