Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula Kroeber Le Guin was the daughter of the University of California, Berkeley anthropologist Alfred Louis Kroeber, and writer Theodora Kracaw. She was born October 21, 1929, and died on Monday, January 22, 2018. Her writing has always challenged me and enthralled me.

Le Guin’s worlds are rich and varied, nd seem so real that you feel like you would know them if you were suddenly transferred there. Her characters are complex, and often seem to be trying to figure life out. She creates many characters of color, which are, or at least were, not usual in science fiction. Her later works especially reflect how women react with the world, when so much of science fiction is from the male point of view.

If you have never read her before, probably her most accessible work for a newcomer is the young adult Wizard of Earthsea, about a young wizard, Ged, who lives in a world with no major land masses but rather only islands. He is very talented, but has to learn the lessons of life the hard way, including accepting his shadow side.

Probably her most famous adult novel is Left Hand of Darkness, which explores the themes of sexuality on a distant planet where the inhabitants are androgynous. We learn about them gradually as the outsider studying their culture does.

One of her most ambitions works is Always Coming Home, which is a multimedia novel, including with the story a tape of songs and poetry from the novel’s world. Set in Northern California, the tale recounts the history of several peoples in the distant future. The society is peaceful, and matriarchal.

Le Guin has written short stores, novels, nonfiction works, poetry, book reviews, and screenplays. If you have never read her, do check her out. When she died this week, we lost a special storyteller.

Quotes by Ursula Le Guin

You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.

Those who build walls are their own prisoners. I’m going to go fulfill my proper function in the social organism. I’m going to unbuild walls.

As you read a book word by word and page by page, you participate in its creation, just as a cellist playing a Bach suite participates, note by note, in the creation, the coming-to-be, the existence, of the music. And, as you read and re-read, the book of course participates in the creation of you, your thoughts and feelings, the size and temper of your soul.

The creative adult is the child who has survived.

We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel… is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.

The light is the left hand of darkness.

Only in silence the word,
only in dark the light,
only in dying life:
bright the hawk’s flight on the empty sky.

Children know perfectly well that unicorns aren’t real, but they also know that books about unicorns, if they are good books, are true books.

I do not care what comes after; I have seen the dragons on the wind of morning.

To be oneself is a rare thing, and a great one.

Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.

Besides, when you say you’re a feminist it annoys the bigots and the old farts and the prissy ladies so much, it’s kind of irresistible.

There are no right answers to wrong questions.

What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy?

The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.

What goes too long unchanged destroys itself.

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National Mail-order Gardening Month

The Direct Gardening Association has designated January as National Mail Order Gardening Month. Does this seem strange? After all, winter has barely started, and the ground in many places won’t be ready to plant for several months. Yet, gardeners are eternal optimists.

Mail order seed companies have a long history in the United States. When you order from a seed catalog, you are engaging in a time-honored winter ritual. One of the most recognizable names in the mail-order business, Burpee, was founded in 1876 in Philadelphia. W. Atlee Burpee sought the best seeds from the United States and Europe, following leads to strange and faraway places, and his mail order business quickly grew to a national level.

Although local garden centers are the most likely places to stock the best varieties for your area, they are limited in their offerings. Catalogs are a great way to get plants that are special, new, rare or hard to grow. Your local garden center can’t stock three hundred colors of daylilies or iris or every kind of peony, but somewhere out there is a grower with a catalog who does have all the plants you want.

When you buy from a catalog, you must first know what hardiness zone you live in. If you need to find yours, the US Department of Agriculture has one on the Web here. For vegetables, you will also want to note whether they are hybrids, which are hardier, or heirloom, for which you can save the seeds from year to year.

The best part of catalogs for me is that you can find exotic plants. I have grown purple tomatoes, green zebra tomatoes, pink tomatoes, and yellow tomatoes, in addition to the normal red ones. Already I have been looking online and dreaming about this summer’s garden. I can’t wait to get those seeds sprouting!

Wishing you a great garden next summer.

Quotes about gardening

Gardening grows the spirit.–Barbara Mock

Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes.–Author Unknown

In every gardener there is a child who believes in The Seed Fairy.–Robert Brault

Weather means more when you have a garden. There’s nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans.–Marcelene Cox

The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946. That is not very long ago. Until then, where was all the food? Dear folks, the food was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests. It was near kitchens, near tables, near bedsides. It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard.–Joel Salatin

The master of the garden is the one who waters it, trims the branches, plants the seeds, and pulls the weeds. If you merely stroll through the garden, you are but an acolyte.–Vera Nazarian

A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.–Liberty Hyde Bailey

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.–Marcus Tullius Cicero

The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies.–Gertrude Jekyll

Garden as though you will live forever.–William Kent

Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.–May Sarton

Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade.–Rudyard Kipling

Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are.–Alfred Austin

Gardens and chocolate both have mystical qualities.–Edward Flaherty

Everything is mended by the soil.–Andrew Crofts

Gardeners, I think, dream bigger than emperors.–Mary Cantwell

Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.–H. Jackson Brown

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Milestones and Memory

Today I want to talk about milestones – about those significant times in the life of a person or group. The obvious important passage we all have is a birthday. At the first of the month, it was the beginning of a new year. Many mark that event with resolutions to change something in the days to come.

Everyone has times like those in their lives. However, those normal events are not what make us what we are. Rather we each have milestones unique to ourselves that have shaped us. Sometimes these were huge – marriage, children, an important new job, or something sad like a terminal illness.

Often, however, the events were small and seemingly unimportant, and it is only looking back that we see their significance. For instance, some examples from my own life. When I graduated from college, I needed a job to pay school loans, before I could pursue the career I planned on. I happened into a job in a library, and my life took an unexpected turn as I fell in love with the profession, and went on to get my masters. I occasionally stop and remember the unexpected direction my life took, and am grateful that it did.

I remember the day a young woman I barely knew offered to take me shopping for a present for my little brother. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had just met the woman who would become my dearest friend. Much later, I worked at a job where one particular person had it in for me and made my life miserable. She taught me both the difficulty of forgiveness and how it brings peace.

I hope today you will reflect on the significant events in your own life and acknowledge how they shaped you into what you are.

Quotes about memory and milestones

Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead.–Nelson Mandela

I think one of life’s great milestones is when a person can look back and be almost as thankful for the setbacks as for the victories.–Bob Dole

My path has not been determined. I shall have more experiences and pass many more milestones.–Agnetha Faltskog

Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these.–Susan B. Anthony

When you have a life milestone happen, it’s good to step back and reassess the things you thought you knew about yourself.–Emily Yoffe

Life is all about evolution. What looks like a mistake to others has been a milestone in my life.–Ameesha Patel

Celebrate each season, for you too, are transformed with the turns of the earth.–Arthur Dobrin

Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes but when you look back everything is different.–C. S. Lewis

How we remember, what we remember, and why we remember form the most personal map of our individuality.–Christina Baldwin

Memory is not about what went on in the past, it is about what is going on inside us right this moment. … It is made up of the stuff of life in the process of becoming the grist of the soul.–Joan Chittister

Memory is the crux of our humanity. Without memory we have no identities. That is really why I am committing an autobiography.–Erica Jong

Memory is the place where our vanished days secretly gather. … The past seems to be gone and absent. Yet the grooves in the mind hold the traces and vestiga of everything that has ever happened to us. Nothing is ever lost or forgotten.–John O’Donohue

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Popcorn Day

On January 19, we celebrate what I consider one of the four major food groups (with chocolate being another one). Popcorn has been around for a long time. Historians believe that corn whose kernels could be popped was first cultivated around 5000 B.C.E in Mexico. Archeologists have found evidence of an early popcorn maker – a utensil with holes and a handle – dating back to 400 C.E. in Peru. The wild, great-granddaddy of modern corn was a grain called teosinte. It has just a few kernels on each stalk, and they’re too hard to eat or to grind into flour. But teosinte has a special property that almost makes up for these shortcomings: It can pop. Indeed, it is the very hard, inedible corn that can become popcorn. The hard outer shell acts like a pressure cooker until it suddenly explodes.

The word “corn” in Old English meant “grain” or more specifically the most prominent grain grown in a region. As maize was the most common grain in early America, the word “corn” was aptly applied. Popcorn started becoming popular in the United States in the middle 1800s. It wasn’t until Charles Cretors, a candy-store owner, developed a machine for popping corn with steam that the tasty treat became more abundantly poppable. By 1900 he had horse-drawn popcorn wagons going through the streets of Chicago. Cracker Jack was invented at about the same time by adding peanuts and molasses to popcorn. With the invention of the microwave, popcorn became even more popular. According to The Popcorn Board, Americans consume 13 billion quarts of popped popcorn annually. Most popcorn is grown in the United States. Nebraska leads the Corn Belt in popcorn production.

Some fun facts about popcorn. A cup of air-popped corn has 31 calories, while if you make it with oil, it is 55 calories per cup. In 2012, 995,774,706 pounds of unpopped corn was sold.

So make yourself some popcorn today and perhaps pop in a movie.

Quotes about popcorn

Every once in a while, someone will mail me a single popcorn kernel that didn’t pop. I’ll get out a fresh kernel, tape it to a piece of paper and mail it back to them.–Orville Redenbacher

I had popcorn all over the place, so I decided I might as well be in the Processing Business.–Orville Redenbacher

Popcorn! Our fatal weakness!–Hazel Levesque

Have you ever pondered the miracle of popcorn? It starts out as a tiny, little, compact kernel with magic trapped inside that when agitated, bursts to create something marvelously desirable. It’s sort of like those tiny, little thoughts trapped inside an author’s head that – in an excited explosion of words – suddenly become a captivating fairytale!–Richelle E. Goodrich

Sometimes I think that all anyone needs in life is lots of popcorn…–Sam Savage

“Come in early, so there’ll be time to pop corn,” Mrs. Ray said. If she mentioned popping corn, they always came in early. So she usually mentioned it.–Maud Hart Lovelace

Fresh popcorn is near impossible to resist, second only to fresh doughnuts.–Shannon Wiersbitzky

The laziest man I ever met put popcorn in his pancakes so they would turn over by themselves.–W. C. Fields

American’s love popcorn, and their love doesn’t quit.–Rosecrans Baldwin

The modern era has brought up immense conveniences, but at what price. The human heart is desperate for something more than a quicker serving of popcorn.–John Eldredge

Of course life is bizarre, the more bizarre it gets, the more interesting it is. The only way to approach it is to make yourself some popcorn and enjoy the show.–David Gerrold

I just got a reputation for making popcorn at parties. I don’t mean to brag on myself, but I make the popcorn in the pot, and it comes out fine every time.–Bill Nye

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Kid Inventors Day

On January 17 we celebrate and encourage the creativity of children. The date chosen to celebrate this day is the anniversary of Benjamin Franklin’s birthday. When Franklin was just 12 years old, he invented the world’s first swim flippers, though they were for the hands rather than the feet.

Young people created some important things. (Thanks to Warwick Daily News for these.)

  1. Braille. A 15-year-old Louis Braille modified a military code used for reading messages on the battlefield in the dark and went on to invent Braille, a raised dots system making it possible for blind people to read.
  2. Snowmobile. 15-year-old Joseph-Armand Bombardier invented the snowmobile. It began by him wondering what would happen if you attached a motor to a sled.
  3. Trampoline. At age 16, George Nissen watched acrobats drop into a safety net after their act and thought it would be fun if they kept bouncing. He rigged a canvas tightly over a metal frame, creating something that would give joy to many.
  4. The Popsicle. One freezing night in San Francisco in 1905, Frank Epperson mixed soda water powder and water in a glass and then left the stirring stick in the mixture. After a night out in the cold, the mixture had frozen solid – and the accidental inventor had created the world’s first Popsicle.
  5. Earmuffs. at 19 years of age, Chester Greenwood made a wire frame and had his grandmother sew some beaver skins to it. He created the world’s first pair of earmuffs and went on to patent the invention.

The most creative people on the planet are children. Today is the day to encourage their dreams and crazy ideas, their inventiveness and creativity.

Quotes about creativity

Focus should be to encourage and develop creativity in all children without the ultimate goal begin to make all children inventors, but rather to develop a future generation of critical thinkers.–Faraq Mousa

The only truly happy people are children and the creative minority.–Jean Caldwell

There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.–Edward de Bono

We are born makers. We move what we’re learning from our heads to our hearts through our hands.–Brene Brown

When I’m playful I use the meridians of longitude and parallels of latitude for a seine, and drag the Atlantic Ocean for whales. I scratch my head with the lightning and purr myself to sleep with the thunder.–Mark Twain

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.–Maya Angelou

The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.–Carl Jung

Creative minds are rarely tidy.–John William Gardner

Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.–George Bernard Shaw

Creativity comes with being human; it is the power to think new, to imagine, to see a metaphor. Animals make by instinct. People get new ideas. All you need is an open mind.–Jean Unsworth

Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.–Mary Lou Cook

Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.-–Leo Burnett

Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.–Mae Jemison

Imagination is the spark that ignites the fire of creativity.–Richard Laurence Peterson

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National Hat Day

On January 15, we celebrate hats. It’s no secret to my friends that I love hats. I might only have two sets of shoes, but I always have a wide selection of hats. My latest is a beautiful multi-colored wool hat I bought in Ireland. I wear hats in the winter to keep my head warm, and in the summer to keep the sun out of my face. So this is my holiday.

People have worn hats for a very long time. The first depiction of a hat we have is one from a tomb in Thebes, which is over five thousand years old. It depicts a man wearing a conical straw hat. Hats for women began to be worn in the late sixteenth century.

Folks wear hats for various reasons. Some, like me, just love hats. Workers may wear hard hats for safety, as do sports players and soldiers. Some wear hats for religious reasons. Of course, in the military or sports, hats indicate to which country or team one belongs. And of course, hats are just fashionable. We see the height of hat fashion in the middle of last century with women in the movies wearing elaborate and beautiful hats, and men with top hats and tails. Some hats become associated with particular people such as Sherlock Holmes in a deerstalker hat.

The official term for the designing of hats is millenary, and a hat maker is a milliner. The term is derived from the city of Milan, Italy. The best quality hats were made in Milan in the 18th century.

Children’s books about hats include The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss and Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina. And the various Curious George books with the man in the yellow hat.

So grab your hat, and celebrate this day!

Quotes about hats

You take the lies out of him, and he’ll shrink to the size of your hat; you take the malice out of him, and he’ll disappear.–Mark Twain

Never try to wear a hat that has more character than you do.–Lance Morrow

Cock your hat – angles are attitudes.–Frank Sinatra

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.–E. B. White

How a hat makes you feel is what a hat is all about.–Philip Treacy

I myself have 12 hats, and each one represents a different personality. Why just be yourself?–Margaret Atwood

I can wear a hat or take it off, but either way it`s a conversation piece.–Hedda Hopper

A hat should be taken off when you greet a lady and left off for the rest of your life. Nothing looks more stupid than a hat.–P. J. O’Rourke

The whole shadow of Man is only as big as his hat.–Elizabeth Bishop

I measure your health by the number of shoes and hats andclothes you have worn out.–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Her hat is a creation that will never go out of style; it will just look ridiculous year after year.–Fred Allen

I have a hat. It is graceful and feminine and give me a certain dignity, as if I were attending a state funeral or something. Someday I may get up enough courage to wear it, instead of carrying it.–Erma Bombeck

I think that a woman wears so many hats, we have so many aspects to us that we’re not just one thing. We represent so much within us and that kind of comes across for me as a designer through mixing prints and colors.–Rachel Roy

If a woman rebels against high-heeled shoes, she should take care to do it in a very smart hat–George Bernard Shaw

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Rubber Duckie Day

On January 13, we celebrate the bright yellow bath toy. I must admit I have a soft spot for these. I own three, one dressed for a night on the town, one dressed like a soldier from Napoleon’s time, and one that is Irish, a souvenir of my time in Ireland last summer.

Like Pasadena, Portland, Oregon has a rose parade. As part of that in the 1980s, there was a rubber duck race. A huge dump truck would pull up on one of the bridges over the Willamette, and dump what looked like thousands of ducks into the river. Each duck was numbered, and had been “bought” by someone for $5.00 if I remember correctly. They would float down the river with their owners shouting encouragement. It is one of my favorite memories of Portland during that era.

Duckies weren’t always the colorful vinyl we know today. The earliest ducks were made from hard rubber in the mid to late 19th century. The ducks were solid and could not float. They were used as chew toys. During the era of the World Wars, rubber was too valuable to be used on simple toys, so plastic and vinyl began to be used. Landon Smart Lawrence was the first to patent a design for these toys, specifically the variety that was weighted so that, while still buoyant, it would always stand up the right way in the water.

So why do we celebrate these on January 13? According to a 1973 Sesame Street calendar, Rubber Duckie’s Birthday is January 13. A friend of Ernie and Big Bird, Duckie made his debut in a February 1970 episode. You can listen to Ernie’s delightful song here.  So celebrate this day by singing along with Ernie, or taking your duckie into the bath and feeling like a kid again.

Quotes about play

Always jump in the puddles! Always skip alongside the flowers. The only fights worth fighting are the pillow and food varieties.–Terri Guillemets

The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.–Carl Jung

Does it not appear to you versatility is the true and rare characteristic of that rare thing called genius–versatility and playfulness? In my mind they are both essential.–Mary Russell Mitford

Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.–H. G. Wells

Fun is fundamental, there is no way around it. You absolutely must have fun. Without fun, there is no enthusiasm. Without enthusiasm, there is no energy. Without energy, there are only shades of gray.–Doug Hall

Go and play. Run around. Build something. Break something. Climb a tree. Get dirty. Get in some trouble. Have some fun.—Brom

Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.–Tom Robbins

I still get wildly enthusiastic about little things… I play with leaves. I skip down the street and run against the wind.–Leo F. Buscaglia

It is a happy talent to know how to play.–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.–Michael Jordan

Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.—Heraclitus

Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning.–Diane Ackerman

lay keeps us vital and alive. It gives us an enthusiasm for life that is irreplaceable. Without it, life just doesn’t taste good.–Lucia Capocchione

We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything than when we are playing.–Charles Schaefer

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.–George Bernard Shaw

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