Reading and Crafts in Winter’s Dark

I haven’t written since early January because I’ve been struggling with the gloom and anxiety resulting from last fall’s election. I gave myself some space over the inaugural weekend, figuring I’d write the next weekend. But that came after a week of ill-advised executive orders that culminated in one resulting in the deportation of people with permanent residency and others who had waited years and endured much to come here.


I started sewing again. This is the Lonely Dollop. Yes, it’s a pile of poo and reflects my mood for the past few weeks.

As a result, it has seemed somehow inappropriate to write about crafts, baking and gardening in the face of ominous attacks on the Constitution, civil rights, and democracy. As someone trained as a historian, I know the dangers of ignoring incursions into checks and balances. Still, while remaining alert citizens, we need some joy in daily life.


A colleague said if she were an animal, she would be a turtle, so I made her this little creature, getting away from the poo theme.

I have been sewing and reading and, yes, have ordered some seeds for the garden. I’m not ready to look forward to the gardening season yet, but I’ve been out there, trimming roses and getting lettuces out of the cold frame.


First I had ideas about turtles, then fish came into the mix.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading, some of it escapist and some of it not. I read Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land and Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. I also read Today Will Be Different, by Maria Semple. Currently, I’m reading Michael Chabon’s Moonglow.


Then more turtles and more fish. Pauline, do you recognize that orange tulle?

Hochschild is a sociologist you may know from her book a few year’s ago about parents, called The Second Shift. She was interested in the working class voters who always seem to vote against their self interest by voting conservative. She went to Louisiana and lived there for five years, getting to know people and listening.


I added starfish (Johanna, do you recognize the starfish?) and a scallop shell and sand dollars.

It’s a book whose stories are hard to read: a family whose bayou has been poisoned and most of whose members have died of cancer; a man who worked for a company that dumped chemicals into the bayou, who was fired when he needed to go on disability, and who helped the local Tea Party candidate plant signs along the road; people who can’t fish their local waters or eat what they catch. They are hard-working people who want to make it on their own. Hochschild’s book makes three points. We all need to break through the empathy wall when talking to people whose opinions we disagree with or don’t understand. The people she was writing about have been working a long time and standing in line for the American dream. They feel as though someone keeps getting put in ahead of them. The third thing is emotional. They feel judged and misunderstood by liberals and welcomed into community by conservatives. It’s a book well worth reading for anyone who wants to understand the resurgence of political conservatism, and its lessons may apply in more than the US.


I had to pull out a sand dollar from a Nova Scotia vacation to see what the pattern on the shell was.

I didn’t read Go Set a Watchman when it came out because there was such hullabaloo surrounding it. There were all sorts of reviews speculating whether it was the book Lee wanted to write rather than To Kill a Mockingbird. And then there was the general hysteria about Atticus Finch being a racist rather than the saintly lawyer of Mockingbird.


I’m feeling pretty competent with the turtles at this point.

Watchman is a good book in its own right. It is a story about not being able to go home again. Jean Louise Finch (Scout) has been living in New York City for a number of years, coming home to the south periodically to find the social expectations stifling and that she has very little in common with her contemporaries.


This is the entire mobile, with a little sparkle from Pauline’s dangler as a backdrop. It’s going to go to a couple little boys, Kieran and Ari, for their bedroom at their grandmother’s house.

On the particular visit in the book, she runs smack into the wall that many young people do at some point: how in the world did I grow up here, absorbing all the ideals of my life and come to such diametrically opposed ideas to those of the people I love? It’s a shock. It’s a shock for Jean Louise, much less any reader who can’t hold a complex view of Atticus. It also has one of the clearest, briefest explanations of the southern viewpoint on civil rights I’ve read anywhere–which, even though written in the 1950’s still has currency today (now remember the Hochschild book). It’s well-written and it’s a tight story of the sort that leaves you with things to think about.


It’s out in paper now!

Today Will be Different, I’m not going to review at length. Semple writes about characters with some trauma in their background, but this one didn’t convince me and I didn’t much like her. It was disappointing because I liked her previous novel, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? so much. It may be that someone else has read the new book and related better to it. If so, please write a review!  And thanks to those of you who checked in on me in my dry spell.  It’s really nice to be part of such a community.


I think this sea turtle pattern will offer quite a few possibilities…

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42 Responses to Reading and Crafts in Winter’s Dark

  1. Well, you sure are back with a bang! I hardly know where to start! First off, yes indeed, the orange tulle adorns the tips of a certain flying pig’s wings 🙂 I enjoyed watching the mobile grow with each new addition and the end result is just lovely. I’m going to bet two little boys will be rather happy with it too when they visit grandma’s place. It certainly made me smile with pleasure!

    I had decided not to read Go Set a Watchman when I read a couple of articles pondering how much of it Harper Lee had written herself and also because I didn’t want to mar my love of Mockingbird, a book which I first read at age 15 and several times since. The characters voices had also taken on the cadence of the movie characters, specifically Scout and Atticus and over the years the written and visual have become quite intimate to me. Now your review is making rethink that decision.

    Strangers in Their Own Land sounds like it should be required reading for anyone wanting to gain some understanding of how this current debacle occurred. I agree that we should all stand guard on this particular watch, everyone who cares for truth, freedom and equality, no matter where they call home needs to keep a careful watch. Those of us who can act, need to act, not wait for someone else to move first. I’ve signed maybe dozen petitions already, it seems crazy doesn’t it – but I can’t let my friends in the US suffer this alone.

    But as we already discussed, standing alert is exhausting and the soul must be renewed with quieter moments, moments of rest and moments of joy. I heard a little snippet earlier today that I just followed up on so I could share it with you – just in case it hadn’t come your way yet. Martin Luther King’s daughter Bernice gave advice on how to deal with this situation:
    1. Don’t use his name; EVER (45 will do)

    2. Remember this is a regime and he’s not acting alone;

    3. Do not argue with those who support him–it doesn’t work;

    4. Focus on his policies, not his orange-ness and mental state;

    5. Keep your message positive; they want the country to be angry and fearful because this is the soil from which their darkest policies will grow;

    6. No more helpless/hopeless talk;

    7. Support artists and the arts;

    8. Be careful not to spread fake news. Check it;

    9. Take care of yourselves; and

    10. Resist!

    Good huh?

    Keep making mobiles – they look pretty good! xoxo


    • arlingwoman says:

      I’m glad you liked the mobile! I was pretty pleased with the way it turned out and I did enjoy making it. It was fun drawing the patterns and certainly a distraction from the news. There is some pretty good information out there now on organizing action and what Congress responds to. We’re just going to have to be ready to respond when something is a violation of the Constitution. I’m going to have to do a lot of sewing and gardening and escapist reading in the next few years, I think.


  2. Great felt work, Lisa. I haven’t read any of those books. Just shows how much there is out there. I trust you are out of the gloom now.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So happy to see you back! I know, its hard to write about ‘this&that’ when the world seems to be fallen apart. I have been struggling with it, still am. I do my crafts, my reading and what not because I want to remain strong and true to myself…but I dread the news. I was so upset with the whole travel ban on top of everything else. And felt strangely guilty for having a green card and able to travel because I happen to come from the right country with the right color. I keep on dreading news…But I love America and I will keep on loving it and staying strong!
    So yes, Lisa, we must read and be creative if that keeps us happy, and clear our heads! Books can still be masterpieces beautifully reviewed by you! And your mobile and sea creatures are gorgeous and whimsical!! And it warms my heart to see I have inspired you to make that happy star fish!!!
    Thank you for a wonderful post!!! Xo Johanna

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Brenda says:

    It is good to have you back! I am also struggling with how to cope with all this turmoil. History shows us that we must be vigilant but also that there are certain times in which ugly forces must play themselves out. I find it interesting that my lifetime has been book-ended by two such times. I was born in the decade after WWII and now, sixty years later, we face eerily similar themes.
    Right now, there is so much craziness on a daily basis that it is overwhelming. But I have taken a personal stance that I am not going to let these people pollute my life. I will do what is within my power to make a difference, but I will also suck every bit of happiness, beauty, and joy that I can out of the small daily tasks that I love.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Laurie Graves says:

    I can’t improve on the above comments. Yes, yes, and yes, I know exactly how you all feel. I, too, have read “Strangers in their own Land” in an attempt to understand the opposing point of view. However, sometimes I feel as though I am a stranger in my own land. Still struggling to understand. Love those turtles!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m glad you are writing again, and creating. I especially love the sand dollar – I have a silver sand dollar necklace that my late grandmother gave me and so I have a soft spot for them in general.
    It is all too easy to despair when we see what’s going on in the world. I have got through the last few months by manically making blankets for refugees – it feels good to do something positive and be part of a caring community. I have been very heartened to see the ‘resistance’ rising in the US – your politicians’ phones and faxes must be red hot with all those engaged citizens contacting them to express their opposition to a variety of actions, and to remind them they are the servants of the public, not vice versa.
    Oh and if you feel the need for a pussy hat, just let me know and I’ll send you one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • arlingwoman says:

      Thanks, Jan. My fellow citizens have made me proud in the past few weeks when they’ve rushed to the ramparts and overwhelmed the switchboards of Congress. I saw a sign at one demonstration that read ‘I know what I’m doing for the next four years.’ Unfortunately, probably true. But you’re right, it helps to do something tangible–like grow food or make blankets–or sew little sea creatures for children. I liked the sand dollars, too, simple as they were–and the starfish. There’s something sweet about them. I’d love a pussy hat (just please not pink) and will trade you some sand dollars for it. I can make those a few different colors as well….


  7. Robbie says:

    The sun will be coming your way:-) I am in Illinois, and it is going to be 49 today and BRIGHT sunshine with blue skies. It will also be warm all week maybe in the 50’s!!! Sunshine is coming your way:-) Your sewing and creations are beautiful + what talent you! I admire people that sew. I can do it, but I have no passion for sewing, but I do admire those that do beautiful work with their hands + needles. My grandmother + mother was gifted in sewing. I was able to sew the things I needed to do, but never took to it as many of my family members and friends.

    It is so sad in America right now with all the hate from both extremes. I have been an independent since I was first able to vote. I have been waiting for many years to see an independent win, but it seems we will always be a two party system. I am starting to embrace the centrist view..( in different areas, I am not clear cut one way or the other– odd duck than I am lol).I am in the middle and hope that we can all meet in the middle by working together…so sad we are so hateful towards one another….people are afraid to say what they think for someone will knock them down verbally/physically-so sad…The beauty of America is our diversity in life.

    “We all need to break through the empathy wall when talking to people whose opinions we disagree with or don’t understand” –I hope this happens soon.
    I really enjoyed your book reviews, I need to check some of these out…too bad you are not a are wise! We sure need more people like you that read and try to understand!

    Liked by 1 person

    • arlingwoman says:

      Thanks, Robbie! We all have to do the best we can and that’s going to include reaching out if possible…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Robbie says:

        I got the name of his book wrong, but it was back in the late 80’s when I was going to graduate school for education. Thought of the politicians today + that book:-)

        THE PREMISE OF HIS PAEAN TO KINDERGARTEN IS that life’s major truisms, from international politics to basic sanitation, are learned not on the ”graduate-school mountain” but in the sandpile. They include:

        Share everything.

        >Play fair.

        Don’t hit people.

        Clean up your own mess.

        Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

        Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some….”

        you can read about him here if you want in this article…he had more we learned:-)

        Liked by 1 person

    • arlingwoman says:

      You know, the wind stopped and the sun came out this afternoon. I’m hoping for a beautiful day tomorrow! I too am a centrist, which gets sneered at, but I can’t just go reflexively with every issue. They need thought, most of them. The country would be better off with people who felt they could talk to each other. I’m looking forward to your garden this year!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Robbie says:

        It was beautiful today, I cleared out a bed and put some leaf celery in since it is bienniel. I also reseeded some areas with my chervil-I love it in spring salads. It was coming up all over the garden bed, but I wanted a bit more. I am so eager to be outside!!! Sunshine is coming your way:-) Maybe the sunshine and warm weather will warm people’s spirits:-) I know they sneer at us ( centrists) that are in the middle, geez, why do we have to draw a line in the sand:-( How do we get anything done if we keep digging our heels in and never learn to work together…
        Maybe they all need to go back to the sandbox and learn to play together…lol..remember the book that man wrote years ago, I learned everything I needed to know in life in the sandbox….stop throwing sand and build a castle together!

        Liked by 1 person

      • arlingwoman says:

        Oooh, I love that leaf celery!!! Yum.


      • Robbie says:

        me too + the leaf celery came back in my zone 5 garden. It is a bienniel, so I am reseeding and growing some inside. I hope to have a patch that provides each season-fingers crossed. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Robbie says:

    love those turtles!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Mary Tang says:

    Lisa all that you do for yourself and others is enough. Reading, craft and gardening are all healing. Life is too short to be paralysed by the evils of the world; there will always be evil. I don’t watch the news any more. I just do what I do: try to do no harm and leave this place a little bit better. My friends who are writers, poets and playwrights in the USA find it difficult to write about the trauma the world is suffering, but in time they will. I believe that in time we will all do what is necessary to right wrongs.

    Thanks for the book review. A friend gave me Go Set a Watchman; I will read it now.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Eliza Waters says:

    I love your mobile – so charming. Lucky boys to receive it.
    I read GSAW last year and thought it worth reading and stood well enough on its own without comparing it to TKAM. Both reflected the times in which they were written.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. KerryCan says:

    I’m so glad you’re back, Lisa! You describe the exact way I’ve been feeling, and still am, and I am also struggling with finding things to write about–it all seems kind of trivial and lightweight. Yet I loved seeing your crafts and hearing about what you’re doing–it made me feel better–so it’s not trivial at all! There’s an address on Pennsylvania Avenue, in DC, where I think you should send the pile of poo . . .

    Liked by 2 people

    • arlingwoman says:

      I keep the poo on my desk at work to remind me to keep my expectations in check. I’m glad we have this community to compare notes with and glad my blog could make you feel better. Hearing form people is making me feel a lot better, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Sylvie G says:

    good to have you back.I will not comment on the political situation , the first image says it all. I just wanted to say how amazed I was that someone , in this day and age of pseudo analysis took five years of her life to try and understand a community. This is so rare these days and has to be worth reading. It is also good to know that someone is really trying to go beyond the obvious. Thank you.


  13. Lisa, sometimes a break is just what we need. I’ve been struggling too. I know people are tired of reading about 45 and all the misery reigning down from his bully pulpit, emphasis on bully, but for those of us living here it’s hitting us every day, sometimes multiple times in a day. It’s emotionally exhausting, depressing and worrying all at once.

    I’m glad you’ve turned your attention to a creative, crafty project. Sewing small things by hand is incredibly relaxing. I think it’s also why I enjoy simple mending. The act of moving the needle in and out in steady rhythm is soothing. Those boys will delight in your wonderful mobile. It’s fun to see your lightcatcher in the back ground as well.

    I’ve been teaching myself basic crochet and find it soothing at the end of the day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • arlingwoman says:

      I’m listening to The Car Guys now, and I have to say I understand Stephen Colbert’s ratings surge: he makes me feel sane. I do think a small amount of written news to stay informed and less of the crazy online and the airwaves is in order. Crochet! I may try that some day. Right now I’m working on some little sea turtles. Will be needing a new order of felt soon.


      • Felted sea turtles sound charming. And who doesn’t like an excuse to visit a craft store, in person or online? I agree with you on both Car Talk and Colbert. Intelligent humor, and a salve for our physic wounds. We’re coming to DC in April. I hope we can fit in a visit.


  14. Lavinia Ross says:

    It is difficult not to let current events bring one’s energy level down, and I do think creativity is a good way to stay buoyant in these times.

    The Golden Rule is always in order when dealing with others. One simple rule, but so difficult for people to follow.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Pingback: The currency of memories | The Snail of Happiness

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