Eulogy: J.K. Rowling’s love letter to Europe on NoBrexit Day

The Guardian printed a letter by J.K. Rowling, among others, from A Love Letter to Europe:  An outpouring of love and sadness from our writers, thinkers and artists, published October 31, 2019, the date that Boris Johnson had designated, unsuccessfully, for Brexit.

Rowling’s letter gives us a few more glimpses of the author we know from her writing.  For example, we get another detail confirming her father’s resemblance to the Vernon Dursley school of British manhood, suspicious of all “foreigners” on a micro and macro level.  When he visited her in France during her exchange studies, it was her job to attempt to explain to the French waiters that “bien cuit in his case meant there must be no pink at all in the middle of the steak.”  Oh, dear.

This excerpt brings to mind the clarity and painfully sweet quality of Sirius and Remus in HP, recounting memories of the Marauders from their mid-thirties perspectives:

We all have shining memories of our youth, made poignant because they’re freighted with knowledge of what happened later to companions, and what lay ahead for ourselves. Back then we were allowed to roam freely across Europe in a way that shaped and enriched us, while benefiting from the longest uninterrupted spell of peace this continent has ever known.

Her phrase, “the longest uninterrupted spell of peace this continent has ever known,” is a grief-stricken eulogy for the Pax Europaea, that time after World War II that creates the stage for the Harry Potter stories, a peace that is disintegrating as we watch in distress.  If her wording sounds familiar to HP readers, it may be due to the echoes of Harry’s thoughts when he first saw Dumbledore’s corpse:  “there was still no preparation for seeing him here, spread-eagled, broken: the greatest wizard Harry had ever, or would ever, meet.”

The grief for the end of Britain’s membership in a unified Europe does feel a bit like the death of Dumbledore, the wizard who came to hard-won maturity after a battle in 1945 and influenced the rest of the 20th century with his polyglot, peace-enforcing, always diplomatic worldview.  The end of the age of Dumbledore feels like Ollivander’s description of the Elder Wand’s prominence:  “Yes, it is perfectly possible to trace the wand’s course through history. There are gaps, of course, and long ones, where it vanishes from view, temporarily lost or hidden; but always it resurfaces.”

Goodbye to a flawed, kind, powerful time of goodness.  All right, then.  There’s work to be done and we don’t know yet how this story turns out.

The Welcome Blanket Project

Welcome to the U.S.  Truly, welcome.

It’s part of American culture to value homemade gifts the most.  We treasure knowing that the giver thought of the recipient and made something special for them.  I know this is not the finest hour for Americans, but I hope we can remember that we have dear, good qualities in us, too, as a people.

The Welcome Blanket Project exhibits gifts of handmade blankets, 40″ square, in museum shows and then partners with organizations to distribute the blankets to U.S.  refugees and immigrants.  Blankets may be quilted, woven, knitted, crocheted, or otherwise handcrafted.  When I saw the call for donations, I remembered how the quilt-like collage art on the album cover (see below) of Deus Sex Machina:  Or, Moving Slowly Beyond Nikola Tesla by Sons of an Illustrious Father had made me long to make quilts again, as I did in the 1990s.

deus sex machina

So today, I made a welcome blanket that drew from the colors of that album cover for inspiration.

soaif dsm welcome blanket

I knew it had to be a nine-patch quilt because a nine-patch grid is the structure of the band’s last two albums, Deus Sex Machina and Revol:  nine songs per album, three sets of three, all three band members singing lead and writing songs.

A nine-patch quilt pattern is like a tic-tac-toe board, three rows of three blocks apiece, all the same size.  Below are two of the nine-patch blocks from the quilt, the upper leftmost one and the upper central one.

Each patch is 4″ square.  Each nine-patch block is 12″ square.  The quilt itself is made of 9 nine-patch blocks, 36″ square, plus a 2″ border all around to reach the recommended 40″ size for welcome blankets.  (The dark blue patch in the right photo above, bottom row, is an intricate reverse-appliqué that I purchased from a Hmong artisan in Philadelphia, 20 years ago.)

My daughters and I have sent other welcome blankets, as well, ten in total.  My 10-year-old’s gift shows sea, mountains, and sky.  She designed it, chose and cut out the fabrics, pinned and basted them down, and ironed.  The gray of the sky is the reverse of the navy blue flannel for the mountains.  I quilted and bound it to finish.

20180823_145811

This was my 14-year-old’s first crochet project.  She taught herself from YouTube tutorials.

geeklet crochet welcome blanket

Progress shots of one of the other welcome blankets we sent.  The girls helped by ironing, basting, and sometimes helping to arrange the 4″ blocks.

welcome blanket patch stack

welcome blanket layout

welcome blanket arrow quilt

Ten years later, an apology for killing Snape! Never more timely.

Rowling apologizes for killing Snape!

In July 2007, when I read Snape’s death scene and realized his author wasn’t going to give him any life beyond the unimaginable struggles of the war, and he would die without the grace of any acknowledgment from a fellow human, without rest or mercy or the sweetness of love or thanks… I was so angry that my face burned from the inside.  I could feel the temperature of my cheeks rising detectably.  I noticed it with wonder and a bit of detachment because it surprised me so much.  It was completely involuntary.  I’ve never before or since had that kind of reaction to a piece of fiction.

I was so sure that the story, the real story, would be about how this man did all of these strenuous, superhuman tasks and then survived.  How could that not be the story?  The tale of how he took the remainder of his time on earth to unpack from the years of unrelenting, mounting stress, the danger that had passed into supersonic levels of pressure?

His labors were harder than I had been capable of imagining.  I had naively thought that there would be some reward for him.  I hadn’t acclimated to the reality that this character had, himself, accepted:  it’s difficult to do things knowing, for absolute certain, that you will die without your sacrifices ever being acknowledged or even recognized.  To go to your grave accepting that people will wrongly spit on it, accepting that this will be worthwhile.

Please let there be someone in the current U.S. government who has the inner strength to do what Snape died doing.  I accept the author’s apology for Snape’s death.  She showed us what is necessary in times when mastery of the Elder Wand is at stake.