pain, joy, and calm : Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath

Ma was heavy, but not fat; thick with child-bearing and work. She wore a loose Mother Hubbard of gray cloth in which there had once been colored flowers, but the color was washed out now, so that the small flowered pattern was only a little lighter gray than the background. The dress came down to her ankles, and he strong, broad, bare feet moved quickly and deftly over the floor. Her thin, steel-gray hair was gathered in a sparse wispy knot at the back of her head. Strong, freckled arms were bare to the elbow, and her hands were chubby and delicate, like those of a plump little girl. She looked out into the sunshine. Her full face was not soft; it was controlled, kindly. Her hazel eyes seemed to have experienced all possible tragedy and to have mounted pain and suffering like steps into a high calm and a superhuman understanding. She seemed to know, to accept, to welcome her position, the citadel of the family, the strong place that could not be taken. And since old Tom and the children could not know hurt or fear unless she acknowledged hurt and fear, she had practiced denying them in herself. And since, when a joyful thing happened, they looked to see whether joy was on her, it was her habit to build up laughter out of inadequate materials. But better than joy was calm. Imperturbability could be depended upon. And from her great and humble position in the family she had taken dignity and a clean calm beauty. From her position as healer, her hands had grown sure and cool and quiet; from her position as arbiter she had become as remote and faultless in judgment as a goddess. She seemed to know that if she swayed the family shook, and if she ever really deeply wavered or despaired the family would fall, the family will to function would be gone.

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, p74

Marilyn and Virginia

i was listening to the counting crows.  this bit:

I was born on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay
But Maryland and Virginia have faded away
And I keep thinking tomorrow is coming today
So I am endlessly waiting

but what i heard was "Marilyn and Virginia had faded away", and i thought
wow, he's making some sort of nostalgic link between Marilyn Munroe and
Virginia Woolf. maybe between those two lie all the dead women of the
western world? maybe he felt that he was born after the smartest and sexiest
women had already died?  maybe America and England were in decline since
before he even got started?

it was a good moment, until i googled the lyrics and found out he meant
something much more mundane.

Dostoevsky on women

I’m not at all opposed to the present woman movement, Dmitri Fyodorovitch.  The development of woman, and even the political emancipation of woman in the near future – that’s my ideal.  I’ve a daughter myself, Dmitri Fyodorovitch, people don’t know that side of me.  I wrote a letter to the author, Shtchedrin, on that subject.  He has taught me so much, so much about the vocation of woman.  So last year I sent him an anonymous letter of two lines: “I kiss and embrace you, my teacher, for the modern woman.  Persevere.”  And I signed myself, “a Mother.”  I thought of signing myself “a contemporary Mother,” and hesitated, but I stuck to the simple “Mother”; there’s more moral beauty in that, Dmitri Fyodorovitch.

[The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, end ch3]

of course these are not Dostoevsky’s sentiments, they are the sentiments of a character he invented

Robert Farrar Capon on women and knives

One word about cleavers.

I still cannot conceive of a kitchen without one. If you use it for nothing more than cutting up fryers and dismembering turkey carcasses, it will be worth ten times its cost; and if you learn all its tricks, it will be priceless. Properly edged and skillfully used, a cleaver will prepare whole meals without the assistance of another knife.
But it does more. It bolsters your ego as a cook. Parting chickens with aplomb, you begin to believe you really might make it. And so does everyone else. A woman with cleaver in mid-swing is no mere woman. She breaks upon the eye of the beholder as an epiphany of power, as mistress of a house in which only trifles may be trifled with – and in which she defines the trifles. A man who has seen women only as gentle arrangers of flowers has not seen all that women have to offer. Unsuspected majesties await him.

[stuff about sharpening knives]
Your reward will be tools that help instead of hinder, that invite use rather than despair. Raw meat will not render you inoperative; you will approach ripe tomatoes as a virtuoso approaches difficult passage work: with confidence and delight in doing. You will become the Isaac Stern of the cutting board.
You will also be provided with an instant rejoinder to anyone who presumes to lecture you on housewifery as an abject capitulation to the feminine mystique. Simply let him see you presiding over your kitchen with steel in one hand and butcher knife in the other. Execute six well-drawn strokes, and his words will turn to ashes in his mouth. He was ready only for a maladjusted prisoner of the pantry; you have showed him instead one of the priestly archtypes of the race. Mystique indeed! He has hardly scratched the surface.
[The Supper of the Lamb p.62]