…foam upon the water

All right y’all- 1321 was a really long time ago. I don’t know that quilts were really a thing them. I don’t speak the version of Italian that Alighieri, better known as Dante, Florentine poet of the Renaissance, is said to have inspired, so I can’t speak to this translation, but because it has the word quilt in it- it’s worthy of some analysis:


…Seggendo in  piuma in fama non si vien, né sotto coltre, sanza la qual chi sua vita consuma cotal vestigo in terra di sé lascia qual fummo in aere ed in acqua la schiuma.

…Lying in a featherbed will bring you no fame, nor staying beneath the quilt, and he who uses up his life without achieving fame leaves no more vestige of himself on Earth than smoke in the air or foam upon the water.

~ Durante degli Alighieri a.k.a. Dante Alighieri a.k.a. Dante

(c. 1 June 1265 – 13/14 September 1321)

Lying in a featherbed:  lounging or slacking, will not help you achieve fame. True, unless you’re gunning for the Guinness Book of World Records lounge title.

Staying beneath the quilt: hiding, lingering, waiting, shielded from the world- keeping quiet- also not so good for famedom.

But do we need famedom?  Is it important to be famous?  For some it is. For some- it is important to be recognized, to have their name known, to have their work or style or voice heard widely, perhaps even by strangers.  I get that- I get the thrill that someone in Illinois is wiling to pay $60 for a little bee quilt that I made and they’ll send me money, trusting that I’ll send them the little bee quilt. It makes me feel famous.  (And customer in Illinois- I’d love to hear that it’s been received and what life it’s living now, if you happen to be reading this. Then I’ll feel doubly famous!)

It would be lovely for all those that desire such fame, to achieve such fame, and I believe it can be done.  It’s just that it may not happen the way you plan or intend.

I read a book, a few times now, by Barbara Sher: I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was: How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get It. She’s a great self-help guide for those of us on a continual career search. She keeps writing books, so that as we keep not having careers, there’s always something new to read about it. She’s famous. Her book is the one that helped me self-identify as a busy bee flower sampler, and made that an o.k. thing, reassured me that flitting from interest to interest is not lack of focus or somehow bad, but rather a gift to be cherished. That I have all the time of my life (an unknown, but vast enough) to flit between my passions and if I’m happy at the flower I’m immersed in at present, no need to buzz off to the next yet.  And also no need to despair that the next flower/interest will wither before I get there- there will be new seasons- I can always find additional passions.

Anyhow- she talks about fame- and wealth, and personal satisfaction. etc.  She helps, though guided questioning, one to distill what it is you want- Do you want fame? You can get famous by singing or by inventing a new mustard.  Does it matter to you what you are famous for?

From the quote, it seems that Dante Alghieri really cared about being famous.  He didn’t want to be the smoke  left from the fire or the foam upon the water.  He doesn’t think you should either- but I’m not so sure.


I tend to value balance in life, and think that restorative practices are necessary for emboldening the action that leads to growth.  Hiding under quilts, lying under feather beds- those are great and wonderful things- I would never tell someone not to do them. Also, I don’t have any issue with someone using up their life and leaving without achieving fame.  I tend to trust that each of us is honestly doing the best we can with what we have to work with, and sometimes leaving just a mere vestige is all that is in our cards.  The small acts of kindness that we share with those around us, the extensions of gratitude or generosity, these things add  up and make a difference- create a rippling of good, that, like a quilt, will blanket those that need hiding, will provide respite for those facing great assault.   These things- your small kindnesses, they make you famous in small circles, not in large circles, famous to one other.  I think some folks call it creating community.  It’s a thing these days- good for your health and all.

Because I currently have a passion for quilting, I quilt. I don’t seek fame. I don’t seek the creation of a lasting or significant impact on this earth. I’d love for strangers to enjoy my creations and even buy them, but I’m ok with being the foam on the water, with being the smoke in the air. In fact, I think such vestiges are kind of cool!



  1. Andrea says:

    So beautifully validating and affirming. Bees go from stamen to stamen, flower to flower collecting and spreading pollen and ultimately they make honey. Your writing and the share of ideas pollinates our lives, cross pollinates between quilters and non quilters and ultimately we are left with a sweet experience. Bees go from plant to plant because that is their job, their purpose. Thanks for this very rich conversation.

  2. Randy Hyvonen says:

    Loved your blog today! I especially like the thought that you wish to create community since that’s been a key goal of my entire professional life (which as you know has included various iterations — i.e., I’ve flitted from one flower to another along the way!)

    I also really like the things you create! Creativity in and of itself is a value to be treasured.

  3. linda says:

    I like the idea of being famous in a small circle. You can be famous in whatever circle you choose, and even in severall circles. In my circle, you are a STAR!

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