I’m saddened to hear
of the death at 88 of Ursula K. Le Guin.
I was lucky enough
to meet her in person when she was
the author Guest of Honor
at Mythcon in Berkeley in 1988.
I gave her one of my drawings
from the artshow that year
that she particularly fancied,
and she wrote me a lovely note after the con describing herself
wandering around her house wondering where to hang it.
In another year or so she asked me if I might be interested
in illustrating an upcoming book of hers, «Fish Soup»—boy, WAS I!
It was the most difficult thing I ever did as an illustrator,
and remains the thing I am most proud of in my work as an illustrator.
I’m still astonished at her generosity in giving an unknown artist such an opportunity.
Five years after «Fish Soup» was published in 1992, I lost my mom to cancer in 1997.
At the time, Ursula’s masterful rendition of the «Tao Te Ching» had been out for about a year,
and I found particular comfort during that time in her translation of Chapter 16,
a philosophical musing on life and death.
I have kept returning to what I think of as «Ursula’s Tao» over the years,
especially this chapter,
which I would like to have read at my own funeral.
I can think of no better tribute to her now than to quote her own words:
«Returning to the root»
Be completely empty.
Be perfectly serene.
The ten thousand things arise together;
in their arising is their return.
Now they flower,
returning to the root.
The return to the root
Peace: to accept what must be,
to know what endures.
In that knowledge is wisdom.
Without it, ruin, disorder.
To know what endures
is to be openhearted,
following the Tao,
the way that endures forever.
The body comes to its ending,
but there is nothing to fear.
* * * * *
Tao Te Ching, chapter 16
translated by Ursula K. Le Guin