"the life you lead is a midnight thing, always a hair's breadth from the witching hour; it is volatile, it is threadbare; it is carefree in the true sense of that term; it is light, losable like a key or a hair clip. And it is lethargy: why not sit all morning, all day, all year, under the same cypress tree drawing the figure eight in the dust? More than that, it is disaster, it is chaos: why not overthrow a government on a whim, why not blind the man you hate, why not go mad, go gibbering through the town like a loon, waving your hands, tearing your hair? There's nothing to stop you - or rather anything could stop you, any hour, any minute."
- Zadie Smith
"Masquerades disclose the reality of souls. As long as no one sees who we are, we can tell the most intimate details of our life. I sometimes muse over this sketch of a story about a man afflicted by one of those personal tragedies born of extreme shyness who one day, while wearing a mask I don't know where, told another mask all the most personal, most secret, most unthinkable things that could be told about his tragic and serene life. And since no outward detail would give him away, he having disguised even his voice, and since he didn't take careful note of whoever had listened to him, he could enjoy the ample sensation of knowing that somewhere in the world there was someone who knew him as not even his closest and finest friend did. When he walked down the street he would ask himself if this person, or that one, or that person over there might not be the one to whom he'd once, wearing a mask, told his most private life. Thus would be born in him a new interest in each person, since each person might be his only, unknown confidant."
- Fernando Pessoa
"Surely we cannot take an open question like the supernatural and shut it with a bang, turning the key of the madhouse on all the mystics of history. You cannot take the region of the unknown and calmly say that, though you know nothing about it, you know all the gates are locked. We do not know enough about the unknown to know that it is unknowable."
- G. K. Chesterton
"In a world which is indeed our world, the one we know, a world without devils, sylphides, or vampires, there occurs an event which cannot be explained by the laws of this same familiar world. The person who experiences the event must opt for one of two possible solutions: either he is the victim of an illusion of the senses, of a product of the imagination - and the laws of the world then remain what they are; or else the event has indeed taken place, it is an integral part of reality - but then this reality is controlled by laws unknown to us."
- Tzvetan Todorov
"The ancient Druids are said to have taken a special interest in in-between things like mistletoe, which is neither quite a plant nor quite a tree, and mist, which is neither quite a rain nor quite air, and dreams, which are neither quite waking nor quite sleep. They believed that in such things as those they were able to glimpse the mystery of the two worlds at once."
- Frederick Buechner
Whistling in the Dark
"In Ireland there are many stories of haunted houses. There may be a room in which one senses a presence or hears footsteps or a strange voice. Such haunted places remain uninhabited. People are afraid to go there. The place is forsaken and left to deepen ever further into the shadow of itself. The way you think about your life can turn your soul into a haunted room. You are afraid to risk going in there anymore. Your fantasy peoples this room of the heart with sad presences, which ultimately become disturbing and sinister. The haunted room in the mind installs lonesomeness at the heart of your life. It would be devastating in the autumn of your life to look back and recognize that you had created a series of haunted rooms in your heart. Fear and negativity are immense forces, which constantly tussle with us. They long to turn the mansions of the soul into a totally haunted house. These are the living conditions for which fear and negativity long, and in which they thrive. We were sent here to live life to the full. When you manage to be generous in your passion and vulnerability, life always comes to bless you. Had you but the courage to acknowledge the haunted inner room, turn the key, and enter, you would encounter nothing strange or sinister there. You would meet some vital self of yours that you had banished during a time of pain or difficulty. Sometimes, when life squeezes you into lonely crevices, you may have to decide between survival or breaking apart. At such times, you can be harsh with yourself and settle to be someone other than who you really long to be. At such a time, you can do nothing else; you have to survive. But your soul always remains faithful to your longing to become who you really are. The banished self from an earlier time of life remains within you waiting to be released and integrated. The soul has its own logic of loyalty and concealment. Ironically, it is usually in its most awkward rooms that the special blessings and healing are locked away."
- John O'Donohue
the beauty we love
The elm weaves the field's late light, this hill
hanging from the tree's roots like the moon
From its shadow and the whole
world beneath suspended.
Roots knead the earth's thick sorrow.
Still, leaves from this.
From this unshackling, birdsong.
I am a blade of corn where you kneel,
wind and quaking stalk.
The elm's body a vase of poured sky.
The tree will die.
Someday, the tree will die.
For now, this axis -
what we choose to compass by.
- Hannah Fries
"Sometimes an abyss opens between Tuesday and Wednesday but twenty-six years could pass in a moment. Time is not a straight line, it's more of a labyrinth, and if you press close to the wall at the right place you can hear the hurrying steps and the voices, you can hear yourself walking past on the other side."
- Tomas Tranströmer
The Great Enigma
On the Idea of Poetic Responsibility
I want to call in sick today
and stay home and write poetry.
I am sick, after all,
sick of clock-watching and making a living.
sick of dry-erase boards
and overstuffed books of overread literature.
sick of Frost and students,
not that any of them have done anything wrong.
I love Frost, and on any other day
I might want nothing more than to be with my students
and hear how they too have promises to keep,
and help them see the slipperiness of Frost.
But today there are more important things to do.
There is reverie and reflection.
There is memory to be pursued.
There are trails diverging in my mind.
There is this poem, and there is you
waiting for all the promises to be filled.
- Scott Owens
"And I would be the wind, whispering through the tangled woods, running airy fingers over the island's face, tingling in the chill of concealed places, sighing secrets in the dawn. And I would be the light, flinging over the island, covering it with flash and shadow, shining on rocks and pools, softening to a touch in the glow of dusk. If I were the rain and wind and light, I would encircle the island like the sky surrounding earth, flood through it like a heart driven pulse, shine from inside it like a star in flames, burn away to blackness in the closed eyes of its night."
- Richard Nelson
I wonder if I know enough to know what it's really like
to have been here: have I seen sights enough to give
seeing over: the clouds, I've waited with white
October clouds like these this afternoon often before and
taken them in, but white clouds shade other white
ones gray, had I noticed that: and though I've
followed the leaves of many falls, have I spent time with
the wire vines left when frost's red dyes strip the leaves
away: is more missing than was never enough: I'm sure
many of love's kinds absolve and heal, but were they passing
rapids or welling stirs: I suppose I haven't done and seen
enough yet to go, and, anyway, it may be way on on the way
before one picks up the track of the sufficient, the
world-round reach, spirit deep, easing and all, not just mind
answering itself but mind and things apprehended at once
as one, all giving all way, not a scrap of question holding back.
- A. R. Ammons
five branch tree