He sang the brightness of mornings and green rivers
He sang of smoking water in the rose-colored daybreaks,
Of colors: cinnabar, carmine, burnt sienna, blue,
Of the delight of swimming in the sea under marble cliffs
- Czesław Miłosz
"When I read the line about 'the delight of swimming in the sea under marble cliffs," I recall a conversation I had with Miłosz some years back; it was after a vacation M. and I had spent with C. K. Williams near Lucca, in Tuscany. Now and then we'd drive to the seashore at Bocca di Magra, a little town in Liguria (from the autostrada you catch a glimpse of a sign advertising the Hotel Shelley - the poet drowned there). The Magra is a river that enters the sea at this point. When Miłosz heard this, he grew thoughtful, remembering times gone by. He'd spent several vacations at Bocca di Magra - in the company of Mary McCarthy, Nicola Chiaromonte, and other friends - he'd gone swimming there, too, and always remembered the white marble cliffs that looked at first like snow-covered mountains - in midsummer! But it's not snow, just marble, Carrara, a town famed among sculptors, at the foot of white marble peaks. And the sea there is deep blue, warm, salty, with little waves. Dashes and irregular geometric figures appear and quickly vanish on the water's velvety surface - these are the sea's papillary lines. Gulls circle above the fishing ships. The coast is rocky here, as a Mediterranean seashore should be, since sandy, level beaches don't suit the sea's character; they make it look like the pale, chilly Baltic, it loses its deep cobalt hue.
Miłosz died, thinking, working, writing poems almost to the very end - as though he had sailed far out to sea, toward Carrara, toward azure mists and white mountains.
Paul Claudel says somewhere, "Celui qui admire n'a jamais tort" (He who admires is never wrong). I like thinking about this sentence, so hopelessly out-of-date and so easily subject to revision. In a fundamental way, though, it tells us that in a spiritual sense, admiration and enthusiasm are far higher than criticism, sarcasm, a purely ironic stance. In English they call it debunking; we call it demystification, and it's the very air that newspapers and most books breathe."
- Adam Zagajewski
translated by Clare Cavanagh
If you want what visible reality
can give, you're an employee.
If you want the unseen world,
you're not living your truth.
Both wishes are foolish,
but you'll be forgiven for forgetting
that what you really want is
love's confusing joy.
translated by Coleman Barks
"I myself find the division of the world into an objective and a subjective side much too arbitrary. The fact that religions through the ages have spoken in images, parables, and paradoxes means simply that there are no other ways of grasping the reality to which they refer. But that does not mean that it is not a genuine reality. And splitting this reality into an objective and a subjective side won't get us very far."
- Niels Bohr
"Galileo thought that comets were an optical illusion. This is fertile ground: since we are certain that they're not, we can look at what scientists are saying with fresh hope. What if there are really gleaming castellated cities hung upside-down over the desert sand? What limpid lakes and cool date palms have our caravans passed untried? Until, one by one, by the blindest of leaps, we light on the road to these places, we must stumble in darkness and hunger."
- Annie Dillard
There are enigmas in darkness
There are mysteries
Sent out without searchlights
The stars are hiding tonight
The moon is cold and stony
Behind the clouds
Nights without seeing
Mornings of the long view
It's not a sprint but a marathon
Whatever we can do
We must do
Every morning's resolve
- Edward Hirsch
excerpt From Gabriel
"When hit by boredom, let yourself be crushed by it; submerge, hit bottom. In general, with things unpleasant, the rule is: The sooner you hit bottom, the faster you surface. The idea here is to exact a full look at the worst. The reason boredom deserves such scrutiny is that it represents pure, undiluted time in all its repetitive, redundant, monotonous splendor.
Boredom is your window on the properties of time that one tends to ignore to the likely peril of one's mental equilibrium. It is your window on time's infinity. Once this window opens, don't try to shut it; on the contrary, throw it wide open."
- Joseph Brodsky
Of course time is running out. It always
has been a creek heading east, the freight
of water with its surprising heaviness
following the slant of the land, its destiny.
What is lovelier than a creek or riverine thicket?
Say it is an unknown benefactor who gave us
birds and Mozart, the mystery of trees and water
and all living things borrowing time.
Would I still love the creek if I lasted forever?
- Jim Harrison
from The Debtors
the hammock papers
Sleeping for Kafka
I heard on the radio this morning that prayers can heal. Experiments demonstrate that cancer patients who are prayed for, even by an anonymous person, have a better prognosis than those who receive no prayers.
A person can purchase prayers from Grace Church in Kansas by dialing 1-800-prayers. Visa and Mastercard are accepted.
I read that Kafka, a chronic insomniac, felt refreshed after watching his beloved sleep. Sometimes he invited her over, just to admire how she draped herself over his couch, wrapped in immaculate rest.
Some speculate it was the dreams of his beloved he wrote.
Thoughts like dreams drift from mind to mind. Some are heavy and sink to the ground or disappear under water where they grow like sea plants, while others are light and glide upwards like helium molecules.
When Jacob saw angels going up and down a ladder, they were merely tracing his thoughts.
Nietzsche said few people think their own thoughts. Instead they are thought. Many people are dreamt and prayed. They are like seashells inhabited by hermit crabs.
Most of us have no clue whose dream we are.
- Nin Andrews
Sleeping With Houdini
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"
The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."
"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled man.
To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"
At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,
"It made a difference for that one."
- Loren Eiseley
"It has been said repeatedly that one can never, try as he will, get around to the front of the universe. Man is destined to see only its far side, to realize nature only in retreat."
- Loren Eiseley
The Star Thrower
Satchel Paige's Guide to Longevity
1. Avoid fried meats, which angry up the blood.
2. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
3. Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.
4. Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society. The social rumble ain't restful.
5. Avoid running at all times.
6. Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you.
- Leroy Robert "Satchel" Paige
"I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed."
- David Foster Wallace
"What I want is to open up. I want to know what's inside me. I want everybody to open up. I'm like an imbecile with a can-opener in his hand, wondering where to begin - to open up the earth. I know that underneath the mess everything is marvelous. I'm sure of it.
I know it because I feel so marvelous myself most of the time. And when I feel that way everybody seems marvelous … everybody and everything … even pebbles and pieces of cardboard … a match stick lying in the gutter . . . anything . . . a goat's beard, if you like. That's what I want to write about … and then we're all going to see clearly, see what a staggering, wonderful, beautiful world it is."
- Henry Miller
The Art of Drinking Tea
A man has been lonely for so long, he fears he is becoming but an apparition, a ghost of who he once was. He takes up wearing a black suit and hat and studying Zen Buddhism with a black-haired woman who has mastered the art of drinking tea. She is one of the few on earth who only drinks tea when she drinks tea. She performs the drinking of tea when she is drinking tea before large audiences. When one is drinking tea, the woman explains, there is no woman, no tea, there is only the drinking of tea. Often while sipping tea and listening to the instructions on the drinking of tea, the man closes his eyes and tries to fully experience the drinking of tea. But he always fails. Instead he dreams of the black-haired woman as an unrobed woman who only makes love when she makes love. He pictures her first removing his hat, then slowly unbuttoning him from the dark coat of his life. She lifts him to her lips like a china cup and sips so slowly, a one night stand lasts 49 days and nights. In the end there is no woman, no tea, no man. Just thinking of it, he barely remembers his own name. In this way he attains enlightenment.
- Nin Andrews
Do you wish to stay
connected? The seen blurs
into the just heard. A bird outside the wide
open window. The warm day
of March. It changes. It has
all changed. The world
as a distracting disaster.
- Mary Jo Bang
from Catastrophe Theory II
The Eye Like a Strange Balloon