Under the trees,
Things take care of themselves.
Filling the eye,
blue, blue mountains
in all directions.
- Gesshu Soko
"I'll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don't choose. We'll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn't carry us. There's nothing to do but salute it from the shore."
- Cheryl Strayed
Tiny Beautiful Things
"My only plea is that all artists have to range the full extent of their own lives freely. The rest of the world can censor and bury their private past. We cannot, and so have to remain partly green till the day we die . . . callow-green in the hope of becoming fertile-green."
- John Fowles
"You . . . travel to other worlds?"
"Yes. I travel to other worlds."
I put the glass down and pulled out a cigarette; lit it before speaking.
"In the flesh?"
"If you can tell me where the flesh ends and the mind begins, I will answer that."
"You um . . . you have some evidence of this?"
"Ample evidence." He allowed a moment to pass. "For those with the intelligence to see it."
- John Fowles
"Close your eyes and get quiet for a minute, until the chatter starts up. Then isolate one of the voices and imagine the person speaking as a mouse. Pick it up by the tail and drop it into a mason jar. Then isolate another voice, pick it up by the tail, drop it in the jar. And so on. Drop in any high-maintenance parental units, drop in any contractors, lawyers, colleagues, children, anyone who is whining in your head. Then put the lid on, and watch all these mouse people clawing at the glass, jabbering away, trying to make you feel like shit because you won't do what they want - won't give them more money, won't be more successful, won't see them more often. Then imagine that there is a volume-control button on the bottle. Turn it all the way up for a minute, and listen to the stream of angry, neglected, guilt-mongering voices. Then turn it all the way down and watch the frantic mice lunge at the glass, trying to get to you. Leave it down, and get back to your shitty first draft. A writer friend of mine suggests opening the jar and shooting them all in the head. But I think he's a little angry, and I'm sure nothing like this would ever occur to you."
- Anne Lamott
Bird by Bird
"Diaries are very futile. I must be all dream or all deed. It is quite impossible for me to express any of the beauty I feel to half the degree I feel it; and yet it is a great pleasure to seize an impression and lock it up in words: you feel as if you had it safe forever."
- Wallace Stevens
"The voice, the tale, the image, the parable that gets through to you - that wins your heart - religiously is the one that makes it past your defenses. You've been won over, and you probably didn't see it coming. You've been enlisted into a drama, whether positively or negatively, and it shouldn't be controversial to note that it happens all the time. When you really think about it, there's one waiting around every corner. It's as near as the story, song or image you can't get out of your head. Religion happens when we get pulled in, moved, called out or compelled by something outside ourselves. It could be a car commercial, a lyric, a painting, a theatrical performance or the magnetic pull of an Apple store. The calls to worship are everywhere."
- David Dark
"The reason for writing it down on paper or on a computer where you can see it is because the brain, unlikely as it may sound, is no place for serious thinking. Any time you have serious thinking to do, the first step is to get the whole shootin' match out of your head and set it up someplace where you can walk around it and see it from all sides. Attack, switch sides and counter-attack. You can't do that while it's still in your head. Writing it out allows you to act as your own teacher, your own critic, your own opponent. By externalizing your thoughts, you can become your own guru; judging yourself, giving feedback, providing a more objective and elevated perspective."
- Jed McKenna
Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing
"I feel that I have had a blow; but it is not, as I thought as a child, simply a blow from an enemy hidden behind the cotton wool of daily life; it is or will become a revelation of some order; it is a token of some real thing behind appearances; and I make it real by putting it into words. It is only by putting it into words that I make it whole; this wholeness means that it has lost its power to hurt me; it gives me, perhaps because by doing so I take away the pain, a great delight to put the severed parts together. Perhaps this is the strongest pleasure known to me. It is the rapture I get when in writing I seem to be discovering what belongs to what; making a scene come right; making a character come together. From this I reach what I might call a philosophy; . . . that behind the cotton wool is hidden a pattern; that we - I mean all human beings - are connected with this; that the whole world is a work of art; that we are parts of the work of art."
- Virginia Woolf
Spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere) arranging
a window, into which people look (while
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here) and
changing everything carefully
- E. E. Cummings
from Spring is like a perhaps hand
I Have Just Said
I have just said
ridiculous to you
and in response,
your glorious laughter.
These are the days
is swimming back
to the coast
and the light on the water
as never, it seems, before.
I can't remember
I can't remember
so many years!
Are the morning kisses
or the evenings
or the inbetweens?
All I know
is that "thank you" should appear
So just in case
I can't find
the perfect place -
"Thank you, thank you."
- Mary Oliver
"As I see it, to refuse the possibility of finding another person interesting, complex and as complicated as oneself is a form of violence. At bottom, this is a refusal of nuance, and I wish to posit that nuance is sacred. To call it sacred is to value it so highly that we find it fitting to somehow set it apart as something to which we're forever committed. Nuance refuses to envision others degradingly, denying them the content of their own experience, and talks us down tenderly from the false ledges we've put ourselves on. When we take it on as a sacred obligation, nuance also delivers us out of the deadly habit of cutting people out of our own imaginations. This opens us up to the possibility of at least occasionally finding one another beautiful, the possibility of communion."
- David Dark
Now all my teachers are dead except silence
I am trying to read what the five poplars are writing
on the void
Of all the beasts to man alone death brings justice
But I desire
To kneel in a doorway empty except for the song
Who made time provided also its fools
Strapped in watches and with ballots for their choices
Crossing the frontiers of invisible kingdoms
To succeed consider what is as though it were past
Deem yourself inevitable and take credit for it
If you find you no longer believe enlarge the temple
Through the day the nameless stars keep passing the door
That have come all that way out of death
The walls of light shudder and an owl wakes in the heart
I cannot call upon words
The sun goes away to set elsewhere
Before nightfall colorless petals blow under the door
And the shadows
Recall their ancestors in the house beyond death
At the end of its procession through the snow
the water remembers to laugh
- W. S. Merwin
from A Scale in May
September 30, 1927 -
March 15, 2019
"Have an uncomfortable mind; be strange. Be disturbed: by what is happening on the planet, and to it; by the cruelty, and stupidity humanity is capable of; by the unbearable beauty of certain music, and the mysteries and failures of love, and the brief, confusing, exhilarating hour of your own life."
- Kim Addonizio
Bukowski in a Sundress
Keep writing in the dark:
a record of the night, or
words that pulled you from depths of unknowing,
words that flew through your mind, strange birds
crying their urgency with human voices,
as flowers of a tree that blooms
only once in a lifetime:
words that may have the power
to make the sun rise again.
- Denise Levertov
from Writing in the Dark
"What do we know for sure? That's the real question. That's what the cogito is. That's what solipsism is. This isn't theory. This isn't belief or faith. This is the basic fact of existence. It's all about figuring out exactly what we know for certain as opposed to everything else. It's truly amazing that something so glaringly obvious and irrefutable is so universally ignored by science and philosophy and religion."
- Jed McKenna
"We don't live our lives by choice, but by default. We play the roles we are born to. We don't live our lives, we dispose of them. We throw them away because we don't know any better. And the reason we don't know any better is because we never asked. We never questioned or doubted. Never stood up. Never drew a line. We never walked up to our parents or our spiritual advisers or our teachers or any of the other formative presences in our early lives and asked one simple. honest, straightforward question. The one question that must be answered before any other question can be asked:
"What the hell is going on here?"
- Jed McKenna
Maybe the smell of my hair.
Go ahead, resurrect me.
- Vera Pavlova
If There is Something to Desire: One Hundred Poems
This morning was something. A little snow
lay on the ground. The sun floated in a clear
blue sky. The sea was blue, and blue-green,
as far as the eye could see.
Scarcely a ripple. Calm. I dressed and went
for a walk - determined not to return
until I took in what Nature had to offer.
I passed close to some old, bent-over trees.
Crossed a field strewn with rocks
where snow had drifted. Kept going
until I reached the bluff.
Where I gazed at the sea, and the sky, and
the gulls wheeling over the white beach
far below. All lovely. All bathed in a pure
cold light. But, as usual, my thoughts
began to wander. I had to will
myself to see what I was seeing
and nothing else. I had to tell myself this is what
mattered, not the other. (And I did see it,
for a minute or two!) For a minute or two
it crowded out the usual musings on
what was right, and what was wrong - duty,
tender memories, thoughts of death, how I should treat
with my former wife. All the things
I hoped would go away this morning.
The stuff I live with every day. What
I've trampled on in order to stay alive.
But for a minute or two I did forget
myself and everything else. I know I did.
For when I turned back I didn't know
where I was. Until some birds rose up
from the gnarled trees. And flew
in the direction I needed to be going.
- Raymond Carver
Sometimes, you say, I wear
an abstracted look that drives you
up the wall, as though it signified
distress or disaffection.
Don't take it so to heart.
Maybe I enjoy not-being as much
as being who I am. Maybe
it's time for me to practice
growing old. The way I look
at it, I'm passing through a phase:
gradually I'm changing to a word.
Whatever you choose to claim
of me is always yours;
nothing is truly mine
except my name. I only
borrowed this dust.
- Stanley Kunitz
from Passing Through
"Last night I had a dream within a dream. I dreamed that I was calmly watching actors working on a stage. And through a door that was not locked men came in with machine guns and killed all the actors. I began to cry: I didn't want them to be dead. So the actors got up off the ground and said: we aren't dead in real life, just as actors, the massacre was part of the show. Then I dreamed such a good dream: I dreamed this: in life we are actors in an absurd play written by an absurd God. We are all participants in this theater: in truth we never shall die when death happens. We only die as actors. Could that be eternity?"
- Clarice Lispector
A Breath of Life
To Give This a Name, Astonishing
Since the weather is mine, or the window
even the separation from the weather,
it is my body, only my body, that knows
this weather. Whatever shapes those crystals
fit, edges connect, they coalesce, fall,
agglomerate, and change in fragile patterns,
original, infinite as the continuum, whatever.
I see the veil of illusions, the momentum
into which I may thrust my arm, hand, fingers,
to feel from the couplers and nerve endings
my heart glowing out from me, crushing their
geometric inventions, the silent click of crystals
fracturing. At this moment thinking that the shapes
of starfish, along a similar lattice, reflect another
pattern of angles crossing and recrossing within
the magnet of an invisible circle. The weather
fills my lungs, is allowed by the multiple corporation
of my interlocking cells to conjoin within the oceans
and abysses of this fabulous puzzle and I become
the weather as it becomes me, as water, the enabler,
mirage of pattern, illusion of vapor, snowfall,
even the window, all fractals become conjured out of chaos.
- Ruth Stone
In the Next Galaxy