My Commonplace Book. Words I hold onto. This collection shifts and grows, waxes and wanes.
Sixty-six times have these eyes beheld the
changing scenes of Autumn.
I have said enough about moonlight,
Ask me no more.
Only listen to the voice of pines and cedars
when no wind stirs.
–Ryonen (Japanese nun, 18th Century).
And pluck, till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
–William Butler Yeats.
Joy isn’t something we have to find.
Joy is who we are, if we’re not
preoccupied with something else.
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
Walk so that your footprints bear only the marks of peaceful joy and complete freedom. To do this, you have to learn to let go—let go of your sorrows, let go of your worries.
–Thich Nhat Hanh.
Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of men of old; seek what they sought.
Traveler, there is no path.
Paths are made by walking.
Practice the arts of attention and listening.
Practice meandering toward the center of every place.
Practice gratitude and praise-singing.
The great sea has set me in motion,
set me adrift,
moving me like a weed in a river.
The sky and the strong wind
have moved the spirit inside me
till I am carried away
trembling with joy.
–Uvavnuk, Eskimo (Trans. Stephen Mitchell).
I looked for my self, but my self was gone.
The boundaries of my being
had disappeared in the sea.
Waves broke. Awareness rose again.
And a voice returned me to myself.
It always happens like this.
Sea turns on itself and foams,
and with every foaming bit
another body, another being takes form.
And when the sea sends word,
each foaming body
melts back to ocean-breath.
–Rumi (Trans. Coleman Barks)
I will make you brooches and toys for your delight
Of bird-song at morning and star-sine at night.
I will make a palace fit for you and me
Of green days in forests and blue days at sea.
–Robert Louis Stevenson.
How long the road is. But for all the time the journey has already taken, how you have needed every second of it in order to learn what the road passes by.
What matters is to know how to see,
To know how to see without thinking,
To know how to see when seeing
And not think when seeing
Nor see when thinking.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.
Ain’t no good thing
I’m gonna take it with me
When I go.
–Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan.
Look at my hands
they are apples
is an apple tree.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
–T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding.”
The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab and my loitering.
I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric YAWP over the roofs of the world.
–Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself.”
Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.
I want to get to the end and feel that I’ve done all I could, given the limitations and given the opportunities. What did life deal me, and what did I do with that? That is a huge part of my character and motivation.
—Jeanette Winterson, from an interview here.
It is very difficult to be a hero without an audience, although, in a sense, we are each the hero of a peculiar, half-ruined film called our life.
—Sebastian Barry, in The Secret Scripture, p. 227.
I’ve prayed for just one thing in my life. ‘Use me. Make me your servant.’ But God never understood what a strong and devoted slave I was. So I went unused. That’s a lie too, by the way. One goes step by step, step by step into the darkness. The movement itself is the only truth.
—Ingmar Bergman, The Magician, 1957.
Keep your bits for a short sweet life or lose them and settle down for the long haul.