Commonplace Book

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.

–Joko Beck.

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.

–Mary Oliver.

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.

–Matsuo Basho.

Traveler, there is no path.

Paths are made by walking.

–Antonio Machado.

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.

–Dag Hammarskjold.

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.

–Fernando Pessoa.

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?

–Mary Oliver.

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.

–Jane Hirschfield.

Ain’t no good thing

Ever dies

I’m gonna take it with me

When I go.

–Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan.

Look at my hands

they are apples

my breasts

are apples

my heart

is an apple tree.

–Judy Grahn.

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.

The Buddha.

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.

–Ceridwen, 2011.

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