Hello… they seem to cry, who… are… you?

Also invariable present at some indefinable distance are the mourning doves whose plaintive call suggests irresistibly a kind of seeking-out, the attempt by separated souls to restore a lost communion:

Hello… they seem to cry, who… are… you?

And the reply from a different quarter. Hello… (pause) where… are… you?

No doubt this line of analogy must be rejected. It’s foolish and unfair to impute to the doves, with serious concerns of their own, an interest in questions more appropriate to their human kin. Yet their song, if not a mating call or a warning, must be what it sounds like, a brooding meditation on space, on solitude. The game.

~ Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire


Notes: Related posts from Edward Abbey: Desert Solitaire

Sunday Morning

delicate-arch
Many have made the climb to Delicate Arch, so many that the erosion of human feet is visible on the soft sandstone, a dim meandering, path leading upward for a mile and a half into a queer region of knobs, domes, turrets and coves, all sculptured from a single solid mass of rock.  What do the pilgrims see? The trail climbs and winds past isolate pinyons and solitary junipers to a vale of stone where nothing has happened for a thousand years, to judge from the quietude of the place, the sense of waiting that seems to hover in the air. […]

If Delicate Arch has any significance it lies, I will venture, in the power of the odd and unexpected to startle the senses and surprise the mind out of their ruts of habit, to compel us into a reawakened awareness of the wonderful – that which is full of wonder.

A weird, lovely, fantastic object out of nature like Delicate Arch has the curious ability to remind us – like rock and sunlight and wind and wilderness – that out there is a different world, older and greater and deeper by far than ours, a world which surrounds and sustains the little world of men as sea and sky surround and sustain a ship. The shock of the real. For a little while we are again able to see, as the child sees, a world of marvels. For a few moments we discover that nothing can be  taken for granted, for if this ring of stone is marvelous then all which shaped it is marvelous, and our journey here on earth, able to see and touch and hear in the midst of tangible and mysterious things-in-themselves, is the most strange and daring of all adventures.

~ Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire


Notes:

We exist together in a little patch of warmth and light

goodnight-moon

To curl up with children and a good book has long been one of the great civilizing practices of domestic life, an almost magical means of cultivating warm fellow feeling, shared in-jokes and a common cultural understanding. Harvard professor Maria Tatar has written of its origins in medieval fireside storytelling, “before print and electronic media supplied nighttime entertainments.”

Certainly in the modern era there is something quaint about a grown-up and a child or two sitting in a silence broken only by the sound of a single human voice. Yet how cozy, how impossibly lovely it is! Unlike tech devices, which atomize the family by drawing each member into his own virtual reality, great stories pull people of different ages toward one another, emotionally and physically. When my children were small, I would often read with my eldest daughter tucked in by my side, the boy draped like a panther half across my shoulders and half across the back of the sofa, a tiny daughter on either knee, and the baby in my lap. If we happened to be on one of our cycles through “Treasure Island,” Robert Louis Stevenson’s swashbuckling classic, my husband would come to listen, too, and stretch out on the floor in his suit and tie and shush the children when they started to act out the exciting bits.

“We let down our guard when someone we love is reading us a story,” Ms. DiCamillo says. “We exist together in a little patch of warmth and light.”

~ Meghan Cox Gurdon, The Great Gift of Reading Aloud

It’s been a long day

book-light-reading-read

she was too tired to feel anything more,
she wanted a book to do to her what books did:
take away the world,
slide it aside for a little bit,
and let her please, please
just be somewhere and somebody else.

~ Lev GrossmanThe Magician’s Land


Sources: Photo: Jessica Krzywicki – the magic of reading. Quote: Precious Things

That aching gap

mask-authenticity-portrait

I am still beset
by the same old lusts
and ego and emotions,
the endless nagging details and irritations –
that aching gap between
what I know and what I am.

~ Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard


Source: Schonwieder

Because what are we without five minutes ago?

street-art-paint-roller

My husband, Rich, lost his memory after he was hit by a car and suffered traumatic brain injury. In a moment of perfect clarity he once described his loss like this. “Pretend you are walking up the street with your friend. You are looking in windows. But right behind you is a man with a huge paint roller filled with white paint and he is painting over everywhere you’ve been, erasing everything. He erases your friend. You don’t even remember his name.” It’s terrifying. Because we are we without five minutes ago? What are we without our stories? Where is the continuum of consciousness? Is it all one big lily pad of a moment?

~ Abigail Thomas, Thinking About Memoir


Image: Street Art via mennyfox55

He wants to tell us what matters here

cover-kent-haruf-souls

Kent Haruf died on November 30, 2014 at the age of 71.  He finished this novel shortly before he died and it was published posthumously.  The story is based in a fictional small town of Holt, Colorado, the home of his award winning Trilogy: Plainsong (1999), Eventide (2004) and Benediction (2013). Ursula Le Guin’s book review beautifully captures the feeling of this novel:

Ursula K Le Guin:  “I don’t think there’s a false word in Kent Haruf’s final novel, Our Souls in the Night. Nor, for all the colloquial ease and transparency of the prose and the apparent simplicity of the story, is there a glib word, or a predictable one. Ordinarily the circumstances of the writing of a novel aren’t of much interest to me as a reader, but in this case, I am moved, even awed, to consider that the book was written while the author was dying. It is a report from the edge of darkness, made in the consciousness of responsibility. Haruf is bearing witness. Having gone farther than we have, he wants to tell us what matters there. His knowledge of his situation, and my knowledge of it as I read the book, made me appreciate the rare privilege of being with a person who is past the need to say anything but what needs to be said.  The voice is quiet. All the darkness is there, but we’re looking at the light. A lamp in a bedroom in a small town in Colorado.

: A remarkably simple invitation sets things in motion. Addie Moore, a widow, asks Louis Waters, a widower and neighbor, to sleep with her. “Sleep” means both more and less than you might first think for these septuagenarians (in their 70’s).

After dark one night they walked over to the grade school playground and Louis pushed Addie on the big chain swing and she rode up and back in the cool fresh night air of late summer with the hem of her skirt fluttering over her knees. Afterward they went back to bed in her upstairs front room and lay beside each other naked in the summer air coming in from the open windows.

~ Kent Haruf, Our Souls at Night: A novel

Kent Haruf’s Our Souls in the NightHighly recommended.

Smell it. Ohio Soil. Humus.

old-book-smell_5

Spent the day in Cambridge Library.

The Library a wilderness of books. The volumes of the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Centuries, which lie so near on the shelf, are rarely opened, are effectually forgotten and not implied by our literature and newspapers. When I looked into Purchas’s Pilgrims, it affected me like looking into an impassable swamp, ten feet deep with sphagnum, where the monarchs of the forest, covered with mosses and stretched along the ground, were making haste to become peat. Those old books suggested a certain fertility, an Ohio soil, as if they were making a humus for new literatures to spring in. I heard the bellowing of bullfrogs and the hum of mosquitoes reverberating through the thick embossed covers when I had closed the book. Decayed literature makes the richest of all soils.

~ Henry David Thoreau, Journal of Henry David Thoreau, 1837-1861


Source: Brainpickings

It’s like pulling into our own train station after a long trip

book-reading-murakami

When you love something like reading — or drawing or music or nature — it surrounds you with a sense of connection to something great. If you are lucky enough to know this, then your search for meaning involves whatever that Something is. It’s an alchemical blend of affinity and focus that takes us to a place within that feels as close as we ever get to “home.” It’s like pulling into our own train station after a long trip — joy, relief, a pleasant exhaustion.

~ Anne Lamott, Stitches. A Handbook on Meaning, Hope & Repair


Image: iwetaczech

Manguso. Magnificent.

Sarah-Manguso-1024_117064k

She’s Sarah Manguso. A 41-year old writer and poet born in Massachusetts and author of the highly acclaimed memoir The Two Kinds of Decay.

Karen mentioned that she “loved” Manguso’s work so that was enough for me.

Her new book Ongoing: The End of A Diary was released yesterday.

This slim 144-page book is a gem. I’m trying to find the right adjective(s).

Transfixed?

Transported?

Transcendent?

Here’s a snippet:

To write a diary is to make a series of choices about what to omit, what to forget. A memorable sandwich, an unmemorable flight of stairs. A memorable bit of conversation surrounded by chatter that no one records.

[Read more…]