Feel as if the top of my head were taken off

In 1870, Emily Dickinson was said to describe poetry this way:

 “If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way?”

 And, then you read a book, that does exactly that.

[Read more…]

Monday. Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day.


I think the British writer James Meek is accurate when he describes Light Years (1975) by the American novelist James Salter. […]

“There is no complete life. There are only fragments. We are born to have nothing, to have it pour through our hands.”

And this, again, is a common experience [from Virginia Woolf’s essay ‘Modern Fiction’ (1921)]:

“Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions – trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from of old; the moment of importance came not here but there; so that, if a writer were a free man and not a slave, if he could write what he chose, not what he must, if he could base his work upon his own feeling and not upon convention, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest or catastrophe in the accepted style, and perhaps not a single button sewn on as the Bond Street tailors would have it. Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.”

~ Galen Strawson, I am Not a Story

Art: Simon Birch (via Lost at E Minor)

How else, indeed


It is necessary to write,
if the days are not to slip emptily by.
How else, indeed,
to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment?
For the moment passes, it is forgotten;
the mood is gone; life itself is gone.

~ Vita Sackville-West, Selected Writings

Sources: Poem Source:Schonwiener. Painting by Hermann Teuber, Red Butterflies, (1959) (via Journal of a Nobody)

What else is there? What else do we need?


I am pleased enough with surfaces — in fact they alone seem to me to be of much importance. Such things for example as the grasp of a child’s hand in your own, the flavor of an apple, the embrace of friend or lover, the silk of a girl’s thigh, the sunlight on rock and leaves, the feel of music, the bark of a tree, the abrasion of granite and sand, the plunge of clear water into a pool, the face of the wind — what else is there? What else do we need?

~ Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Source: Thank you Whiskey River


And all that was leading me where?


I could never turn back
any more than a record
can spin in reverse.
And all that was leading me where?

To this very moment…

— Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

Notes: Photo – vinylgif.com. Poem: Fables of the Reconstruction

Because what are we without five minutes ago?


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

And I know now what a moment can hold


And then I hear the water rumbling into the tub. Naked, the baby’s arms and long legs flail against the bare air, and she wails. “Oh you,” I whisper, unable yet to call her by my name, “it’s all right.” I want my joy pure, I want to get rid of the echo in my head. This is my granddaughter, named for me. This beautiful child. I gather her up, nuzzling her soft face, and bring her into the bathroom, and my daughter, her breasts heavy with milk, reaches up her arms for the child. The moment she is lowered into the water the baby stops crying, her body goes limp, her eyelids drop—it all happens at once. Under her half-closed lids her irises are now moving left to right, over and over, rhythmically, as if to a beat. At first I am afraid, and put my hand in the water to make sure it’s not too hot, but it is fine, comfortable. We don’t speak, but my daughter touches my arm as we realize what we are looking at, what the two of us are being shown. This is the face of the unborn child. And I know now what a moment can hold.

~ Abigail Thomas, What the Moment Can Hold. Safekeeping: Some True Stories from a Life

Photo: With Love and Light

I fear their false urgency, their call to speed, their insistence that travel is less important than arrival

Where does it start? Muscles tense. One leg a pillar, holding the body upright between the earth and sky. The other a pendulum, swinging from behind. Heel touches down. The whole weight of the body rolls forward onto the ball of the foot. The big toe pushes off, and the delicately balanced weight of the body shifts again. The legs reverse position. It starts with a step and then another step and then another that add up like taps on a drum to a rhythm, the rhythm of walking. The most obvious and the most obscure thing in the world, this walking that wanders so readily into religion, philosophy, landscape, urban policy, anatomy, allegory, and heartbreak. […]

As a member of the self-employed whose time saved by technology can be lavished on daydreams and meanders, I know these things have their uses, and use them — a truck, a computer, a modem — myself, but I fear their false urgency, their call to speed, their insistence that travel is less important than arrival. I like walking because it is slow, and I suspect that the mind, like the feet, works at about three miles an hour. If this is so, then modern life is moving faster than the speed of thought, or thoughtfulness.

― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

Don’t miss Brain Pickings entire post: Wanderlust: Rebecca Solnit on Walking and the Vitalizing Meanderings of the Mind

Image: Sweet Senderipity

Saturday Morning


I think about time differently since I got to be this old.
I think of each moment as a big La-Z-Boy,
or perhaps a hammock,
and the only direction is a little back and forth,
or side to side.
For this I need peace and quiet,
and I eschew all outside stimulation.
Perhaps this is why the future escapes me.

~ Abigail Thomas, What Comes Next and How to Like It: A Memoir

Photo: Jo Lynn Zamudio via Outdoor Magic

Linear. Continuum?


I don’t experience life in a linear fashion,
in any kind of continuum.
It’s moment, moment, moment, moment.”

~ Amy Hempel, BOMB Magazine

Notes: quote via invisiblestories. Photograph: Eric Rose. Thank you Jonathan for the inspiration.