Lightly Child, Lightly

I discovered that in the early part of the morning a mist hovered in the hollows of the estate and the grass was wet with dew. There was a smell in the air of bonfires, the land already preparing for autumn…The morning welcomed me and I felt lighter, more confident, walking with my head up, ready for anything.

– Claire Fuller, Bitter Orange (Tin House Books, October 9, 2018)


Notes:

  • Photo: Ed Stockard.
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Lightly Child, Lightly

We live on a little island of the articulable, which we tend to mistake for reality itself. We can and do make small and tedious lives as we sail through the cosmos on our uncannily lovely little planet, and this is surely remarkable. But we do so much else besides. For example, we make language. A language is a grand collaboration, a collective art form which we begin to master as babes and sucklings, and which we preserve, modify, cull, enlarge as we pass through our lives. Some students in France drew my attention to the enormous number of English words that describe the behavior of light. Glimmer, glitter, glister, glisten, gleam, glow, glare, shimmer, sparkle, shine, and so on. These old words are not utilitarian. They reflect an aesthetic attention to experience that has made, and allows us to make, pleasing distinctions among, say, a candle flame, the sun at its zenith, and the refraction of light by a drop of rain. How were these words coined and retained, and how have they been preserved through generations, so that English-speaking people use them with the precision necessary to preserving them? None of this can be ascribed to conscious choice on the part of anyone, but somehow the language created, so to speak, a prism through which light passes, by means of which its qualities are arrayed. One of the pleasures of writing is that so often I know that there is in fact a word that is perfect for the use I want to put it to, and when I summon it it comes, though I might not have thought of it for years. And then I think, somewhere someone was the first person to use that word. Then how did it make its way into the language, and how did it retain the specificity that makes it perfect for this present use?

~ Marilynne Robinson, from “Imagination and Community” in When I Was a Child I Read Books: Essays


Notes:

  • Photo: Miriam Mannak with Flame. Quote: via a thing in motion
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Lightly Child, Lightly

Some moments become enchanting with the addition of words,

others are completely killed if you try to describe them.

It’s the difference between a tiny bird flittering above your open palm

and a closed fist crushing wings.

~ The Chesterfield


Notes:

  • Photo: Bill Leslie with Groovy Times. Quote via Your Eyes Blaze Out. Photo_wanderlog_Yllas via Your Eyes Blaze Out.
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

unaware of my presence, moving just their lips, forming words that I will soon pronounce for them

I’ve learned to write on trains and in hotels and waiting rooms. On the tray tables on planes. I take notes at lunch, under the table, or in the bathroom. I write in museum stairwells, in cafés, in the car on the shoulder of the motorway. I jot things down on scraps of paper, in notebooks, on postcards, on my other hand, on napkins, in the margins of books. Usually they’re short sentences, little images, but sometimes I copy out quotes from the papers. Sometimes a figure carves itself out of the crowd, and then I deviate from my itinerary to follow it for a moment, start on its story. It’s a good method; I excel at it. With the years, time has become my ally, as it does for every woman—I’ve become invisible, see-through. I am able to move around like a ghost, look over people’s shoulders, listen in on their arguments and watch them sleep with their heads on their backpacks or talking to themselves, unaware of my presence, moving just their lips, forming words that I will soon pronounce for them.

~ Olga Tokarczuk, Flights (August 13, 2018)


Olga Tokarczuk, 56, is one of Poland’s best and most beloved authors. In 2018, she won the Man Booker International Prize for her novel Flights, becoming the first Polish writer to do so.  Tobias Grey wrote a profile of Tokarczuk in the NY Times on August 8, 2018 titled: Olga Tokarczuk’s Book ‘Flights’ Is Taking Off.” Here’s an excerpt from the profile:

“Ms. Tokarczuk likened herself to a tailor making a dress. ‘The dress is beautiful and comfortable to wear,’ she said. ‘But like the reader, the person who wears it is not expected to know precisely how all the materials that make it are connected.’ When Ms. Tokarczuk finished writing ‘Flights’ she gathered all her pages and spent a week studying them spread out on the floor of her living room. ‘It was funny because I had to climb onto a table to see how they looked from a high vantage point,’ she said. ‘I trusted my intuition to find the book’s order, and I wouldn’t change anything now.'”


Portrait of Olga Tokarczuk from Los Angeles Review of Books

Take a look at those sentences, thundering across the page

Novelists rarely retire in the formal sense, and tend not to stage news conferences when they do. Philip Roth…who died in Manhattan on Tuesday at age 85, took a different approach six years ago when he let it be known through the press that he had quit writing fiction — after more than 50 years of near-constant scribbling.

He had nothing more to say, he contended, and was happy to put the struggle of writing behind him. He envied the “gush of prose” he attributed to two of his rivals, John Updike and Saul Bellow, but lamented his own writing process as a grueling “fight for my fluency” that dragged on sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, until the novel reached the finish line.

It seems doubtful that writing came easily for Mr. Updike or Mr. Bellow, and it could well be that the smoldering and hard-edge style he sought was simply more difficult to come by. Those Rothian sentences can be felt slamming across the page like tennis aces or marching forward in a phalanx, giving the reader no refuge from the argument the author is making…

Take a look at those sentences, thundering across the page, one after another, like an advancing line of earth movers.

~ Brent Staples, from “Philip Roth’s Earth-Moving Prose” (NY Times, May 23, 2018)


Photo of Philip Roth via Telegraph

Truth

Culture replaces authentic feeling with words. As an example of this, imagine an infant lying in its cradle and the window is open, and into the room comes something, marvelous, mysterious, glittering, shedding light of many colors, movement, sound, a transformative hierophany of integrated perception. The child is enthralled, and then the mother comes into the room and says to the child, “That’s a bird, baby, that’s a bird.” Instantly the complex wave of the angel, peacock, iridescent, transformative mystery is collapsed into the word. All mystery is gone, the child learns this is a bird, this is a bird, and by the time we’re five or six years old all the mystery of reality has been carefully tiled over with words. “This is a bird, this is a house, this is the sky,” and we seal ourselves in within a linguistic shell of disempowered perception.

~ Terence McKenna, Ordinary Language, Visible Language and Virtual Reality 


Notes: Quote via cobotis. Photo: Ahmed via Eyeem via Newthom.com

Saturday Morning

Morning was calm and early afternoon beautiful, with temps near sixty degrees. Then the wind rose out of the canyons and the trees on the mountaintop bowed to some unseen god in the east…The greatest gift of life on the mountain is time. Time to think or not think, read or not read, scribble or not scribble – to sleep and cook and walk in the woods, to sit and stare at the shapes of the hills. I produce nothing but words; I consume nothing but food, a little propane, a little firewood. By being utterly useless in the calculations of the culture at large I become useful, at last, to myself.

~ Philip Connors, from “Diary of a Fire Lookout” in Paris Review


Notes: Quote – Thank you Beth at Alive on All Channels. Photo: FOTO:MOG

Lightly child, lightly.

But words light up in the head
To take their deep place in the darkness,
Arcing quickly from image to image
Like mica catching the sun.

~ James Dickey, from “A Letter,” Falling, May Day Sermon, and Other Poems 


Notes:

  • Quote Source: Memory’s Landscape. Photo: Philippe conquet 
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

It all began with her

Bob Greene, excerpts from I Actually Thanked A TeacherNow 88, she gave me a refresher in the lesson I’d learned in first grade: how to read the word ‘look.’ (wsj.com, April 12, 2017):

…My first-grade teacher was named Patricia Ruoff…I still recall the day she helped me learn the first word I could ever read…and she showed me what the shape of the four letters on the first page meant, and what they sounded like. That one word: “Look.”

I went home so thrilled that day. I knew how to read a word. “Look.” When the day had begun I hadn’t known it, and now I did. Such a magical feeling, accompanied by the sure knowledge that other words would soon follow. […]

it became important to me to find that teacher. It took some doing—it turns out she has been twice widowed, and thus has had two different last names since back then—but I reached a woman on the telephone who I thought might be her.

“I’m sorry if I have the wrong number,” I said. “But I’m looking for a Patricia Ruoff, who once was a schoolteacher.”

“Yes,” the voice said. “You have the right person.”

“You taught me to read,” I said.

I told her my name.

“Oh, Bobby,” she said. […] [Read more…]

I cling to words or phrases which seem to ring true

bed-aleep-sheet-white

Wonderful a fistful of snow in the mouths
of men suffering summer heat
Wonderful the spring winds
for mariners who long to set sail
And more wonderful still the single sheet
over two lovers on a bed. 

I like quoting ancient verses when the occasion is apt. I remember most of what I hear, and I listen all day but sometimes I do not know how to fit everything together. When this happens I cling to words or phrases which seem to ring true.

~ John Berger, To the Wedding


Photo: Harmonic Hesitation

%d bloggers like this: