I’ve had this Mark Doty quote saved for long enough that I don’t remember where or when I first encountered it–definitely not during Mom’s illness, but I’m glad I have it now. This is from the memoir he wrote after losing his partner Wally, which I haven’t read (yet).
“And, I think, this greening does thaw at the edges, at least, of my own cold season. Joy sneaks in: listening to music, riding my bicycle, I catch myself feeling, in a way that’s as old as I am but suddenly seems unfamiliar, light. I have felt so heavy for so long. At first I felt odd–as if I shouldn’t be feeling this lightness, that familiar little catch of pleasure in the heart which is inexplicable, though a lovely passage of notes or the splendidly turned petal of a tulip has triggered it…I have the desire to be filled with sunlight, to soak my skin in as much of it as I can drink up, after the long interior darkness of this past season, the indoor vigil, in this harshest and darkest of winters, outside and in.”
I’ve had this saved in my files for a long time, but only now–six months into therapy, six weeks after the death of my mom–do I think I’m starting to get it. Allowing things is the trick (which I will probably be working on for the rest of my life).
“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
“Do you believe in Magic?” asked Colin, after he had explained about Indian fakirs. “I do hope you do.”
“That I do, lad,” she answered. “I never knowed it by that name, but what does the name matter? I warrant they call it a different name in France and a different one in Germany. The same thing as set the seeds swellin’ and the sun shinin’ made thee a well lad and it’s The Good Thing. It isn’t like us poor fools that think it matters if us is called the wrong name. The Big Good Thing doesn’t stop to worry. It goes on makin’ worlds by the millions–worlds like us. Never stop believin’ in The Big Good Thing and knowin’ the world’s full of it–and call it what you like.”
(from The Secret Garden, lightly edited to make the dialect a little easier to read.)
Something’s happened this year and I’m back to getting 2-3 books from the library every week and blowing through them, a pace I kept up through my early twenties. Granted, most of them have been detective novels that are pretty easy to blow through, but it’s been really nice to be reading again.
At the library I saw that there was a third book out from Sara Gran in the Claire De Witt detective series, which is kind of like Raymond Chandler but with a punk lady and a lot more drugs. This quote about the LA hills hit me, because I had just driven through there a few weeks before reading it and thought, “What the hell, why is this city so mountainous?”
Why were the Los Angeles hills so arcane, so occulted to the world outside? People talked about Los Angeles as it it were New York, spread out and deformed, melted like hot cookie dough on a pan. I didn’t know until I got there that the city was a web of mountains and valleys and canyons, starting out wet and cool and drying itself out into desert as it headed east, unlike anyplace else on earth; a maze of dead-end streets that were never parallel and curved in and across themselves like snakes. There was an energy to Los Angeles that was sharp and would cut you if you didn’t recognize it. Every grain of sand in the beaches and the desert buried under the city was a little razor, ready and willing to wound.
But if you saw it for what it was, I was learning, you could maneuver in between the knives and glide through the city, like a needle in a record. You just had to keep your eyes open for synchronicity, and never expect kindness. Just shut up and be grateful when it appeared.
When you go into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees… and some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens and some of them are–whatever. And you look at the tree, and you just–allow it. You appreciate it. You see why it is the way it is, you sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way, and you don’t get all emotional about it, you just allow it. You appreciate the tree.
The minute you get near humans, you lose all that, and you’re constantly saying, “You’re too this,” or “I’m too this,” or–that judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees, which means appreciating them just the way they are.
(From a blog post by Ram Dass in 2016, here)
Something from David Foster Wallace (via Austin Kleon) and something to keep in mind as you choose (or write) your books.
“Look, man, we’d probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what’s human and magical that still live and glow despite the times’ darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it’d find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it.”
Via Austin Kleon, who is reading Thoreau’s diary entries on the same day they were originally written, a quote about how to live:
We are receiving our portion of the infinite… I do not so much wish to know how to economize time as how to spend it.
The scenery, when it is truly seen, reacts on the life of the seer. How to live. How to get the most life. How to extract its honey from the flower of the world. That is my every-day business….
I am convinced that men are not well employed, that this is not the way to spend a day. If by patience, if by watching, I can secure one new ray of light, can feel myself elevated for an instant… shall I not be a watchman henceforth?
It’s nearly the end of my first month with the trainer and while I’m so much stronger than when I started, I’m still working my way up to doing anything with the bar and real weight. This week I struggled, I was frustrated, I forgot my form, everyone else in the gym was stronger than me and knew what to do already, lifting was hard and was (by design) never, ever going to get easier.
Then my work bro, who also lifts, sent me an essay by Henry Rollins (yeah, that one) and oh look! We have another post about doing a hard thing in a sport that is really about doing hard things in life and embracing the struggle, not fighting it. (If I get nothing else from learning to lift, I will have gotten so much blog content from it.)
Joking aside, though, it’s a pretty great essay–kind of a “Zen and the art of lifting.” From Iron and The Soul:
I used to think that it was my adversary, that I was trying to lift that which does not want to be lifted. I was wrong. When the Iron doesn’t want to come off the mat, it’s the kindest thing it can do for you. If it flew up and went through the ceiling, it wouldn’t teach you anything. That’s the way the Iron talks to you. It tells you that the material you work with is that which you will come to resemble. That which you work against will always work against you.
Via Swiss Miss:
“Make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life. An individual human existence should be like a river—small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being.”