Wednesday, March 21

"Once in a lifetime, perhaps, one escapes the actual confines of the flesh. Once in a lifetime, if one is lucky, one so merges with sunlight and air and running water that whole eons, the eons that mountains and deserts know, might pass in a single afternoon without discomfort. The mind has sunk away into its beginnings among old roots and the obscure tricklings and movings that stir inanimate things. Like the charmed fairy circle into which a man once stepped, and upon emergence learned that a whole century had passed in a single night, one can never quite define this secret; but it has something to do, I am sure, with common water. Its substance reaches everywhere; it touches the past and prepares the future, it moves under the poles and wanders thinly in the heights of air. It can assume forms of exquisite perfection in a snowflake, or strip the living to a single shining bone cast up by the sea.
Many years ago, in the course of some scientific investigations in a remote western country, I experienced, by chance, precisely the sort of curious absorption by water - the extension of shape by osmosis - at which I have been hinting. You have probably never experienced in yourself the meandering roots of a whole watershed or felt your outstretched fingers touching, by some kind of clairvoyant extension, the brooks of snow-line glaciers at the same time that you were flowing toward the Gulf over the eroded debris of worn-down mountains."
 - Loren Eiseley
The Immense Journey

Tuesday, March 20

He sang the brightness of mornings and green rivers
He sang of smoking water in the rose-colored daybreaks,
Of colors: cinnabar, carmine, burnt sienna, blue,
Of the delight of swimming in the sea under marble cliffs
 - Czesław Miłosz

"When I read the line about 'the delight of swimming in the sea under marble cliffs," I recall a conversation I had with Miłosz some years back; it was after a vacation M. and I had spent with C. K. Williams near Lucca, in Tuscany. Now and then we'd drive to the seashore at Bocca di Magra, a little town in Liguria (from the autostrada you catch a glimpse of a sign advertising the Hotel Shelley - the poet drowned there). The Magra is a river that enters the sea at this point. When Miłosz heard this, he grew thoughtful, remembering times gone by. He'd spent several vacations at Bocca di Magra - in the company of Mary McCarthy, Nicola Chiaromonte, and other friends - he'd gone swimming there, too, and always remembered the white marble cliffs that looked at first like snow-covered mountains - in midsummer! But it's not snow, just marble, Carrara, a town famed among sculptors, at the foot of white marble peaks. And the sea there is deep blue, warm, salty, with little waves. Dashes and irregular geometric figures appear and quickly vanish on the water's velvety surface - these are the sea's papillary lines. Gulls circle above the fishing ships. The coast is rocky here, as a Mediterranean seashore should be, since sandy, level beaches don't suit the sea's character; they make it look like the pale, chilly Baltic, it loses its deep cobalt hue.

Miłosz died, thinking, working, writing poems almost to the very end - as though he had sailed far out to sea, toward Carrara, toward azure mists and white mountains.

Paul Claudel says somewhere, "Celui qui admire n'a jamais tort" (He who admires is never wrong). I like thinking about this sentence, so hopelessly out-of-date and so easily subject to revision. In a fundamental way, though, it tells us that in a spiritual sense, admiration and enthusiasm are far higher than criticism, sarcasm, a purely ironic stance. In English they call it debunking; we call it demystification, and it's the very air that newspapers and most books breathe."
 - Adam Zagajewski
translated by Clare Cavanagh
Slight Exaggeration

Monday, March 19

If you want what visible reality
can give, you're an employee.
If you want the unseen world,
you're not living your truth.
Both wishes are foolish,
but you'll be forgiven for forgetting
that what you really want is
love's confusing joy.
 - Rumi
translated by Coleman Barks

Sunday, March 18

"I myself find the division of the world into an objective and a subjective side much too arbitrary. The fact that religions through the ages have spoken in images, parables, and paradoxes means simply that there are no other ways of grasping the reality to which they refer. But that does not mean that it is not a genuine reality. And splitting this reality into an objective and a subjective side won't get us very far."
 - Niels Bohr

Friday, March 16

"Galileo thought that comets were an optical illusion. This is fertile ground: since we are certain that they're not, we can look at what scientists are saying with fresh hope. What if there are really gleaming castellated cities hung upside-down over the desert sand? What limpid lakes and cool date palms have our caravans passed untried? Until, one by one, by the blindest of leaps, we light on the road to these places, we must stumble in darkness and hunger."
 - Annie Dillard

Wednesday, March 14

There are enigmas in darkness
There are mysteries
Sent out without searchlights

The stars are hiding tonight
The moon is cold and stony
Behind the clouds

Nights without seeing
Mornings of the long view
It's not a sprint but a marathon

Whatever we can do
We must do
Every morning's resolve
 - Edward Hirsch
excerpt From Gabriel

Tuesday, March 13

"When hit by boredom, let yourself be crushed by it; submerge, hit bottom. In general, with things unpleasant, the rule is: The sooner you hit bottom, the faster you surface. The idea here is to exact a full look at the worst. The reason boredom deserves such scrutiny is that it represents pure, undiluted time in all its repetitive, redundant, monotonous splendor.

Boredom is your window on the properties of time that one tends to ignore to the likely peril of one's mental equilibrium. It is your window on time's infinity. Once this window opens, don't try to shut it; on the contrary, throw it wide open."
 - Joseph Brodsky

Monday, March 12

Of course time is running out. It always
has been a creek heading east, the freight
of water with its surprising heaviness
following the slant of the land, its destiny.
What is lovelier than a creek or riverine thicket?
Say it is an unknown benefactor who gave us
birds and Mozart, the mystery of trees and water
and all living things borrowing time.
Would I still love the creek if I lasted forever?
 - Jim Harrison
from The Debtors
the hammock papers

  • ". . . as I have said often enough, I write for myself in multiplicate,
    a not unfamiliar phenomenon on the horizon of shimmering deserts."
    - Vladimir Nabokov