A new year's offering to all of you: these are snippets from books I've read over the years, and have recorded in a quotation log. I'll leave it to you to decide what binds all of these quotations together, other than my decision to turn them into first-of-year reflections. (Hint: look for a particular word.)
A very happy 2014 to all of you!
Rick Bragg, All Over but the Shoutin’ (NY: Vintage, 1997):
I cannot fix everything that is wrong, flawed or broken in my past, in her past. I cannot recast those years in smooth, cool marble, and believe that my meddling will make things all better again (p. 71).
William Least Heat Moon, Prairy Erth (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991):
For years I’ve made a practice of seeing "nothing" because I believe the American idea of "something" usually ends up harming our perceptions and use of the land (p. 485).
Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain, trans. H.T. Lowe-Porter (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1961):
Habituation is a falling asleep or fatiguing of the sense of time; which explains why young years pass slowly, while later life flings itself faster and faster upon its course (p. 104).
Daniel Mendelsohn, The Lost (NY: HarperCollins, 2006):
But I do believe in some things, I, to whom a friend had listened, quietly and sometimes in tears, one night in September 2001, when I’d just returned from our first trip to Ukraine and was telling the story of what we’d found there after all that time; had listened to me weeping and finally said, I’m crying because my grandfather died two years ago and now it’s too late to ask him anything: I did and do believe, after all that I’ve seen and done, that if you project yourself into the mass of things, if you look for things, if you search, you will, by the very act of searching, make something happen that would not otherwise have happened, you will find something, even something small, something that will certainly be more than if you hadn’t gone looking in the first place, if you hadn’t asked your grandfather anything at all. . . .
Michael Ondaatje, Running in the Family (NY: Vintage, 1982):
During certain hours, at certain years in our lives, we see ourselves as remnants from the earlier generations that were destroyed. So our job becomes to keep peace with enemy camps, eliminate the chaos at the end of Jacobean tragedies, and with "the mercy of distance" write the history (p. 179).
Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past, trans. C.K. Scott Moncrief (NY: Random House, 1934):
When a man is asleep, he has in a circle round him the chain of the hours, the sequence of the years, the order of the heavenly host (vol. I, p. 4).
Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004):
You can spend forty years teaching people to be awake to the fact of mystery and then some fellow with no more theological sense than a jackrabbit gets himself a radio ministry and all your work is forgotten. I do wonder where it will end (p. 208).
Mae Sarton, Plant Dreaming Deep (NY: W.W. Norton, 1968):
One does not give up if one is a writing animal, and if one has, over the years, created the channel of a routine (p. 87).
Allen Tate, Memories and Essays (Manchester, Eng.: Carcanet, 1975):
What does one remember? How does one remember it? Vanity, pride, and fear are the obstacles to the recollection of persons and events that one knew only the year before last ("A Lost Traveller’s Dream," p. 3).
Charles Wright, "The Southern Cross," in The Southern Cross (NY: Random House, 1981):
There is an otherness inside us
We never touch,
no matter how far down our hands reach,
It is the past,
with its good looks and Anytime, Anywhere . . . .
Our prayers go out to it, our arms go out to it
Year after year, But who can ever remember enough?
The photo: a little creature, a piper, who lives under the eave of our house in front; we took the photo in February 2013.