And Words Are All I Have

to live in this world
you must be able
to do three things
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go

~~Mary Oliver

My Bedside Table,Being in A Hurry,Meeting Our Stories.


My bedside table always holds stacks of books with the most unlikely combination of titles and subjects. A current snapshot includes one called How the Mind Works on the plasticity of the brain, how we are learning more and more about what it is capable of. It is hard slogging and demanding content but worth the effort, I felt.

To wit: “The stuff of life turned out to be not a quivering, glowing, wondrous gel but a contraption of tiny jigs, springs, hinges, rods, sheets, magnets, zippers, and trapdoors, assembled by a data tape whose information is copied, downloaded and scanned.”
Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works

There are always poetry books in the mix, because I find I learn most from the poems I admire (and wish I had written!), including Dear, a recent collection from Margaret Atwood, and one called The Dogs I Have Kissed by Trista Mateer, which I herewith nominate as the best book title ever.

"The poet can’t stand the quiet," writes Mateer. "She can’t stand the buzzing in her head. The murmur of memory. The poet picks up a book of poetry. It is not her writing but it reads the same way. It is not her story but the ending is similar enough to pass. The poet tries to read a verse out loud and only tastes blood in her mouth. The poet worries she is writing the same poem over and over."

Also, a delicious anthology of poems called How to Love the World (Poems of Gratitude and Hope), a Christmas gift that arrived by post, one that keeps on giving with every page turned.

The Pony Express by Samuel Hopkins Adams has captivated me. It is an account of the short-lived Pony Express, a vital U.S. mail service that in the 1860’s delivered messages, newspapers, and mail using relays of horse-mounted riders.

And the story of Samuel Morse, the man who invented Morse Code in 1838. He had sadly not been notified of his wife's sickness in time to reach her before she died; heartbroken, Morse set out to invent a faster way for people to send messages. Thank you, kind sir.

Another I am immersed in is My Days Of Woe: A Personal History by Eric Tallman about his struggle with depression. It is raw, and real, and so very brave.

"We can say that a person living with major depression is chronically depressed," writes Tallman. "But he or she is also chronically funny, serious, sarcastic, naïve, sensitive, brusque, loving, aloof. I spend much of my time picking at the threads of this unruly tangle of emotions, behaviors and biological processes. The depression that affects my life, and affects the lives of others, is the knot that I pluck. With every strand I coax loose I hope to gain, and share, further insight into this disease."

And this from the eclectic Paris Review, an excerpt from a 1972 interview with Eudora Welty on the art of fiction writing:

“Once you have heard certain expressions, sentences, you almost never forget them," Welty said. "It’s like sending a bucket down the well and it always comes up full. You don’t know you’ve remembered, but you have. And you listen for the right word, in the present, and you hear it. Once you’re into a story everything seems to apply—what you overhear on a city bus is exactly what your character would say on the page you’re writing. Wherever you go, you meet part of your story.”
We have two lives and the second begins when you realize you only have one.

“I counted my years and found that I have less time to live from here on than I have lived up to now.I feel like that child who won a packet of sweets: he ate the first with pleasure, but when he realized that there were few left, he began to enjoy them intensely.

I no longer have time for endless meetings where statutes, rules, procedures and internal regulations are discussed, knowing that nothing will be achieved.I no longer have time to support the absurd people who, despite their chronological age, haven't grown up. My time is too short: I want the essence, my soul is in a hurry.

I don't have many sweets in the package anymore.I want to live next to human people, very human, who know how to laugh at their mistakes and who are not inflated by their triumphs and who take on their responsibilities. Thus, human dignity is defended and we move towards truth and honesty. It is the essential that makes life worth living.

I want to surround myself with people who know how to touch hearts, people who have been taught by the hard blows of life to grow with gentle touches of the soul.

Yes, I'm in a hurry, I'm in a hurry to live with the intensity that only maturity can give. I don't intend to waste any of the leftover sweets. I am sure they will be delicious, much more than what I have eaten so far. My goal is to reach the end satisfied and at peace with my loved ones and my conscience.

We have two lives and the second begins when you realize you only have one. "

~~Mario de Andrade,
Brazilian poet and novelist. 1893-1945

very pink sea urchin
I don't think writers are sacred, but words are.
They deserve respect.
If you get the right ones in the right order,
you might nudge the world a little or make a poem
that children will speak for you when you are dead.

~~ Tom Stoppard
tricia handwritten signature
I am here, listening. Share your own stories with me, gentle reader.

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