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Posts Tagged ‘quotes’

stronger together heart graffiti three lives

“She couldn’t change the conditions, she couldn’t deny her awareness, and she couldn’t stand in the way of death or love. The only thing to do was to keep moving, to do something, to show courage, to give everything she was capable of giving.”

—Donia Bijan, The Last Days of Café Leila

I came across these words last month in Bijan’s gorgeous first novel (out April 18), and they (especially the second sentence) have lodged in my heart and stayed there. I have kept trying to figure out what to say about them, but I think they are exactly right on their own.

Street art spotted on the wall of Three Lives & Co. in the West Village, a couple of weeks ago.

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Eight years

high line selfie nyc

If there’s one thing we’ve learned, the two of us, it’s that marriage isn’t always easy, and there will be times that try us without mercy. We will sometimes – maybe even often – disagree, and things and people and events will come along that test our courage and resolve, and that’s when we will turn to the memory of this precious time together, and the knot we are weaving to bind us into one.

—Beatriz Williams, A Certain Age

I came across these sentences last month, when I read Williams’ glittering novel about tangled love and secrets in 1920s New York. My path to marriage – thank goodness – was not quite as dramatic as that of Sophie, who writes these lines to her sister near the end of the book. I met my husband on a quiet college campus in West Texas, and I married him on that same campus, nearly six years after we met (and almost five years after we started dating). We were starry-eyed and stubborn and impossibly young – and we have been married, as of yesterday, for eight years.

Eight years is a long time and not a long time, all at once. It is not quite a decade, but it is long enough that we have formed certain habits, learned and unlearned certain things, built a solid (I hope) foundation for the rest of our marriage and our lives. By virtue of meeting when we were so young, we have been together for a good chunk of our lives. But eight years is also long enough to learn this: things change.

I am married, in some ways, to the same man I met when we were 18. He has the same dark eyes and wide smile, the same clear tenor singing voice, the same love for sports and his family and me. I am also the same, in some ways, as when we met: I have green eyes and freckles and a deep love for books. I read and write both to make my living and to make sense of the world. And one fundamental thing is also the same: we love each other, fiercely and deeply.

But eight years is also long enough for a lot of change to happen. We have both changed jobs, finished graduate school, moved across the country and changed jobs again (roughly in that order). More importantly: we have both learned and grown as people, which means that our relationship has evolved. There have been times – including the past year, when I was job hunting – that have tried us without mercy. And life has tested our courage and resolve.

The work of marriage in these years has been about building a life together, yes, but it has also been about giving each other the space to grow and change. It is hard for me sometimes to admit that our life looks different than I thought it would, or that we are both allowed to change our opinions – and then that change might require some reshuffling. Like anything that is expected to endure, a marriage has to be both strong and flexible. That is, as I once heard Lauren Winner say, “hard and holy work.” And it is ongoing.

Here is the other side of that coin, though: marriage is sweet. It is deep and rich and nourishing, and it is often a lot of fun. I am grateful to be married to someone who makes me laugh, who always has my back, who gets me in ways I don’t have to explain. We love to go adventuring together and we love to stay home. We love being us, even while we are still two separate people. We love our life together. And I am grateful for it all.

Happy anniversary, love. Here’s to many more.

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jane of lantern hill book tulips

Can I help you?” said Jane.

Though Jane herself had no inkling of it, those words were the keynote of her character. Any one else would probably have said, “What is the matter?” But Jane always wanted to help.

—Jane of Lantern Hill, L.M. Montgomery

I’ve been thinking about this quote lately, partly because I’ve been rereading Jane’s story again. It is the perfect early spring book: the story of a young girl discovering, and falling completely in love with, a new life on Prince Edward Island with the father she never knew.

I love watching Jane come into her own as she goes, like Dorothy Gale, from a black-and-white existence in Toronto (where her imperious grandmother rules the roost) to the Technicolor world of the Island, where new friends and experiences are waiting around every corner. (The hubs and I drove to PEI a couple of summers ago, and it is as gorgeous as I always imagined, from years of reading L.M. Montgomery’s rapturous descriptions.)

Jane is a dreamer with a kind heart and a wide practical streak, who takes a deep delight in the joys of everyday life and work. In the scene quoted above, she hears a neighbor girl crying and goes to investigate. Elsewhere in the book, she pitches in to help her neighbors with everything from arranging flowers to shingling the barn roof. But when I reread this scene, it struck me that Jane’s attitude is key. She always wants to help. And she asks if she can help.

I am still settling into a new work routine, and some of my responsibilities are clear, while others are more ambiguous. Sometimes I get nervous about stepping on my colleagues’ toes, or figuring out exactly where I fit in the scheme of things. But most of the time, when I ask if I can help with a story or project, my colleagues respond with gratitude – sometimes even delight. (I tend to respond the same way when someone asks if they can help me.) The key, so often, is remembering – and being brave enough – to ask.

Sometimes, I admit, I’m too wrapped up in my own frustrations (or too overwhelmed by the demands of the to-do list) to think about helping other people. And often I am the one who needs to ask for help. But I am trying to take a leaf out of Jane’s book and remember to ask. Because I want to be a person who helps.

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emily of deep valley mums gourd

Recently, I reread Emily of Deep Valley, a lesser-known book by Maud Hart Lovelace of Betsy-Tacy fame. I read it for the first time a few years ago, and fell in love with Emily’s sweet spirit. An orphan who lives with her grandfather, Emily struggles when her friends all go off to college and she’s left behind in Deep Valley. (While her grandfather is a kind man, this is 1912 and it’s never crossed his mind that she might want to go to college.)

I’ve loved Betsy Ray and her friends since I was a little girl, but I also found Emily a kindred spirit: she’s shy and introverted, but kind, intelligent, generous and deeply loyal. This time around, I related to her feelings of being left behind: when it seems everyone has a purpose to fill their days except you, it can be hard to keep going.

One Sunday morning, though, Emily hears a quote from Shakespeare that bolsters her up: “Muster your wits; stand in your own defense.”

While that line doesn’t erase her loneliness or her worries, it gives her a mantra to focus on, and helps her get up the courage to seek out some good things – dancing lessons, a book group, even a few dates – to fill her lonely winter. As I continue with the job hunt, I am reaching for Shakespeare’s words (and Emily’s example) frequently these days.

Mustering my wits sometimes looks like self-care: yoga in the morning, a chai latte at Darwin’s, long walks in the autumn sunshine, baking a batch of scones. It can also look like being brave: reaching out to a friend via text or email to schedule a lunch or coffee date. Quite often, it simply looks like doing what needs to be done: freelance work, job applications, church administrative work, laundry, dishes. Some of these tasks are their own reward, and some I’m just relieved to cross off the list. But all of them help me move forward, especially on the days when I seem to spend all my time fighting back the dark.

I’m lucky to have a supportive community: my husband, my family, an inner circle of dear friends. (I also deeply appreciate the support from this blog community, including the comments on this recent post.) But in the end, like Emily, I do have to stand in my own defense. It’s ultimately my responsibility to muster my wits, and get on with the hard work of finding a job and living my life while I’m searching.

Emily’s story has a happy ending on several levels: she finds a new purpose in her work with Deep Valley’s Syrian community, makes some new friends and falls in love with a good man. My story, of course, isn’t over yet; I’m living in the messy middle, in so many ways. But I am glad to have Emily (and Shakespeare) along on my journey, when I need the reminder to muster my wits.

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red yellow leaves autumn light

“The climate changed quickly to cold and the trees burst into color, the reds and yellows you can’t believe.

yellow leaves boston blue sky

“It isn’t only color but a glowing, as though the leaves gobbled the light of the autumn sun and then released it slowly.

red leaves blue sky light

“There’s a quality of fire in these colors.

memorial church red leaves blue sky

—John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

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poetry books

No poet ever wrote a poem to dishonor life, to compromise high ideals, to scorn religious views, to demean hope or gratitude, to argue against tenderness, to place rancor before love, or to praise littleness of soul. Not one. Not ever.

On the contrary, poets have, in freedom and in prison, in health and in misery, with listeners and without listeners, spent their lives examining and glorifying life, meditation, thoughtfulness, devoutness, and human love. They have done this wildly, serenely, rhetorically, lyrically, without hope of answer or reward. They have done this grudgingly, willingly, patiently, and in the steams of impatience.

They have done it for all and any of the gods of life, and the record of their so doing belongs to each one of us.

Including you.

—Mary Oliver, Rules for the Dance

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book art brookline booksmith

Reading is sometimes thought of as a form of escapism, and it’s a common turn of phrase to speak of getting lost in a book. But a book can also be where one finds oneself; and when a reader is grasped and held by a book, reading does not feel like an escape from life so much as it feels like an urgent, crucial dimension of life itself. There are books that seem to comprehend us just as much as we understand them, or even more. There are books that grow with the reader as the reader grows, like a graft to a tree.

—Rebecca Mead, My Life in Middlemarch

As I mentioned recently, I loved Mead’s thoughtful memoir about the effect Middlemarch has had on her life, but this passage struck me as particularly eloquent and true.

There are a few books that have definitely grown with me. They include childhood favorites such as Little Women, the Anne of Green Gables series, the Betsy-Tacy series and the Little House on the Prairie series, and books I discovered in high school or college, such as the Harry Potter series, Madeleine L’Engle’s memoirs (especially A Circle of Quiet and Walking on Water), Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night, and my beloved Advent book, Watch for the Light.

I’ve also discovered books in the last decade or so –  Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, Julia Cameron’s The Sound of Paper, many wonderful novels, Mary Oliver’s poetry – that I hope will grow with me through the rest of my life. I have found myself in their pages; they have held me and comforted me, taught me and challenged me to grow.

Reading – ever since I was a little bespectacled girl, sitting in the corner at school or curled up on my bed with my nose in a book – has been, and remains, a crucial dimension of my own life.

What books have grown with you?

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