From the beginning, I have tried to keep HeartWood politically neutral, partly as a haven from all the discord around us, and partly because plenty of other outlets exist for expressing my political views, if I wish to do so.
I'm not about to change course here, but I do want to remind readers that we have an important midterm election coming up next week. I encourage you to vote!
In case you need more encouragement, here are some other people's thoughts on voting and democracy.
Voting is like alchemy—taking an abstract value and breathing life into it. Voting is the expression of our commitment to ourselves, one another, this country and this world.
-- Sharon Salzberg
Every election is determined by the people who show up.
-- Larry Sabato
Elections belong to the people. It's their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.
-- Abraham Lincoln
Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.
-- Franklin D. Roosevelt
Voting is a civic sacrament—the highest responsibility we have as Americans.
-- Christine Pelosi
As I think of it, democracy isn't like a Sunday suit to be brought out and worn only for parades. It's the kind of a life a decent man leads, it's something to live for and to die for.
-- Dalton Trumbo
Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.
-- Franklin D. Roosevelt
Democracy is the only system capable of reflecting the humanist premise of equilibrium or balance. The key to its secret is the involvement of the citizen.
-- John Ralston Saul
Not voting is disrespecting the best of what this nation stands for.
-- Thomas Hauser
Deliberation and debate is the way you stir the soul of our democracy.
-- Jesse Jackson
Voting is the foundational act that breathes life into the principle of the consent of the governed.
-- DeForest Soaries
Ever since I switched from weekly posts to a twice-a-month posting schedule, I've been depriving you, dear readers, of the end-of-month collections of wisdom that many of you have told me you enjoy. When I noticed that this month has an extra Wednesday, I thought I'd throw in a bonus post with tidbits I've been collecting over the summer.
Be tender to each other, teach a kid to read, laugh, be more tender than yesterday, repeat, ad infinitum.
-- Brian Doyle
It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.
-- Ursula K. Le Guin
Recognize yourself in he and she who are not like you and me.
-- Carlos Fuentes
Art is the means we have of undoing the damage of haste. It's what everything else isn't.
-- Theodore Roethke
In a way, nobody sees a flower, really; it is so small. We haven't time, and to see takes time—like to have a friend takes time.
-- Georgia O'Keeffe
Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up.
-- David Orr
The quest for knowledge can be never-ending, because when you find out one thing, you want to know more. It's the joy of being a human: we're curiosity with arms and legs.
-- Sylvia Earle, The Sun magazine, July 2018
Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.
-- Truman Capote
My theory is that everyone, at one time or another, has been at the fringe of society in some way: an outcast in high school, a stranger in a foreign country, the best at something, the worst at something, the one who's different. Being an outsider is the one thing we all have in common.
-- Alice Hoffman
The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.
The most solid advice . . . for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.
-- William Saroyan
Breathe in experience, breathe out poetry.
-- Muriel Rukeyser
The heart pounds away, day after day, so synced up to our every movement we don't even notice. Yet it sustains us. Soft and vulnerable beneath our breast, it's no wonder this big, red muscle is the universal symbol for loving and feeling. To live is to feel. To love is to survive together. Our tender hearts connect our inner worlds with the lives all around us.
-- Claire Ciel Zimmerman, Mindful magazine, June 2017
[The waves] move across a faint horizon, the rush of love and the surge of grief, the respite of peace and then fear again, the heart that beats and then lies still, the rise and fall and rise and fall of all of it, the incoming and the outgoing, the infinite procession of life. And the ocean wraps the earth, a reminder. The mysteries come forward in waves.
-- Susan Casey
By the way, I'll be continuing the twice-a-month posting schedule rather than weekly posts, for a bit longer, posting on the first and third Wednesdays of the month.
Here are the dates for the next few months' posts:
On the last Wednesday of every month, I serve up a potpourri of advice, inspiration and other tidbits I've come across in recent weeks. This month -- this week, in fact -- finds us commemorating both Earth Day and Arbor Day. In the spirit of those two observances, here's a collection of quotes about nature and the planet on which we live.
As a bonus, I'm including at the end of this post, some of my favorite nature shots from our recent visit to the Southwest.
Love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need -- if only we had the eyes to see.
-- Edward Abbey
Find your place on the planet, dig in, and take responsibility from there.
-- Gary Snyder
The Earth was small, light blue, and so touchingly alone, our home that must be defended like a holy relic. The Earth was absolutely round. I believe I never knew what the word round meant until I saw Earth from space.
-- Alexey Leonov, Russian cosmonaut
The universe is composed of subjects to be communed with, not objects to be exploited. Everything has its own voice. Thunder and lightning and stars and planets, flowers, birds, animals, trees -- all of these have voices, and they constitute a community of existence that is profoundly related.
-- Thomas Berry
The earth is a living thing. Mountains speak, trees sing, lakes can think, pebbles have a soul, rocks have power.
-- Henry Crow Dog
When I get sick of what men do, I have only to walk a few steps in another direction to see what spiders do. Or what weather does. This sustains me very well indeed.
-- E.B. White, One Man's Meat
Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of the birds, the ebb and flow of the tides, the folded bud ready for spring. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.
-- Rachel Carson
Nature repairs her ravages -- but not all. The uptorn trees are not rooted again; the parted hills are left scarred; if there is a new growth, the trees are not the same as the old, and the hills underneath their green vesture bear the marks of the past rending. To the eyes that have dwelt on the past, there is no thorough repair.
-- George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss
What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?
-- Henry David Thoreau
Loyd: "It has to do with keeping things in balance . . . It's like the spirits have made a deal with us . . . The spirits have been good enough to let us live here and use the utilities, and we're saying: . . . We appreciate the rain, we appreciate the sun, we appreciate the deer we took . . . You've gone to a lot of trouble, and we'll try to be good guests."
Codi: "Like a note you'd send somebody after you stayed in their house?"
Loyd: "Exactly like that. 'Thanks for letting me sleep on your couch. I took some beer out of the refrigerator, and I broke a coffee cup. Sorry. I hope it wasn't your favorite one.' "
-- Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams
And now, for a little more nature appreciation . . .
Once again, it's time for our end-of-month roundup of wise words. No particular theme this month--or so I thought until I assembled all the tidbits I'd been collecting. Then I realized there were several on communication, freedom, and hope. Hmmmmm. Interesting.
Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.
-- Rabindranath Tagore
The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said.
-- Peter F. Drucker
We habitually erect a barrier called blame that keeps us from communicating genuinely with others, and we fortify it with our concepts of who's right and who's wrong. We do that with the people who are closest to us, and we do it with political systems . . . It is a very common, ancient, well-perfected device for trying to feel better . . . Blaming is a way to protect our hearts, to try to protect what is soft and open and tender in ourselves. Rather than own that pain, we scramble to find some comfortable ground.
-- Pema Chödrön
Grace is beauty of form under the influence of freedom
-- Friedrich Schiller
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.
-- Lewis B. Smedes
To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places--and there are so many--where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
-- Howard Zinn
It's easy to see the good in others if that's what you decide to do.
-- Ann Patchett
Everybody on TV exercises his or her right to express dogmatic beliefs at top volume, but we almost never see a model for deep, attentive listening. The value of genuinely being in each other's presence, regardless of whether we happen to agree, seems to be almost completely lost in our social discourse. That's why we get so little meaning from all our public arguments. It seems that we don't even know how to facilitate genuine presence, the kind of authentic being with each-other that may actually bring about real, positive change.
-- Jacob Needleman, "Beyond Belief," The Sun, December 2011
We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion, The great task in life is to find reality.
-- Iris Murdoch
What we want hasn't changed for thousands of years because as far as we can tell the human template hasn't changed either. We still want the purse that will always be filled with gold, and the Fountain of Youth. We want the table that will cover itself with delicious food whenever we say the word, and that will be cleaned up afterwards by invisible servants . . . We want cute, smart children who will treat us with the respect we deserve. We want to be surrounded by music, and by ravishing scents and attractive visual objects. We don't want to be too hot or too cold. We want to dance. We want to speak with the animals. We want to be envied. We want to be immortal. We want to be as gods.
But in addition, we want wisdom and justice. We want hope. We want to be good.
-- Margaret Atwood
Friends have been foremost in my mind this month, partly because of all the wonderful cards, emails and calls that came my way on my birthday. But this month has also been a trying time for many friends who've been dealing with illness and loss, and I hold them in my heart.
With all of that in mind, I'm dedicating this month's Last Wednesday Wisdom to friendship, with a collection of quotes on the subject. Incidentally, tracking the quotes down turned out to be a bigger challenge than I expected. While a Google search turns up loads of friendship quotes, confirming their sources isn't so easy. For instance, I discovered that one popular quote attributed to Albert Camus may have originated in the 1970s as an Iowa high school class motto. Other quotes are correctly attributed, but taken out of context.
I did uncover a valuable resource in the course of researching quotes, though. On his blog, The Quote Investigator, author Garson O'Toole investigates the origins of popular quotations. While he hasn't investigated all the quotes I'm citing here, he did clear up confusion about several. So cheers to Garson O'Toole—and to friends!
When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.
-- Henri J.M. Nouwen
You can't stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.
-- Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)
I have no duty to be anyone's Friend and no man in the world has a duty to be mine. No claims, no shadow of necessity. Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself . . . It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.
-- C.S. Lewis
I think if I've learned anything about friendship, it's to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don't walk away, don't be distracted, don't be too busy or tired, don't take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff.
-- Jon Katz
“Why did you do all this for me?” he asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.”
“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”
-- E.B. White, Charlotte's Web
Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.
-- Muhammad Ali
If you have two friends in your lifetime, you’re lucky. If you have one good friend, you’re more than lucky.
-- S.E. Hinton, That Was Then, This Is Now
But please remember . . . that no person is your friend (or kin) who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow and be perceived as fully blossomed as you were intended.
-- Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose
Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.
-- Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934
Friendship is the bestiest thing that comes to life.
-- Marilyn Monroe
On the last Wednesday of every month, I serve up a potpourri of advice, inspiration and other tidbits I've come across in recent weeks. On this wintry Wednesday, I've gathered up an assortment of thoughts about the season and the pastimes--reading, writing, music, laughter, gatherings with friends--that help us get through it.
And if all of that doesn't warm you up enough, I'm throwing in a winter getaway at the end: a little jaunt down to Memphis to recap our visit to Graceland a few months ago. Believe it or not, there's a connection here. Though this isn't something I would normally have on my calendar, I happened to hear on the radio that Elvis's birthday was January 8. So come on along to Graceland for a belated birthday celebration. You just might get a taste of peanut butter-banana ice cream. It's never too cold for that!
Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.
-- Victor Hugo, poet, author, playwright
If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.
-- Haruki Murakami, author
What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.
-- John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America
Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it's the answer to everything . . . It's the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it's a cactus.
-- Enid Bagnold, author and playwright
My old grandmother always used to say, Summer friends will melt away like summer snows, but winter friends are friends forever.
-- George R.R. Martin, A Feast for Crows
The real purpose of books is to trap the mind into doing its own thinking.
-- Christopher Morley, author
Music brings a warm glow to my vision, thawing mind and muscle from their endless wintering.
-- Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world.
-- Anne Lamott, author
I want to watch the blue mist of the night come on,
The windows and the stars illumined, one by one,
The rivers of dark smoke pour upward lazily,
And the moon rise and turn them silver. I shall see
The springs, the summers, and the autumns slowly pass;
And when old Winter puts his blank face to the glass,
I shall close all my shutters, pull the curtains tight,
And build me stately palaces by candlelight.
-- Charles Baudelaire, Les Fleurs du Mal
There are more truths in a good book than its author meant to put into it.
-- Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, author and playwright
I'm not even going to try for a graceful segue, except to say, "And now, for something completely different . . . "
All Graceland photos by Nan Pokerwinski
On the last Wednesday of every month, I serve up a potpourri of advice, inspiration and other tidbits I've come across in recent weeks. This Wednesday, we're not only near the end of the month, but also nearing the end of 2017. So today, I'm sharing some thoughts I want to keep in mind as we leave this year behind and move forward into a new one.
We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.
-- Ray Bradbury
Genuine compassion comes from the fact that you see your own limitations: you wish to be kind, and you find that you aren't. Then, instead of beating yourself up, you see that that's what all human beings are up against, and you begin to have . . . genuine compassion for the human condition.
-- Pema Chödrön
On the late-afternoon streets, everyone hurries along, going about their own business. Who is the person walking in front of you on the rain-drenched sidewalk? He is covered with an umbrella, and all you can see is a dark coat and the shoes striking the puddles. And yet this person is the hero of his own life story. He is the love of someone's life. And what he can do may change the world. Imagine being him for a moment.
And then continue on your own way.
-- Vera Nazarian
Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.
-- Rachel Carson
Above all, don't fear the difficult moments. The best always comes from them.
-- Rita Levi-Montalcini
The happiness of life . . . is made up of minute fractions -- the little, soon-forgotten charities of a kiss, a smile, a kind look, a gentle word, a heartfelt compliment.
-- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.
-- Søren Kierkegaard
The human experience of aging is interwoven with vulnerability. And what if it's OK to be vulnerable? What if that's the point? What if wisdom and connection, depth and richness all spring from the shimmer of impermanence? You don't have to pretend the sensations of aging are comfortable, or pleasant, or wanted. But what you can do is be present as it all bubbles up -- the whole goopy, horrifying, colorful mess called being alive.
-- Elaine Smookler, "Anti-Aging? No Thanks," Mindful magazine, April 2017.
A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.
-- Frederick William Faber
Always be a little kinder than is necessary.
-- Sir J.M. Barrie
I know. Thanksgiving was last week. But let's carry that spirit forward for awhile. Here are some thoughts about gratitude to keep us in that frame of mind.
Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.
-- William Arthur Ward
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
-- John F. Kennedy, November 5, 1963
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
-- Melodie Beattie
At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.
-- Albert Schweitzer
Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.
-- Marcus Tullius Cicero
"Thank you" is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.
-- Alice Walker
Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life . . . and the world.
-- Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude
I write about the power of trying, because I want to be okay with failing. I write about generosity because I battle selfishness. I write about joy because I know sorrow. I write about faith because I almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption. I write about gratitude because I am thankful - for all of it.
-- Kristin Armstrong
One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings.
-- Carl Jung
Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind.
-- Lionel Hampton
What are you grateful for today?
This month's collection of wisdom is a mixed bag, a reflection of what I've been thinking and doing since we returned from vacation. First came the obsessing over all the things I needed and wanted to catch up on, then the realization that I didn't need to do them all at once. When I settled down enough to set priorities, it was with a renewed commitment to my creative projects, both ongoing and new.
I also spent some time reflecting on our travels and on the benefits of travel in general. And then, because my daily at-home routine involves at least a little attention to the news of the day, I sought guidance to help me keep distressing events in perspective.
Finally, travels over and routine restored, I found comfort in being right where I am, right now.
We have to fight them daily, like fleas, those many small worries about the morrow, for they sap our energies.
-- Etty Hillesum
I believe that if you do not answer the noise and urgency of your gifts, they will turn on you. Or drag you down with their immense sadness at being abandoned.
-- Joy Harjo, Crazy Brave
Work is love made visible.
-- Ama Ata Aidoo
We see achievement as purposeful and monolithic, like the sculpting of a massive tree trunk that has first to be brought from the forest and then shaped by long labor to assert the artist's vision, rather than something crafted from odds and ends, like a patchwork quilt, and lovingly used to warm different nights and bodies.
-- Mary Catherine Bateson
You throw an anchor into the future you want to build, and you pull yourself along by the chain.
-- John O'Neal
The more I traveled, the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends.
-- Shirley MacLaine
We say, "Seeing is believing," but actually . . . we are all much better at believing than at seeing. In fact, we are seeing what we believe nearly all the time and only occasionally seeing what we can't believe.
-- Robert Anton Wilson
I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them.
-- Baruch Spinoza
Perhaps the most radical thing we can do is stay home, so we can learn the names of the plants and animals around us; so that we can begin to know what tradition we're part of.
-- Terry Tempest Williams
The little things? The little moments? They aren't little.
-- Jon Kabat-Zinn
What's on your mind as this month draws to an end?
I've been taking a time-out this month, doing some relaxing, some traveling, shaking up the usual routine. In that spirit, I offer a selection of quotes about leisure, recreation and travel. I hope you'll take time out to enjoy them!
The healthy being craves an occasional wildness, a jolt from normality, a sharpening of the edge of appetite . . . a brief excursion from his way of life.
-- Robert Morrison MacIver
If bread is the first necessity of life, recreation is a close second.
-- Edward Bellamy
Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.
-- Terry Pratchett, A Hatful of Sky
Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.
-- Anita Desai
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows...
-- William Henry Davies, "Leisure"
In matters of healing the body or the mind, vacation is a true genius!
-- Mehmet Murat ildan
Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.
-- Maya Angelou, Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now
The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is . . .
-- Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past
Written from the heart,
from the heart of the woods
Read the introduction to HeartWood here.
Nan Sanders Pokerwinski, a former journalist, writes memoir and personal essays, makes collages and likes to play outside. She lives in West Michigan with her husband, Ray.