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
Put on your party hats—we're celebrating a couple of birthdays. First of all, HeartWood turned two years old on February 10. Can you believe it?
And yesterday, I turned . . . somewhat older than two.
As my birthday approached, I reflected on previous birthdays and the many days between all those birthdays. That train of thought gave me an idea for this post: write about one important lesson learned from each decade of my life.
Easy enough. Or so I thought until I sat down and tried to choose one bit of knowledge or wisdom from each decade. Not so easy. For instance, how do you select just one essential thing that you learned between the ages of 10 and 20? There were so many—from the practical (driving) to the spiritual (oh, those many, many Bible verses in Baptist Sunday school), with all sorts of others in between, some learned in classrooms, others by experience.
So while it may not be possible to pick the essential lesson from each decade, I've tried to select one enduring lesson from each of those time spans.
Here's what I came up with:
By age 30, I had my life more or less mapped out. Then one day I looked at that map and went: Wait a minute—I'm going where?? I don't think so! The problem was, going a different way meant leaving a long-term relationship, stepping off a professional track, moving to a part of the country where I never imagined myself living—in short, heading a completely different direction with no guarantee it was the right one.
Yet some internal stirring urged me to go for it. I did, and I've never regretted it. That bold move led to a rewarding career in journalism, a new trove of treasured friendships and world-expanding experiences, and eventually, the satisfying life I'm living today.
Lesson: There's life after loss
Lesson: Stay flexible
Lesson: It's never too late
Happy Valentine's Day! I don't know if it's the memory of grade-school valentine exchanges or the connection with chocolate, but this has always been one of my favorite holidays.
In the beginning
Perhaps it was that sincerity and mutual respect that helped them develop a partnership in which they could hone their own talents while encouraging each other's. That's a key to creative coupledom, say Katie and Gay Hendricks, husband-and-wife coauthors of Conscious Loving Ever After. "When people get in deeper communication with their own individual creative essence, their relationships blossom as a direct result," they write.
Space, Skills, Support
For George and Mallory, support goes beyond encouragement; they also help each other find space and time for creative pursuits. George might move a new loom into Mallory's studio, then do the laundry and fix dinner while she sets it up. Mallory will handle other logistics to give George a chance to "dream or wander or putz around with something."
"I see the play of light in her work, the texture, shapes and colors more deeply than others might," says George. "Photographic elements."
Giving George extra encouragement at that stressful time seemed like a no-brainer to Mallory. "One wants one's lover to be happy, fulfilled and eager to go on," she says.
Passing It On
Author Lene Fogelberg is visiting today to share some tips for kick-starting a sluggish creative engine. You may remember meeting Lene (pronounced LEN-ay) when she visited HeartWood more than a year ago to talk about writing, health, and her memoir, Beautiful Affliction.
Lene's Ten Creativity Boosters
Lately, I have been thinking about creativity, especially since I recently experienced a surge in inspiration after returning from our holiday in Sydney, Australia.
Even before I had recovered from jet lag, new ideas for writing projects kept popping up into my mind. I felt compelled to examine this process further, by pondering how, why and when I have experienced bursts of creativity in my life.
Attend to Your Health
Our health has a great impact on all aspects of life, creativity included, but I also know from experience that doing something creative can be a great source of comfort and even alleviate pain. Since this post is about boosting creativity, the first step would be to do what we can to feel healthy and well-rested. But, as I told you, in the midst of jetlag and general post-holiday/travel fatigue, I still felt a surge of creativity that consequently must have been generated from other sources of inspiration.
Get Out In the World
Since we had just come back from our travel to Australia, full of new impressions, my first thought was that this must be a great booster of creativity. To experience new places, sights, sounds, scents and tastes, and to interact with new people. To marvel over the wonderfully cheerful Australian accent, to be called "love" and to "ooh" and "aah" over the fireworks next to strangers who helped us get the best viewing spot over the harbour.
Meet New People
Yes, this, to meet new people, should be its own item on the list. To talk to them, to listen to their stories, and to—just as important for a writer—observe them. Not in a stalker-ish way, but just as they go about their ordinary business. In Sydney, I couldn’t help but notice the street singer who always stood on the same corner in his washed-out jeans and blond curls, singing Hallelujah with a silky voice to the tunes from his worn guitar; the tanned, muscular woman working on the ferry, lassoing the thick ropes like a cowboy as the ferry docked; the cashier in the corner supermarket, interrupting the loud stream of words into his cell phone to look up at us with a soft "How can I help you?"
Kick Back With TV or a Book
And in the evenings, when we were sprawled out on the living room sofa after having walked all over Sydney, we enjoyed watching TV: news, series, comedy, anything that gave us an additional flavour of the Australian culture, and insights into the people and their stories. For example, we watched the miniseries called Hoges about Paul Hogan, the real life Crocodile Dundee. It was really enlightening, and helped me understand just how big a phenomenon Hogan was and still is in Australia, and how much his story helped shape the Australian brand overseas and domestically. Whenever I encounter a new place, I also enjoy to read up on people and places, to more fully understand the culture. A while back I read a lot by novelist Patrick White, and it was such a great experience to visit the country he so vividly described in his novels.
Get a Move On
I already mentioned that we walked a lot, and I mean A LOT. Wow, we got so much exercise, and even though I was very tired in the evenings, it must have done me good, since I’m having this surge in well-being and creativity. We rented a small townhouse by Barangaroo Reserve, in the heart of Sydney, with harbour views from nearly every window. I took this picture a few steps from our front door, and it was wonderful to breathe the ocean air, and watch the sun set, mirrored in the silvery water.
This, to spend time in nature, seems to always recharge my mind, body and soul in every way. Somehow I feel happier, stronger, more alive and more like myself, when I am surrounded by trees, rocks, earth and water. It seems to sharpen my senses, make me more aware of the details in every leaf of grass, flower and every ripple of the water surface.
Capture the Beauty
These beautiful views seem to urge me to capture them, when I was younger on canvas, and nowadays more often using photography. This in turn, I believe, helps me see more details, moods, shadows and shades, that I otherwise might have missed. Learning photography has turned to be a great source of inspiration in my writing. Come to think of it, the first chapter of Beautiful Affliction starts with a photograph!
Indeed, all crafts tend to cross-pollinate each other, which is why, I believe, so many writers are also artists, musicians, designers, gardeners, photographers, bakers etc. To do something crafty, seems to stimulate our creative minds in all directions.
Connect With Other Creative Types
And as we engage in our favourite crafts, we tend to gravitate to, but also attract, other creative people, who can be a great source of inspiration. These days we needn’t create in solitude, instead we can find like-minded friends on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, in the blogosphere, and of course, IRL: in real life.
Accentuate the Positive
Learning from and about other creative people can also help us cultivate positive paradigms on craft/creativity and lift our spirits when we suffer setbacks or when we feel like the well of our creativity has dried up. I love the uplifting "can-do" spirit that is often shared on Instagram, and the many tips from bloggers, and the never-ending jokes and shenanigans on Twitter. Perhaps especially for me, a Swedish writer living in Asia, social media has proven to be a valuable source of inspiration, connection and a place to find friends, now that I live so far from home.
from the heart of the woods
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.
Last Wednesday Wisdom
Return To Paradise