From infancy I was surrounded by music. . . . To hear my father play the piano was an ecstasy for me. When I was two or three, I would sit on the floor beside him as he played, and I would press my head against the piano in order to absorb the sound more completely. . . . When I was eleven years old, I heard the cello played for the first time. . . . When the first composition ended, I told my father, “Father, that is the most wonderful instrument I have ever heard. That is what I want to play.”

Pablo Casals
Joys and Sorrows

Inventing a story with grass,
I find a young horse deep inside it.

James Dickey

Our intellect and other gifts have been given to be used for God’s greater glory, but sometimes they become the very god for us. That is the saddest part: we are losing our balance when this happens. We must free ourselves to be filled by God. Even God cannot fill what is full.

Mother Teresa

I work from 7 to 3:30. My arms are tired by 7:30. It’s sort of funny. In between, I don’t even try to think. . . . You try to make your mind a blank. If I were to put you in front of a dock and I pulled up a skid in front of you with fifty 100-pound sacks of potatoes, and there are fifty more skids just like it, and this is what you’re gonna do all day, what would you think about — potatoes?

Mike Fitzgerald
Interviewed by Studs Terkel

Marvelous Truth, confront us
at every turn,
in every guise.

Denise Levertov

People who love soft words and hate iniquity forget this, that reform consists in taking a bone away from a dog. Philosophy will not do this.

John Jay Chapman

She lived in capital letters.

Al Carmine
Eulogy for Marion Tanner

I do not believe in political movements. I believe in personal movement, that movement of the soul when a man who looks at himself is so ashamed that he tries to make some sort of change — within himself, not on the outside.

Joseph Brodsky

Kindness and intelligence don’t always deliver us from the pitfalls and traps: there are always failures of love, of will, of imagination. There is no way to take the danger out of human relationships.

Barbara Harrison

Memory, the priestess,
kills the present
and offers its heart
to the shrine of the dead past.

Rabindranath Tagore

No; we have been as usual asking the wrong question. It does not matter a hoot what the mockingbird on the chimney is singing. . . . The real and proper question is: why is it beautiful?

Annie Dillard
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Q: Why does a Jew always answer a question with a question?
A: And why should a Jew not answer a question with a question?

Erica Jong
Fear of Flying

He had noticed that this particular quality in the air of new countries vanished after they were tamed by man and made to bear harvests . . . that lightness, that dry aromatic odor. . . . One could breathe that only on the bright edges of the world, on the great grass plains or the sagebrush desert. . . . Something soft and wild and free; something that whispered to the ear on the pillow, lightened the heart, softly, softly picked the lock, slid the bolts, and released the prisoned spirit of man into the wind, into the blue and gold, into the morning, into the morning!

Willa Cather
Death Comes for the Archbishop

I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.

E.B. White