I respect kindness to human beings first of all, and kindness to animals. I don’t respect the law; I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society, except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper, and old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.

Brendan Behan

I believe in the forest, and in the meadow, and in the night in which the corn grows.

Henry David Thoreau

In town, they called my grandfather Applejack. Do you know what applejack is? It’s before moonshine becomes moonshine. If you won’t wait for it to ferment, it’s applejack. My grandfather just drank a whole lot of applejack. And dated other women. Finally, my grandmother said, “Enough is enough,” and she left him, which was pretty strange for the 1920s. She raised her six children herself. She did people’s laundry by night and was a waitress at the Greyhound bus station in the day. The one poignant note: even though she’d thrown him out, she did his laundry for him until the day he died.

Polly Gardner
quoted in Elizabeth Stone’s Black Sheep and Kissing Cousins: How Our Family Stories Shape Us

Your own wounds can be healed with weeping,
your own wounds can be healed with singing,
but the widow, the indian, the poor man, the fisherman
stand bleeding right there in your doorway. . . .

Pablo Neruda
“Full October”

And this is the simple truth: that to live is to feel oneself lost. He who accepts it has already begun to find himself, to be on firm ground. Instinctively, as do the shipwrecked, he will look round for something to which to cling; and that tragic, ruthless glance, absolutely sincere because it is a question of his salvation, will cause him to bring order into the chaos of his life. These are the only genuine ideas, the ideas of the shipwrecked. All the rest is rhetoric, posturing, farce.

Sören Kierkegaard

How much shall I be changed, before I am changed!

John Donne

I would have expected narrow-mindedness and boredom. But gradually I came to appreciate the difference in perspective between trainmen and their more worldly world-traveling passengers. Theirs is an approach that is, perhaps, more linear, if only in the geographic sense, and yet wider, I think, in other ways. They are where they are, and not where they’re going.

Cheryl Coull
“Rails into the Wild”

Later she came into the house and sat in front of the telephone, staring at it, waiting for it to come to life, hoping, beseeching, lifting it from time to time to make sure it was not out of order; then, relieved at its regular purr, she would drop it suddenly in case he should be dialing at that very moment, which he wasn’t.

Edna O’Brien
August Is a Wicked Month

Consciously or unconsciously, we are all utterly selfish, and so long as we get what we want, we consider that everything is all right. But the moment an event takes place to shatter all this, we cry out in despair, hoping to find other comforts which, of course, will again be shattered. So this process goes on, and if you want to be caught in it, knowing full well the implications of it, then go ahead. But if you see the absurdity of it all, then you will naturally stop crying and live with a smile on your face.

J. Krishnamurti

Sylvie, on her side, inhabited a millenial present. To her, the deterioration of things was always a fresh surprise, a disappointment not to be dwelt on.

Marilynne Robinson
Housekeeping

Coming late, as always,
I try to remember what I almost heard.

M.S. Merwin

My father never kept a diary, but he never threw away a canceled check, either. When he died a few years ago I came across thousands of them in perfect order in a series of shoeboxes. Amidst stacks of others that took the family from the children’s milk through his own bifocals, I found the one that paid the doctor who delivered me. My father knew they didn’t audit you for 1951 in 1980; he kept those checks for another reason.

Thomas Mallon
A Book of One’s Own: People and Their Diaries