To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.
~ Terry Tempest Williams
To Begin With, the Sweet Grass
Will the hungry ox stand in the field and not eat
of the sweet grass?
Will the owl bite off its own wings?
Will the lark forget to lift its body in the air or
forget to sing?
Will the rivers run upstream?
Behold, I say—behold
the reliability and the finery and the teachings
of this gritty earth gift.
Eat bread and understand comfort.
Drink water, and understand delight.
Visit the garden where the scarlet trumpets
are opening their bodies for the hummingbirds
who are drinking the sweetness, who are
For one thing leads to another.
Soon you will notice how stones shine underfoot.
Eventually tides will be the only calendar you believe in.
And someone’s face, whom you love, will be as a star
both intimate and ultimate,
and you will be both heart-shaken and respectful.
And you will hear the air itself, like a beloved, whisper:
oh, let me, for a while longer, enter the two
beautiful bodies of your lungs.
The witchery of living
is my whole conversation
with you, my darlings.
All I can tell you is what I know.
Look, and look again.
This world is not just a little thrill for the eyes.
It’s more than bones.
It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.
It’s more than the beating of the single heart.
It’s giving until the giving feels like receiving.
You have a life—just imagine that!
You have this day, and maybe another, and maybe
~ Mary Oliver (you can read the rest of this poem here).
It’s not that I don’t appreciate summer: I do. I love it deeply, from the first rich flush of hawthorn blossoms to the last fading mauves of August heather. I love the green and the growing, the treasures of the hedgerows, and the always astonishing abundance of the land which surrounds me. It’s just that I love autumn and winter more. Something opens up in me then – something soft and deep and glowing – which is far too shy to expose itself to the inexhaustible light of summer.
~ Sharon Blackie, The Enchanted Life
The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.
— Henry D. Thoreau
The animacy of the world is something we already know, but the language of animacy teeters on extinction — not just for Native peoples, but for everyone. Our toddlers speak of plants and animals as if they were people, extending to them self and intention and compassion — until we teach them not to. We quickly retrain them and make them forget. When we tell them that the tree is not a who, but an it, we make that maple an object; we put a barrier between us, absolving ourselves of moral responsibility and opening the door to exploitation. Saying it makes a living land into “natural resources.” If a maple is an it, we can take up the chain saw. If a maple is a her, we think twice.
… Learning the grammar of animacy could well be a restraint on our mindless exploitation of land. But there is more to it. I have heard our elders give advice like “You should go among the standing people” or “Go spend some time with those Beaver people.” They remind us of the capacity of others as our teachers, as holders of knowledge, as guides. Imagine walking through a richly inhabited world of Birch people, Bear people, Rock people, beings we think of and therefore speak of as persons worthy of our respect, of inclusion in a peopled world. We Americans are reluctant to learn a foreign language of our own species, let alone another species. But imagine the possibilities. Imagine the access we would have to different perspectives, the things we might see through other eyes, the wisdom that surrounds us. We don’t have to figure out everything by ourselves; there are intelligences other than our own, teachers all around us. Imagine how much less lonely the world would be.
~ Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
We dream of having a clean house — but who dreams of actually doing the cleaning? We don’t have to dream about doing the work, because doing the work is always within our grasp; the dream, in this sense, is to attain the goal without the work.
~ Marcus Buckingham
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Lower the bar. Actually spending ten minutes clearing off one shelf is better than fantasizing about spending the weekend cleaning out the basement.
~ Gretchen Rubin
Look at everyone around you and see what we have done about ourselves and what is considered our daily victory. We have not loved above all things. We have not accepted what is not understood because we do not want to be fools. We have accumulated things and assurances for not having each other. We have no joy that has not been cataloged. We have built cathedrals and we have stayed on the outside, because the cathedrals that we ourselves build fear that they are traps. We have not given ourselves, because that would be the beginning of a long life and we fear it. We have avoided falling on our knees in front of the first of us who out of love says: you are afraid. We have organized associations and smiling clubs where it is served with or without soda. We have tried to save ourselves, but without using the word salvation so as not to be ashamed of being innocent. We have not used the word love to avoid having to recognize its context of hatred, love, jealousy and so many other opposites. We have kept our death a secret to make our life possible. Many of us make art because we do not know what the other thing is like. We have disguised our indifference with false love, knowing that our indifference is anguish in disguise. We have disguised the great fear with the little fear and that’s why we never talk about what really matters. Talking about what really matters is considered an indiscretion. We have not adored for having the sensible stinginess of remembering the false gods in time. We have not been pure and naive not to laugh at ourselves and so that at the end of the day we can say “at least I was not stupid” and so we were not perplexed before turning off the light. We have smiled in public about what we would not smile when we were left alone. We have called weakness to our candor. We have feared each other, above all. And all this we consider our victory every day.
~ Clarice Lispector, An Apprenticeship, Or, The Book of Delights
“We are because we are seen; we are because we are loved. The world is because it is beheld and loved into being. On a silent retreat, while watching a line of ants traveling up a hillside, words came to me that I would repeat again and again in my mind: I am in the world to love the world.”
~ Anita Barrows, in her preface to Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy