• Category Archives Quotes
  • My America

    Summer and the Aloha Moon

    Yesterday. In the front of my house.

    Tuesday gratefuls: The USA. America. The Rockies. The Great Lakes. The Great Dismal Swamp. The Appalachians. The Okefenokee Swamp. The Big Woods. Northern Minnesota. The Cascades. The Smokies. Blue Ridge Parkway. Natchez Trace. Mississippi Delta. The Bayous. The East Coast and the West Coast. The Mississippi and the Missouri. Hawai’i. Kilauea. Mauna Kea. Kauai. The Big Island. Bison. Elk. Mule Deer. Black Bear. Grizzly. Trout. Haddock. Lobster. Bass. Walleye. Muskie. The Tetons. The Great Plains. The High Plains. Denali. Tongass. Kodiak. Salmon. Seals. Otters. Sea Lions. Walrus. Lichens. Mushrooms. Douglas Fir. Lodgepole Pine. Ponderosa. Oaks. Maples. Ironwood. Woodchucks. Turtles. Grasses. Elms. Chestnuts. Hickories. All the wild things. All.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: The soil of the Midwest.

    Tarot: Going to do a full spread


    I offer three long quotes from three different Americans. Tom Crane sent out the first a week or so ago. The other two have a central piece in my own thought and I’ve now added the Whitman piece. I present them to you after this 4th of despair and chagrin.

    They reflect, are, the America in which I still believe, of which I am a citizen, and for which I shall fight.



    Preface to Leaves of Grass

    by Walt Whitman

    “This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”


    From the Introduction to Nature, by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

    “OUR age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and Nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Embosomed for a season in Nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to Nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? The sun shines to-day also. There is more wool and flax in the fields. There are new lands, new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own works and laws and worship.

    Undoubtedly we have no questions to ask which are unanswerable. We must trust the perfection of the creation so far, as to believe that whatever curiosity the order of things has awakened in our minds, the order of things can satisfy.”


    Henry Beston, The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod.

    “We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”

  • A Druid and a Radical

    Winter                                                                                      Valentine Moon

    OK. I admit it. I occasionally take the quizzes that pop up on facebook. I mention this because one set of quizzes seems, well, accurate. The same quiz website offered two recently: What kind of ancient religion would you follow? What kind of philosopher are you?

    Druid Harvesting Mistletoe

    Though I thought I’d saved the piece about ancient religion, I didn’t. Still. The ancient religion that matched my answers? Celtic Druidism. How ’bout that? In the year leading up to my leaving the Presbyterian ministry I was in spiritual direction with John Ackerman at Westminster Presbyterian Church. When I told him I no longer believed in Jesus/God/Holy Spirit, but was more focused now on how I fit into the natural world, he said, “Well, you might be a druid.” He meant it. Not a flippant observation. Prescient.

    Since then, the Great Wheel has become my liturgical calendar. I’m much more like what I would once have critiqued as a flat-earth humanist. That is, the metaphysical realms of the world religions seem like poetry to me rather than statements about ontology. I am not a new atheist, a scorner of faith and its many, many permutations. And, yes, I recognize the role religion plays in human conflicts, but I know that most of the time religions gather people of similar demographic characteristics. When conflict emerges, it often has roots in economic and political realities that align closely with religious preferences.


    I did save the note about which philosopher I’m most like.* This also seemed apposite. It surprised me, in both instances, how the 29 questions they ask managed to get somewhere close to how I see myself.

    *Your mind works like the philosopher: Thomas Paine

    An anarchist who championed reason and free thought, Thomas Paine was never afraid to speak his mind no matter how unpopular or revolutionary his theories were. Like Paine, you see life as full of possibilities and love to shake up the status quo by thinking outside the box. You are spontaneous and communicate confidently and fluidly. Could you write a post to inspire world-transforming events like Paine’s pamphlet ‘Common Sense’ influenced the start of the American Revolution? Who knows? (But we think it might be worth a try.)

  • The Fight Ahead

    Samain                                                                          Thanksgiving Moon

    1st-amendmentA fraught topic. It has become a canard of post-election coverage that racism and other identity based prejudices drove Trump’s outsize performance in rural America. And, there is no doubt that racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia and nativism were part of Trump’s very cynical-and ultimately successful-campaign strategy.

    But, nothing is monovalent. Each one of these diseases of the clash between modernism and yesterday played some role in motivating some Trump voters, maybe most of them. But, I’m not convinced they are primary, which is not the same as saying they are either insignificant or not very dangerous. They are both significant and dangerous.

    97How you define is how you solve. “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it,” Albert Einstein said. If you have a desire to resolve the current political abyss separating the peculiar combination of the Pharaoh’s and the white working class from the rest of us, you have to decide what the problem really is.

    Let’s get started on those 59 minutes. The hollowing out of the American working class has been underway since the late 1960’s. We have gradually worn away the American dream, first eliminating good paying union jobs, then creating jobs to replace them at the so-called minimum wage, all the while creating a knowledge based economy that relies on college educated workers and high technology.

    540546_405303126228787_1694483271_nViolent conflict between and among members of the working class occur over the distribution of economic resources: jobs, home loans, good education, accessible and affordable health care, housing and food available at reasonable prices. This is where racism and xenophobia get reinforced as African-Americans, Latinos and recent immigrants compete with non-college educated whites for a vanishing supply of living wage jobs. There are few such jobs now available to persons with a high school education or less.

    It is in the political interests of the elites, which include most if not all of you who read this blog, to keep the working classes struggling against each other. That keeps them focused on their individual circumstances and on barriers to their immediate prospects, usually seen as each other.

    In this sort of analysis then a major driver for racism, misogyny, and xenophobia is economic dislocation. If this is the problem at the heart of this recent electoral tragedy, then how we get to a different electoral result relies first of all on economic policy. How can we ensure good paying jobs, decent futures for all Americans, not just those gifted by the genetic lottery with enough intelligence and cultural support to attend college? There are many answers to this question, I’ve mentioned some of them below.

    bankers-or-customersIf we can become the ones who offer real solutions to this devastating economic reality, then we will gain the political support of those whose lives have been changed by them. This is not cynicism, this is politics at its highest and best purpose, resolving public problems communally.

    Even if we solve these problems will the four horsemen of racism, sexism, xenophobia and nativism still exist? Yes. Of course, they will. And we must be prepared to fight them whenever and wherever they manifest.

    That city on the hill Reagan kept referencing could be America, not Donald Trump’s America; but, an America rededicated to the proposition that all of us are created equal, that all of us deserve certain basics like food, housing, medical care, education, and that we as a nation are a beacon to the world, not Trump Tower.

    The next four years will require our mutual dedication, time, money and influence. The clock starts today.


  • Live in the Whole Ocean

    Yule                                                                         New (Stock Show) Moon



    “Kay Cottee AO is an Australian sailor, who was the first woman to perform a single-handed, non-stop and unassisted circumnavigation of the world. She performed this feat in 1988 in her 37 feet yacht Blackmores First Lady, taking 189 days.”    Wikipedia

    When Jessica Watson, in 2009, set sail for her southern hemisphere circumnavigation of the world, she was 16. I don’t recall how, but I found her website on which she posted as she sailed alone in her boat, True Spirit. There was something about her, something fresh and brave, youth, yes, but something more, perhaps it was true spirit.

    Since then, I subscribed to her facebook page so I can keep very loose tabs on her as she grows older. Just curious about how true spirit manages adulthood. Wonderfully, as it turns out. She’s inspirational to Australian girls, an advocate for sailing and a modest celebrity down under.

    She posted this quote from her idol, Kay Cottee. She means us to take it, I think, as literally intended, a comment on the nature of voyages alone. It is, however, too, a way of understanding the ancientrail we call life.


  • the u-shaped graph

    Samain                                                                                Moving Moon

    Been thinking about the U shaped graph I’ve seen in recent articles about happiness. The graph follows feelings of happiness over a lifetime. During early childhood happiness is high according to the graph. Then somewhere around adolescence and continuing through  an individual’s working life happiness declines reaching a nadir in mid-career. After that the curve ticks up, implying of course that we’re happiest again when we die. Hmm. Probably not.

    (graphic for an Economist article on this topic.)

    My life experience so far seems to underwrite the broad concept. Specifically I’ve been wondering about that uptick in happiness (well-being, satisfaction)-I prefer the Greek,  eudaimonia, human-flourishing. Why does it happen?

    Here are a few random ideas, not proven as far as I know.  We flourish when our life has recognizable limits. We’re always being told we can do anything we set our minds to, we can be anything we want to be. Maybe so, I don’t know.  I do know that the burden of  having to choose among competing futures can make the present seem fraught and burdened. One limit in the third phase is that of diminished prospects. We no longer have the career world and its vast horizons spread before us, nor do we have the energy, the ambition we had in that time of our life. Seems good to me. Narrowing down the future and its possibilities means a less fraught daily existence.

    A second limit we encounter (most of us) in the third phase is financial. We know how much money we have and what we have to do to live within its possibilities and constraints. Again, I think, good. We’re not reaching, hoping for another raise, a windfall, a lucky break. No, we can settle into the life we can afford.

    A third limit is length of life. We know now that life does not stretch on well beyond the horizon. Our friends and family have begun to get serious illnesses and die. Our own body has begun to signal its intention, too. Like the other two, narrowed prospects and financial constraints, at first this seems like a horror, an anathema to the American dream of excelsior. But I think good here, too. I want my obit to start out: Ate right, exercised, died anyway.

    Acceptance of all three limits encourages us to focus on those matters dearest to us, most important in our lives. Does this mean that we have no hope for a productive life? No. It simply means that we’re likely much clearer about where to spend our energy and gifts. Does this mean we give up on managing our financial affairs? Again, no. It just means that they’re easier to manage and probably take up less energy. Does it mean we abandon caring for our health? Of course not. It means that we no longer do so with the illusion of eternal physical life as our reward for it.

    Just random ideas. Not proven as far as I know.

  • Yes, More Words Put Together By More People

    “Bodily decay is gloomy in prospect, but of all human contemplations the most abhorrent is body without mind.”

    Thomas Jefferson

    “I am now quite cured of seeking pleasure in society, be it country or town. A sensible man ought to find sufficient company in himself.”

    Emily Brontë

    “Doubting charms me not less than knowledge.”

    Dante Alighieri

    ““A physicist visits a colleague and notice a horseshoe hanging on the wall above the entrance. “Do you really believe that a horseshoe brings luck?” he asks. “No”, replies the colleague, “but I’ve been told that it works even if you don’t believe in it.”””

    Niels Bohr

    “Genuine tragedies in the world are not conflicts between right and wrong. They are conflicts between two rights.”


    “It is easy when we are in prosperity to give advice to the afflicted.”


    “Every single one of us can do things that no one else can do — can love things that no one else can love. We are like violins. We can be used for doorstops, or we can make music. You know what to do.”

    Barbara Sher

    “Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.”

    John Locke

    “But the images of men’s wits and knowledges remain in books, exempted from the wrong of time, and capable of perpetual renovation.”

    Francis Bacon

    “Nothing you write, if you hope to be good, will ever come out as you first hoped.”

    Lillian Hellman

    “Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.”

    Isaac Asimov


    “The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed.”


  • Next Year’s Quotes Already

    “How pleasant it is to spend an evening this way! I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than a book!- When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library”

    Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

    “I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.”

    J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

    “I am unmoved by daily pictures of the dead.
    A poet sings of toads and strikes straight at my heart.”

    — Jee Leong Koh, “Heart Ghazal” from “A Lover’s Recourse” (from Seven Studies for a Self Portrait)

  • last quote harvests of the year

    “Loneliness is black coffee and late-night television; solitude is herb tea and soft music. Solitude, quality solitude, is an assertion of self-worth, because only in the stillness can we hear the truth of our own unique voices.”

    Pearl Cleage (via visualcomplex)

    “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

    Maya Angelou

    “Hearts are wild creatures, that’s why our ribs are cages.”

    (via northwolves)

    “You know that place between sleeping and awake, that place where you can still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always think of you.”

    J.M. Barrie

  • Found a new source

    “This universe, which is the same for all, has not been made by any god or man, but it always has been, is, and will be an ever-living fire, kindling itself by regular measures and going out by regular measures.”

    Heraclitus (535 BCE – 475 BCE)


    “The divine will exists and directs the universe with justice and goodness. Though it is not always apparent if you merely look at the surface of things, the universe we inhabit is the best possible universe.”


    “The best love is the kind that
    awakens the soul
    and makes us reach for more;
    that plants a fire in our hearts
    and brings peace to our minds.”

    Walt Whitman

    “Many Buddhists understand the round of birth-and-death quite literally as a process of reincarnation, wherein the karma which shapes the individual does so again and again in life after life until, through insight and awakening, it is laid to rest. But in Zen, and in other schools of the Mahayana, it is often taken in a more figurative way, as that the process of rebirth is from moment to moment, so that one is being reborn so long as one identifies himself with a continuing ego which reincarnates itself afresh at each moment of time.”Alan Watts

    “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

    Albert Camus

    “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”

    Albert Einstein

  • A Scattering

    “Persons with any weight of character carry, like planets, their atmospheres along with them in their orbits…”

    Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy

    “»To the poet, to the philosopher, to the saint, all things are friendly and sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all men divine. For the eye is fastened on the life, and slights the circumstance. Every chemical substance, every plant, every animal in its growth, teaches the unity of cause, the variety of appearance.«”

    R.W. Emerson

    “I am incapable of conceiving infinity, and yet I do not accept finity. I want this adventure that is the context of my life to go on without end.”

    The Coming of Age, Simone de Beauvoir

    “We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.”

    Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon

    “Silence accompanies the most significant expressions of happiness and unhappiness: those in love understand one another best when silent, while the most heated and impassioned speech at a graveside touches only outsiders, but seems cold and inconsequential to the widow and children of the deceased.”

    Enemies, Anton Chekhov

    “The thirst for adventure is the vent which Destiny offers; a war, a crusade, a gold mine, a new country, speak to the imagination and offer swing and play to the confined powers.”

    R.W. Emerson

    Charles Darwin in letter to friend: “But I am very poorly today and very stupid and hate everyone and everything.”

    “The superior mind will find itself equally at odds with the evils of society, and with the projects that are offered to relieve them.”

    R.W. Emerson