Design

What’s the Most Beautiful Thing You’ve Ever Read?

woman-reading-in-bed-by-richard-foulser

In May, Reddit asked, “What’s the most beautiful paragraph or sentence you’ve ever read?” Such a good question! I’ve been mulling it over in my head ever since. Here are a few of my best-loved lines, and I’m curious to hear yours…


“She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.”
—J. D. Salinger, “A Girl I Knew

“In the end, people don’t view their life as merely the average of all of its moments — which, after all, is mostly nothing much plus some sleep. For human beings, life is meaningful because it is a story.”
— Atul Gawande, Being Mortal

“ ‘Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?’
‘Supposing it didn’t,’ said Pooh after careful thought.
Piglet was comforted by this.”
— A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

“Some people say, ‘Never let them see you cry.’ I say, if you’re so mad you could just cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone.”
― Tina Fey, Bossypants

“There are many different kinds of bravery. There’s the bravery of thinking of others before one’s self. Now, your father has never brandished a sword nor fired a pistol, thank heavens. But he has made many sacrifices for his family, and put away many dreams.”

“Where did he put them?”

“He put them in a drawer. And sometimes, late at night, we take them out and admire them. But it gets harder and harder to close the drawer… He does. And that is why he is brave.”
— Conversation between Mrs. Darling and Michael, Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

“Three things no one has ever said about me:
You make it look so easy.
You are very mysterious.
You need to take yourself more seriously.”
― Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation

“Maybe… you’ll fall in love with me all over again.”
“Hell,” I said, “I love you enough now. What do you want to do? Ruin me?”
“Yes. I want to ruin you.”
“Good,” I said. “That’s what I want too.”
— Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

Plus, nine poems that make me tear up.

What about you? If you have a minute to share your favorite line, poem or book, I’d love to hear…

P.S. Caroline’s five favorite books, and wise words.

(Top photo by Richard Foulser; Peter Pan quote via Momfilter. Reddit thread via Kottke)

  1. Sharon in Scotland says...

    I’m a bit late to this particular party, I spent the weekend reading most of the posts, ending up with a headache and dehydration because I was weeping so much.
    Words that touch me:

    “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”
    Plato

    “I am the master of my fate,
    I am the Captain of my soul”

    This one I have only just found and absolutely nails how I feel. I’m trying on-line dating and as a black women in her 50’s in the Highlands of Scotland…………………………….it’s proving……………….interesting!

    “A great fire burns within me, but no-one stops to warm themselves at it and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke”
    Vincent Van Gogh

  2. Jessica says...

    I love this post! And revisiting it every now and again. Wanted to share one of my own favorite pieces of writing. It’s a song by the band Thrice called “Anthology.” I’m not a huge fan of theirs otherwise but this song always makes me happy-sad. I already know it’s going to play a part in my wedding someday – and I’m single as hell! Here are the lyrics:

    Our lives built on tin cans and string
    But the cornerstone laid is a wondrous and beautiful thing
    Sure in the ground

    While the North wind is taking its toll
    You have helped me to find my way back and to anchor my soul
    Safe in the sound

    Oh you know me
    Oh and I know you
    And I know that
    We can see this through

    I’m brack, baring my bones
    Said if we heard the howling
    I’d run out to face it alone
    To meet it half way

    But I’ve still got badges to earn
    So keep sifting my soul
    Cause I think that I’m starting to learn
    To love you that way

    Oh you know me
    Oh and I know you
    And I know that
    We can see this through

    It’s true that you could snap my neck
    I trust you’ll save my life instead
    Cause our love is a loyalty sworn
    If we hold to our hope
    Then I know we can weather the storm
    Whatever they say
    Come what may

    Oh you know me
    Oh and I know you
    And I know that
    We can see this through

  3. there were 666 comments, so i had to add one for good luck!

    all these quotes are so beautiful.

    thank you for this.

  4. I haven’t actually read the book but have loved this line so much especially in times of uncertainty:

    “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”

    ― Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
    I always love these little musings xo

  5. “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

    Albert Einstein

  6. Maggie says...

    Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place
    Iain S. Thomas

  7. //Trust me, this long read is worth it! I always fall in love with this poem <3

    MOUNTAIN DEW COMMERCIAL DISGUISED AS A LOVE POEM

    Here’s what I’ve got, the reasons why our marriage
    might work: Because you wear pink but write poems
    about bullets and gravestones. Because you yell
    at your keys when you lose them, and laugh,
    loudly, at your own jokes. Because you can hold a pistol,
    gut a pig. Because you memorize songs, even commercials
    from thirty years back and sing them when vacuuming.
    You have soft hands. Because when we moved, the contents
    of what you packed were written inside the boxes.
    Because you think swans are overrated.
    Because you drove me to the train station. You drove me
    to Minneapolis. You drove me to Providence.
    Because you underline everything you read, and circle
    the things you think are important, and put stars next
    to the things you think I should think are important,
    and write notes in the margins about all the people
    you’re mad at and my name almost never appears there.
    Because you make that pork recipe you found
    in the Frida Khalo Cookbook. Because when you read
    that essay about Rilke, you underlined the whole thing
    except the part where Rilke says love means to deny the self
    and to be consumed in flames. Because when the lights
    are off, the curtains drawn, and an additional sheet is nailed
    over the windows, you still believe someone outside
    can see you. And one day five summers ago,
    when you couldn’t put gas in your car, when your fridge
    was so empty—not even leftovers or condiments—
    there was a single twenty-ounce bottle of Mountain Dew,
    which you paid for with your last damn dime
    because you once overheard me say that I liked it.

    —from Rattle #31, Summer 2009

  8. “She was the still point of the turning world” – Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides (paraphrasing T.S. Eliot, I assume)

  9. “The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun, and now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music, and the opera of voices pitches a key higher.”
    -The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

    “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
    ― Roald Dahl

  10. Sadie says...

    “There is a corner of the sea that is deep but not so deep that it’s black. It’s the blue of a blueberry, violet in its heart, though this blue allows light through its million unseeable pores. The hue is evenly painted but electric, a klieg light pushing through a gel of cyan.” — Dave Eggers, You Shall Know Our Velocity

  11. Suzann says...

    “If I can stop but one heart from breaking, I shall not have lived in vain.”
    Emily Dickinson

  12. This has been one of my favorites for a long time:
    “We lead our lives like water flowing down a hill, going more or less in one direction until we splash into something that forces us to find a new course.”
    ― Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

    And this, because sometimes the only one you can save is yourself. No matter how terrible that feels.

    Poetry
    By
    Mary Oliver
    The Journey

    One day you finally knew
    what you had to do, and began,
    though the voices around you
    kept shouting
    their bad advice–
    though the whole house
    began to tremble
    and you felt the old tug
    at your ankles.
    “Mend my life!”
    each voice cried.
    But you didn’t stop.
    You knew what you had to do,
    though the wind pried
    with its stiff fingers
    at the very foundations,
    though their melancholy
    was terrible.
    It was already late
    enough, and a wild night,
    and the road full of fallen
    branches and stones.
    But little by little,
    as you left their voices behind,
    the stars began to burn
    through the sheets of clouds,
    and there was a new voice
    which you slowly
    recognized as your own,
    that kept you company
    as you strode deeper and deeper
    into the world,
    determined to do
    the only thing you could do–
    determined to save
    the only life you could save.

  13. emilyp says...

    I read All Quiet On The Western Front fairly young and while the war in Iraq was in full swing, and when I got to this sentence I had to go back and reread it several times.

    “The days stand like angels in gold and blue, incomprehensible, above the ring of annihilation.”

    It’s towards the end of the novel, as our main character is being physically and emotionally ground down by the whole war experience. Disillusionment with US involvement in the middle east was also peaking, and that one little sentence somehow drove home to me the horror of armed conflict. And it’s not even graphic.

  14. Quietly, he said, “If we’re not careful life becomes very small.” We walked the rest of the way home in silence. ~Dominic Smith, The Beautiful Miscellaneous

  15. Michelle says...

    I love that so many people mentioned Cheryl Strayed’s writings from her Dear Sugar column. My favorite column, one I have returned to religiously every few months since she published it in 2011, is “The Ghost Ship that Didn’t Carry Us.” The letter-writer is inquiring about the choice of whether or not to have a child, but her response both addresses his question and becomes a more general meditation on the choices we make, how to love both what is and what never was without regretting those choices, because they make us who we are. Here is the ending of the essay/response:

    “I’ll never know and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”

    http://therumpus.net/2011/04/dear-sugar-the-rumpus-advice-column-71-the-ghost-ship-that-didnt-carry-us/

  16. Mariah says...

    One of my favorite lyrics that has always struck me as being beautifully written:

    “Your voice is echoing again
    Through catacombs inside my mind
    And I’ve been dreaming of revenge
    To make you love me more than even you can try
    All words converge to where you are”

    Dan Wilson – Breathless Lyrics

  17. Haley says...

    “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. And that’s what you’ve given me. That’s what I’d hoped to give you forever” – Nicholas Sparks

  18. Keri says...

    “These feelings resembled memories, but memories of what? It seemed one could remember things that had never been.”

    Leo Tolstoy, Childhood

    “But you can’t give your heart to a wild thing: the more you do, the stronger they get. Until they’re strong enough to run into the woods. Or fly into a tree. Then a taller tree. Then the sky. That’s how you’ll end up, Mr. Bell. If you let yourself love a wild thing. You’ll end up looking at the sky.”

    Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

  19. Samantha says...

    Anything written by Julio Cortazar is strangely beautiful. Sometimes you relate, sometimes you wish to relate. Hopscotch is so painfully beautiful, I can’t find another way to describe it. There’s nothing pretty about the story, it’s almost tragic, but he has the most agile prose to take a less than perfect situation and paint it in a beautiful way.
    “Of all our feelings the only one which really doesn’t belong to us is hope. Hope belongs to life, it’s life itself defending itself.”
    “My love, I don’t love you for you, nor for me, nor for the both of us, I don’t love you because the blood calls me to love you, I love you because you’re not mine, because you’re on the other side, there where you invite me to jump but I cannot make the jump.”
    “Nothing is lost if one has the courage to proclaim that all is lost and we must begin anew.”
    “In quoting others, we cite ourselves.”
    “What most people call loving consists of picking out a woman and marrying her. They pick her out, I swear, I’ve seen them. As if you could pick in love, as if it were not a lightning bolt that splits your bones and leaves you staked out in the middle of the courtyard.”
    “I’m tormented by your love that doesn’t work for me as a bridge, because a bridge cannot hold itself on one side.”
    It’s so much more beautiful in Spanish, I feel lucky to have been able to read it in the language and the way it was intended.

    • Lara says...

      I love these, thank you so much – I look forward to reading his books

  20. Dawn says...

    “He has one of his wistful, fanciful thoughts- that somehow he’s summoned from his mind not a fifty-year old memory of the moment he first saw this woman but the actual moment itself. After all, isn’t it the same sea, the same sun, the same them?
    -Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins

  21. Audrea Rachelle says...

    One of the most famous chapters of the Bible, so beautifully written. It’s all about love. I wish more lived by it.

    Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

    Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

    Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

    …And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
    1 Corinthians 13 – The Love Chapter

    • Of course the most beautiful and perfect words ever written would have to come from the ONE who is the word. Thanks. I was looking to see what others have chosen as their favorites.

  22. Liz says...

    From The Great Gatsy,
    “He smiled understandingly—much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced—or seemed to face—the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey. “

    • This is my favourite passage from The Great Gatsby. It hits a soft spot for me as my love is in the Navy so I am all too familiar with the pain of goodbye.
      “On the last afternoon before he went abroad, he sat with Daisy in his arms for a long, silent time. It was a cold fall day, with fire in the room and her cheeks flushed. Now and then she moved and he changed his arm a little, and once he kissed her dark shining hair. The afternoon had made them tranquil for a while, as if to give them a deep memory for the long parting the next day promised. They had never been closer in their month of love, nor communicated more profoundly one with another, than when she brushed silent lips against his coat’s shoulder or when he touched the end of her fingers, gently, as though she were asleep.”

  23. Emily says...

    “There are thoughts which are prayers. There are moments when, whatever the posture of the body, the soul is on its knees.”
    -Victor Hugo

    ” Beneath my hands
    your small breasts
    are the upturned bellies
    of breathing fallen sparrows.

    Wherever you move
    I hear the sounds of closing wings
    of falling wings.

    I am speechless
    because you have fallen beside me
    because your eyelashes
    are the spines of tiny fragile animals.

    I dread the time
    when your mouth
    begins to call me hunter.

    When you call me close
    to tell me
    your body is not beautiful
    I want to summon
    the eyes and hidden mouths
    of stone and light and water
    to testify against you.

    I want them
    to surrender before you
    the trembling rhyme of your face
    from their deep caskets.

    When you call me close
    to tell me
    your body is not beautiful
    I want my body and my hands
    to be pools
    for your looking and laughing. ”
    -Leonard Cohen

  24. sadie says...

    I just love the photograph associated with this post. :)

  25. Julie says...

    I love Susan Sarandon’s line in Shall We Dance
    ” We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”

    • This IS beautiful!

    • Jade says...

      Wow, that’s powerful! Thanks for sharing :)

    • Jade says...

      Wow, that’s awesome! Thanks for sharing :)

    • I love that line! I remember not liking the movie so much but loving this line. It’s so beautiful and exactly right. Thanks for reminding me of it :)

  26. Sasha says...

    “I taught myself to live simply and wisely,
    to look at the sky and pray to God,
    and to wander long before evening
    to tire my superfluous worries.
    When the burdocks rustle in the ravine
    and the yellow-red rowanberry cluster droops
    I compose happy verses
    about life’s decay, decay and beauty.
    I come back. The fluffy cat
    licks my palm, purrs so sweetly
    and the fire flares bright
    on the saw-mill turret by the lake.
    Only the cry of a stork landing on the roof
    occasionally breaks the silence.
    If you knock on my door
    I may not even hear.”

    Anna Akhmatova

  27. Sasha says...

    Actually, on your blog the most beautiful things I’ve read were your brother-in-law’s essay How Long Have I Got Left? and his letter to his daughter. I was also really moved by the story of the mother who had a stillborn baby. I had a stillborn baby three weeks ago, and I just went back to find it and reread it. I may stop reading here for a while, as I want to take a break from all things babies, but I wanted you to know that those posts were beautiful.

    • Heather says...

      I’m sorry and if I knew you I would give you a hug.

  28. Julie says...

    “The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.”
    ― Laura Ingalls Wilder

    • sonia says...

      beautiful!

  29. Laura B. says...

    There are so many good ones out there, but this quote, which was written in a letter by the artist Feliz Gonzalez Torres in 1988, really struck me:

    “Don’t be afraid of the clocks, they are our times, time has been so generous to us. We imprinted time with the sweet taste of victory. We conquered fate by meeting at a certain time, therefore we give back credit where it is due: time. We are synchronized, now and forever. I love you.”

    • Haley says...

      I love this, so moving!

  30. Lili says...

    From Marilyn Robinson’s Housekeeping (100% worth reading):

    “Imagine a Carthage sown with salt, and all the sowers gone, and the seeds lain however long in the earth, till there rose finally in vegetable profusion leaves and trees of rime and brine. What flowering would there be in such a garden? Light would force each salt calyx to open in prisms, and to fruit heavily with bright globes of water–-peaches and grapes are little more than that, and where the world was salt there would be greater need of slaking. For need can blossom into all the compensations it requires. To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing–-the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one’s hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again.”

  31. I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope

    For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love

    For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith

    But the faith and the love are all in the waiting.

    Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:

    So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

    – T. S. Eliot in Four Quartets

  32. Kelly M says...

    “Magic”

    from the back of your big brown eyes
    i knew you’d be gone as soon as you could
    and i hoped you would
    we could see that you weren’t yourself
    and the lines on your face did tell
    it’s just as well
    you’d never be yourself again

    saw you last night
    dance by the light of the moon
    stars in your eyes
    free from the life that you knew

    you’re the magic that holds the sky up from the ground
    you’re the breath that blows these cool winds ’round
    trading places with an angel now
    saw you last night
    dance by the light of the moon
    stars in your eyes
    free from the life that you knew
    saw you last night
    stars in your eyes
    smiled in my room

    by Ben Folds

  33. Jamie says...

    “She knows who she is. She just forgot for a little while.”
    ― Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life

  34. Anina says...

    [i carry your heart]
    BY E. E. CUMMINGS

    i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
    my heart)i am never without it (anywhere
    i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
    by only me is your doing,my darling)
    i fear no fate (for you are my fate,my sweet) i want
    no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
    and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
    and whatever a sun will always sing is you
    here is the deepest secret nobody knows
    (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
    and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
    higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
    and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

    i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

  35. Kate says...

    “The sense of it may come with watching a flock of cedar waxwings eating wild grapes in the top of the woods on a November afternoon. Everything they do is leisurely. They pick the grapes with a curious deliberation, comb their feathers, converse in high windy whistles. Now and then one will fly out and back in a sort of dancing flight full of whimsical flutters and turns. They are like farmers loafing in their own fields on Sunday. Though they have no Sundays, their days are full of sabbaths.” -Wendell Berry

  36. Laura says...

    I’ll always be drawn to these loving lines in John Donne’s “The Good Morrow”:

    And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
    Which watch not one another out of fear;
    For love, all love of other sights controls,
    And makes one little room an everywhere.

  37. Ksenia says...

    Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out

    BY RICHARD SIKEN
    Every morning the maple leaves.
    Every morning another chapter where the hero shifts
    from one foot to the other. Every morning the same big
    and little words all spelling out desire, all spelling out
    You will be alone always and then you will die.
    So maybe I wanted to give you something more than a catalog
    of non-definitive acts,
    something other than the desperation.
    Dear So-and-So, I’m sorry I couldn’t come to your party.
    Dear So-and-So, I’m sorry I came to your party
    and seduced you
    and left you bruised and ruined, you poor sad thing.
    You want a better story. Who wouldn’t?
    A forest, then. Beautiful trees. And a lady singing.
    Love on the water, love underwater, love, love and so on.
    What a sweet lady. Sing lady, sing! Of course, she wakes the dragon.
    Love always wakes the dragon and suddenly
    flames everywhere.
    I can tell already you think I’m the dragon,
    that would be so like me, but I’m not. I’m not the dragon.
    I’m not the princess either.
    Who am I? I’m just a writer. I write things down.
    I walk through your dreams and invent the future. Sure,
    I sink the boat of love, but that comes later. And yes, I swallow
    glass, but that comes later.
    And the part where I push you
    flush against the wall and every part of your body rubs against the bricks,
    shut up
    I’m getting to it.
    For a while I thought I was the dragon.
    I guess I can tell you that now. And, for a while, I thought I was
    the princess,
    cotton candy pink, sitting there in my room, in the tower of the castle,
    young and beautiful and in love and waiting for you with
    confidence
    but the princess looks into her mirror and only sees the princess,
    while I’m out here, slogging through the mud, breathing fire,
    and getting stabbed to death.
    Okay, so I’m the dragon. Big deal.
    You still get to be the hero.
    You get magic gloves! A fish that talks! You get eyes like flashlights!
    What more do you want?
    I make you pancakes, I take you hunting, I talk to you as if you’re
    really there.
    Are you there, sweetheart? Do you know me? Is this microphone live?
    Let me do it right for once,
    for the record, let me make a thing of cream and stars that becomes,
    you know the story, simply heaven.
    Inside your head you hear a phone ringing
    and when you open your eyes
    only a clearing with deer in it. Hello deer.
    Inside your head the sound of glass,
    a car crash sound as the trucks roll over and explode in slow motion.
    Hello darling, sorry about that.
    Sorry about the bony elbows, sorry we
    lived here, sorry about the scene at the bottom of the stairwell
    and how I ruined everything by saying it out loud.
    Especially that, but I should have known.
    You see, I take the parts that I remember and stitch them back together
    to make a creature that will do what I say
    or love me back.
    I’m not really sure why I do it, but in this version you are not
    feeding yourself to a bad man
    against a black sky prickled with small lights.
    I take it back.
    The wooden halls like caskets. These terms from the lower depths.
    I take them back.
    Here is the repeated image of the lover destroyed.
    Crossed out.
    Clumsy hands in a dark room. Crossed out. There is something
    underneath the floorboards.
    Crossed out. And here is the tabernacle
    reconstructed.
    Here is the part where everyone was happy all the time and we were all
    forgiven,
    even though we didn’t deserve it.
    Inside your head you hear
    a phone ringing, and when you open your eyes you’re washing up
    in a stranger’s bathroom,
    standing by the window in a yellow towel, only twenty minutes away
    from the dirtiest thing you know.
    All the rooms of the castle except this one, says someone, and suddenly
    darkness,
    suddenly only darkness.
    In the living room, in the broken yard,
    in the back of the car as the lights go by. In the airport
    bathroom’s gurgle and flush, bathed in a pharmacy of
    unnatural light,
    my hands looking weird, my face weird, my feet too far away.
    And then the airplane, the window seat over the wing with a view
    of the wing and a little foil bag of peanuts.
    I arrived in the city and you met me at the station,
    smiling in a way
    that made me frightened. Down the alley, around the arcade,
    up the stairs of the building
    to the little room with the broken faucets, your drawings, all your things,
    I looked out the window and said
    This doesn’t look that much different from home,
    because it didn’t,
    but then I noticed the black sky and all those lights.
    We walked through the house to the elevated train.
    All these buildings, all that glass and the shiny beautiful
    mechanical wind.
    We were inside the train car when I started to cry. You were crying too,
    smiling and crying in a way that made me
    even more hysterical. You said I could have anything I wanted, but I
    just couldn’t say it out loud.
    Actually, you said Love, for you,
    is larger than the usual romantic love. It’s like a religion. It’s
    terrifying. No one
    will ever want to sleep with you.
    Okay, if you’re so great, you do it—
    here’s the pencil, make it work . . .
    If the window is on your right, you are in your own bed. If the window
    is over your heart, and it is painted shut, then we are breathing
    river water.
    Build me a city and call it Jerusalem. Build me another and call it
    Jerusalem.
    We have come back from Jerusalem where we found not
    what we sought, so do it over, give me another version,
    a different room, another hallway, the kitchen painted over
    and over,
    another bowl of soup.
    The entire history of human desire takes about seventy minutes to tell.
    Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of time.
    Forget the dragon,
    leave the gun on the table, this has nothing to do with happiness.
    Let’s jump ahead to the moment of epiphany,
    in gold light, as the camera pans to where
    the action is,
    lakeside and backlit, and it all falls into frame, close enough to see
    the blue rings of my eyes as I say
    something ugly.
    I never liked that ending either. More love streaming out the wrong way,
    and I don’t want to be the kind that says the wrong way.
    But it doesn’t work, these erasures, this constant refolding of the pleats.
    There were some nice parts, sure,
    all lemondrop and mellonball, laughing in silk pajamas
    and the grains of sugar
    on the toast, love love or whatever, take a number. I’m sorry
    it’s such a lousy story.
    Dear Forgiveness, you know that recently
    we have had our difficulties and there are many things
    I want to ask you.
    I tried that one time, high school, second lunch, and then again,
    years later, in the chlorinated pool.
    I am still talking to you about help. I still do not have
    these luxuries.
    I have told you where I’m coming from, so put it together.
    We clutch our bellies and roll on the floor . . .
    When I say this, it should mean laughter,
    not poison.
    I want more applesauce. I want more seats reserved for heroes.
    Dear Forgiveness, I saved a plate for you.
    Quit milling around the yard and come inside.

  38. sarah d. says...

    My two additions are:

    “The reason death sticks so closely to life isn’t biological necessity; it’s envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous possessive love that grabs at what it can.”
    Yann Martel – Life of Pi

    ” Dusk, I realized then, is just an illusion, because the sun is either above the horizon or below it. And that means that day and night are linked in a way that few things are; there cannot be one without the other, yet they cannot exist at the same time. How would it feel, I remember wondering, to be always together, yet forever apart?”
    Nicholas Sparks – The Notebook

  39. For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.

  40. Courtenay says...

    “It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    Opening line of ‘Love in the Time of Cholera.’ I don’t know why, but it always stood out to me as enormously stunning writing.

  41. Neha Choudary says...

    We included this Tagore poem on our wedding program because it evokes the endless, universal feeling of being in love. I always come back to it in my mind, partially because of the words he uses, but also for its rhythm. Truly magical.

    Unending Love by Rabindranath Tagore

    I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times…
    In life after life, in age after age, forever.
    My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs,
    That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,
    In life after life, in age after age, forever.

    Whenever I hear old chronicles of love, its age-old pain,
    Its ancient tale of being apart or together.
    As I stare on and on into the past, in the end you emerge,
    Clad in the light of a pole-star piercing the darkness of time:
    You become an image of what is remembered forever.

    You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the fount.
    At the heart of time, love of one for another.
    We have played along side millions of lovers, shared in the same
    Shy sweetness of meeting, the same distressful tears of farewell-
    Old love but in shapes that renew and renew forever.

    Today it is heaped at your feet, it has found its end in you
    The love of all man’s days both past and forever:
    Universal joy, universal sorrow, universal life.
    The memories of all loves merging with this one love of ours –
    And the songs of every poet past and forever.

  42. kellykaboo says...

    I don’t have the book with me to quote from, so I’ll just say: basically everything Cheryl Strayed wrote in Tiny, Beautiful Things. That book broke me into a million pieces in such a good way.

    • sarah d. says...

      Totally agree !!

  43. Maddy says...

    A beautiful poem that I have found to be so true….

    “Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.” ― poem by Mary Jean Irion

  44. Laurie Colwin is mostly remembered for her cooking essays (which are delightful) but her fiction is wonderful, and her short stories are jewels. This is from one of my favorites, The Lone Pilgrim:

    Those days were spent in quest– the quest to settle your own life, and now the search has ended. Your imagined happiness is yours. Therefore, you lose your old bearings. On the one side is your happiness and on the other is your past– the self you were used to, going through life alone, heir to your own experience. Once you commit yourself, everything changes and the rest of your life seems to you like a dark forest on the property you have recently acquired. It is yours, but still you are afraid to enter it, wondering what you might find: a little chapel, a stand of birches, wolves, snakes, the worst you can imagine, or the best. You take one timid step forward, but then you realize you are not alone. You take someone’s hand….and strain through the darkness to see ahead.

  45. Both of these quotes are from Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar.

    “Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”

    “You don’t need a reason to leave. Wanting to leave is enough. Leaving doesn’t mean you’re incapable of real love or that you’ll never love anyone else again. It doesn’t mean you’re morally bankrupt or psychologically demented or a nymphomaniac. It means you wish to change the terms of one particular relationship. That’s all. Be brave enough to break your own heart.”

  46. Kiera says...

    For me it is Martin Amis in The Rachel Papers:

    And, good Lord, in this day and age a kid has to have something to get worked up about, skimpy though his material may be. So the emotion that walks like a burglar through our house trying all the doors has found mine the only one unlocked, indeed wide open: for there are no valuables inside.

  47. “But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.” -John Steinbeck in East of Eden

  48. Amanda says...

    Jeanette Winterson’s book, “Written on the Body” is filled with nothing but the most beautiful sentences and paragraphs. She conveys love and passion in a way I’ve never read before or since. While this may not be the most beautiful thing in the entire book (there’s just too much to choose from!), it has always stuck with me: “Dear friend, let me lie beside you watching the clouds until the earth covers us and we are gone.”

  49. cait says...

    I was trying to describe you to someone a few days ago. You don’t look like any girl I’ve ever seen before.

    I couldn’t say “Well she looks just like Jane Fonda, except that she’s got red hair, and her mouth is different and of course, she’s not a movie star…”

    I couldn’t say that because you don’t look like Jane Fonda at all.

    I finally ended up describing you as a movie I saw when I was a child in Tacoma Washington. I guess I saw it in 1941 or 42, somewhere in there. I think I was seven, or eight, or six.

    It was a movie about rural electrification, a perfect 1930’s New Deal morality kind of movie to show kids. The movie was about farmers living in the country without electricity. They had to use lanterns to see by at night, for sewing and reading, and they didn’t have any appliances like toasters or washing machines, and they couldn’t listen to the radio. They built a dam with big electric generators and they put poles across the countryside and strung wire over fields and pastures.

    There was an incredible heroic dimension that came from the simple putting up of poles for the wires to travel along. They looked ancient and modern at the same time.

    Then the movie showed electricity like a young Greek god, coming to the farmer to take away forever the dark ways of his life. Suddenly, religiously, with the throwing of a switch, the farmer had electric lights to see by when he milked his cows in the early black winter mornings. The farmer’s family got to listen to the radio and have a toaster and lots of bright lights to sew dresses and read the newspaper by.

    It was really a fantastic movie and excited me like listening to the Star Spangled Banner, or seeing photographs of President Roosevelt, or hearing him on the radio “… the President of the United States… “

    I wanted electricity to go everywhere in the world. I wanted all the farmers in the world to be able to listen to President Roosevelt on the radio….

    And that’s how you look to me.

    -Richard Brautigan

  50. Betsie says...

    “Thomas Merton wrote, ‘There is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.’ There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end… I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.” – Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

  51. Annie Wolfe says...

    “I feel sometimes as if I were a child who opens its eyes on the world once and sees amazing things it will never know any names for and then has to close its eyes again. I know this is all mere apparition compared to what awaits us, but it is only lovelier for that. There is a human beauty in it. And I can’t believe that, when we have all been changed and put on incorruptibility, we will forget our fantastic condition of mortality and impermanence, the great bright dream of procreating and perishing that meant the whole world to us. In eternity this world will be Troy, I believe, and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets. Because I don’t imagine any reality putting this one in the shade entirely, and I think piety forbids me to try.”
    Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

  52. Laura lukjanovs says...

    Though dreams can be deceiving like faces are to hearts. They serve for sweet relieving. When fantasy and reality,lie, to far, apart.

    -Fiona Apple

  53. Jill says...

    Oh, one more!

    “There are two important days in a woman’s life: the day she is born and the day she finds out why.”
    ― Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice

  54. Jill says...

    “The oak tree in the garden drops more than two thousand acorns a year. Each acorn is both a culmination and a seed; each carries its own ancestral imprint and the full potential to evolve. In California, the principal propagator of oaks is the scrub jay. A jay picks up thousands of acorns and stores them underground in the fall, and when it’s time to eat, remembers where nearly all of them are placed. Nearly all. A few stay undisturbed underground, and those are the ones that sprout. The lineage of the coastal live oak depends on what a bird forgets, and the survival of the Western scrub jay depends on what a live oak leaves behind. It sounds like a willy-nilly proposition, only it isn’t.

    One acorn in ten thousand becomes a tree. On the one hand, what a waste. On the other, it works. In the crapshoot of life, you—I mean you—turned up. You rose from the ground of your ancestors, their dust in your bones. Without accomplishing another thing, you are the complete fulfillment of all those who came before you. How can you doubt yourself?” – Karen Maezen Miller, Paradise in Plain Sight

  55. Lisa says...

    I am surprised that there is no (that I can see) quotes from Chuck Palahniuk in the comments! I have a pinterest folder for quotes I love, and its 1000+..

    The one that speaks to me most right now: “I wanted to give up the idea that I had any control. Shake things up. To be saved by chaos. To see if I could cope, I wanted to force myself to grow again. To explode my comfort zone.”

    Another one I love:
    “It’s so hard to forget pain, but its even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness, we learn so little from peace.”

  56. Chantal C says...

    “So much I know that things just don’t grow if you don’t bless them with your patience.”

    -Emmylou by First Aid Kit

  57. Angy says...

    “What I Know for Sure,” by Bob Hicok
    Some people, told of witness trees,
    pause in chopping a carrot
    or loosening a lug nut and ask,
    witness to what? So while salad
    is made, or getting from A to B
    is repaired, these people
    listen to the story
    of the Burnside Bridge sycamore,
    alive at Antietam, bloodiest day
    of the war, or the Appomattox Court House
    honey locust, just coming to leaf
    as Lee surrendered, and say, at the end,
    Cool. Then the chopping
    continues with its two sounds,
    the slight snap to the separation
    of carrot from carrot, the harder crack
    of knife against cutting board,
    or the sigh, also slight, of a lug nut
    as it’s tightened against a wheel. In time,
    these people put their hands
    under water and say, not so much to you
    but to the window in front of the sink,
    Think of all the things
    trees have seen. Then it’s time
    for dinner, or to leave, and a month passes,
    or a year, before two fawns
    cross in front of the car, or the man
    you’ve just given a dollar to
    lifts his shirt to the start
    of the 23rd psalm tattooed
    to his chest, “The Lord is my shepherd,
    I shall not want,” when some people
    say, I feel like one of those trees,
    you know? And you do know.
    You make a good salad, change
    a wicked tire, you’re one of those people,
    watching, listening, a witness
    to whatever this is,
    for as long as it is
    amazing, isn’t it, that I could call you
    right now and say, They still
    can’t talk to dolphins
    but are closer, as I still
    can’t say everything I want to
    but am closer, for trying, to God,
    if you must, to spirit, if you will,
    to what’s never easy for people
    like us: life, breath, the sheer volume
    of wonder.

    and ….

    “The stars are blazing like rebel diamonds
    Cut out of the son
    When you read my mind”
    The Killers

  58. Tess Varner says...

    “Above me, the moon was a comma in the sky, a conjunction between days.” – Vendela Vida

  59. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.

    The Great Gatsby