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. Molly says...

    “…the earth’s crammed with heaven,
    And every common bush afire with God,
    But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
    The rest sit round and pluck black berries”
    – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

    • Lori Hudson says...

      Dill was becoming something of a trial anyway, following Jem about. He had asked me earlier in the summer to marry him, then he promptly forgot about it. He staked me out, marked as his property, said I was the only girl he would ever love, then he neglected me. I beat him up twice but it did no good, he only grew closer to Jem. To Kill a Mockingbird

  2. Lisa Doles says...

    “There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.”
    ~ Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale

  3. Phoebe says...

    A kind of light spread out from her. And everything changed color. And the world opened out. And a day was good to awaken to. And there were no limits to anything. And the people of the world were good and handsome. And I was not afraid anymore.
    -John Steinbeck, East of Eden

    So beautiful and so comforting.

    • One of my all-time favorites.

  4. “Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.” –A History of Love

  5. Cait says...

    John Steinbeck dedicated his book East of Eden to his editor, Pat and this is what he wrote:

    Dear Pat,
    You came upon me carving some kind of little figure out of wood and you said, “Why don’t you make something for me?”
    I asked you what you wanted, and you said, “A box.”
    “What for?”
    “To put things in.”
    “What kind of things?”
    “Whatever you have,” you said.
    Well, here’s your box. Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad and evil thoughts and good thoughts- the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation.
    And on top of these are all the gratitude and love I have for you.
    And still the box is not full.
    JOHN

  6. For me its balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surf is in my ear; I can see its garlanded crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore, its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud-rack; I can feel the spirit of its woody solitudes, I hear the plashing of the brooks; in my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago.
    – Mark Twain, a Biography

    His description of Hawaii.

  7. That Ernest Hemingway quote is EXACTLY what I was thinking of (along with several others from that book:). Great, great post! xoxo

  8. Betsy Roberts says...

    so many it’s hard to choose, but here are 4 of my favourites:

    “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” F.Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

    “We can only speak of the things we carried with us and the things we took away.” Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible’

    “Raise high the roof beam, carpenters. Like Ares comes the bridegroom, taller far than a tall man.” Sappho, as quoted by J.D. Salinger

    “Wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his bear will always be playing.” A.A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

  9. V says...

    Patti Miller’s “Ransacking Paris” is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve read.

    “He said he didn’t know what the world was like without a musical accompaniment, what it was like to gaze over the cliffs and valleys filled with eucalypts and not hear Bach. … Her voice was throaty, the music in her body rather than her mind, the sound and beat of blood and the throb of sex. I felt as if I had been shut out of a vast room in myself; there was flat silence in me where they had a detailed landscape of chords and notes and songs.”

  10. Eve Newford says...

    “When the day shall come that we do part,” he said softly, and turned to look at me, “if my last words are not ‘I love you’-ye’ll ken it was because I didna have time.”
    ― Diana Gabaldon
    From Fiery Cross, Jamie Fraser talking in Outlander Series

  11. Katie says...

    Love all these quotes and poems! Not sure if this one has been mentioned, but it is my absolute favorite and I think about it often. It’s a poem by Lang Leav.
    “You were you,
    and I was I;
    and we were two
    before our time.

    I was yours
    before I knew,
    and you have always
    been mine too.”

  12. Nicole Kaufmann says...

    The most beautiful things I’ve read have been in books – I love this photo – such a beautiful backside and pose – so romantic – and reading a tablet.

  13. Blue says...

    “Even
    after
    all this time,
    the Sun never says to the Earth
    ‘You owe me’.
    Look
    what happens
    with a love like that:
    it lights the whole sky”.
    Hafiz

  14. Awesome post. Brilliant idea & CLEARLY a real conversation starter!! Xx

    My swoon worthy favourites . . .

    “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 a lyric … Because let’s face it some of the best words ever written are contained within a song …

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

  15. “We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.” “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead” by Tom Stoppard. Also, this is one of those comment threads I love reading.

  16. Elli says...

    Oh, the one from Peter Pan just made me sob…. I have no idea why. But Peter Pan was and always will be my favorite book. So much truth and beauty in one story.

  17. Natalie says...

    from The Shipping News by Annie Proulx.

    “He was sure of his own good fortune. He could blow perfect smoke rings. Cedar waxwings always stopped in his yard on their migration flights.”

  18. Andrea says...

    “One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving. So, I love you because the entire universe conspired to help me find you.” – The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

  19. Julie says...

    I can’t keep up with all these amazing comments – so maybe someone’s already posted this?

    I read this in a poetry class in college and it changed my perception of poetry forever.

    “7 or 8 Things I Know About Her (A Stolen Biography)” – Michael Ondaatje

    The Father’s Guns

    After her father died they found nine guns in the house. Two in his clothing drawers, one under the bed, one in the glove compartment of the car, etc. Her brother took their mother out onto the prairie with a revolver and taught her to shoot.

    The Bird

    For a while in Topeka parrots were very popular. Her father was given one in lieu of a payment and kept it with him at all times because it was the fashion. It swung above him in the law office and drove back with him in the car at night. At parties friends would bring their parrots and make them perform what they had been taught: the first line from Twelfth Night, a bit of Italian opera, cowboy songs, or a surprisingly good rendition of Russ Colombo singing “Prisoner of Love”. Her father’s parrot could only imitate the office typewriter, along with the ching at the end of each line. Later it broke its neck crashing into a bookcase.

    The Bread

    Four miles out of Topeka on the highway – the largest electrical billboard in the State of Kansas. The envy of all Missouri. It advertised bread and the electrical image of a knife cut slice after slice. These curled off endlessly. “Meet you at the bread,” “See you at the loaf,” were common phrases. Aroused couples would park there under the stars on the open night prairie. Virtue was lost, “kissed all over by every boy in Wichita”. Poets, the inevitable visiting writers, were taken to see it, and it hummed over the seductions in cars, over the nightmares of girls in bed. Slice after slice fell towards the earth. A feeding of the multitude in this parched land on the way to Dorrance, Kansas.

    First Criticism

    She is two weeks old, her mother takes her for a drive. At the gas station the mechanic is cleaning the windshield and watches them through the glass. Wiping his hands he puts his head in the side window and says, “Excuse me for saying this but I know what I’m talking about – that child has a heart condition.”

    Listening In

    Overhear her in the bathroom, talking to a bug: “I don’t want you on me, honey.” 8 a.m.

    Self Criticism

    “For a while there was something about me that had a dubious quality. Dogs would not take meat out of my hand. The town bully kept handcuffing me to the trees.”

    Fantasies

    Always one fantasy. To be traveling down the street and a man in a clean white suit (the detail of “clean” impresses me) leaps into her path holding flowers and sings to her while an invisible orchestra accompanies his solo. All her life she has waited for this and it never happens.

    Reprise

    In 1956 the electric billboard in Kansas caught fire and smoke plumed into a wild sunset. Bread on fire, broken glass. Birds flew towards it above the cars that circled round to watch. And last night, past midnight, her excited phone call. Her home town is having a marathon to benefit the symphony. She pays $4 to participate. A tuxedoed gentleman begins the race with a clash of symbols and she takes off. Along her route at frequent intervals are quartets who play for her. When they stop for water a violinist performs a solo. So here she comes. And there I go, stepping forward in my white suit, with a song in my heart.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Beautiful. Love this.

  20. Shirley says...

    After going through a difficult breakup that rocked my world I found comfort in the poem “Frida Kahlo to Marty McConnell”. This quote from the Peanuts also stuck with me.

    “Do you ever feel like running away?”
    “Of course… Sometimes I feel like I want to run away from everything.”
    “I remember having that feeling once when I was at the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm… I climbed over the fence, but I was still in the world!”

  21. Oh, I have to join the fun by posting some of my favorites.

    This from Wendell Berry’s poem:
    “Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
    a woman satisfied to bear a child?
    Will this disturb the sleep
    of a woman near to giving birth?

    Go with your love to the fields.
    Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
    in her lap. Swear allegiance
    to what is nighest your thoughts.”

    And this from Wendell Berry’s novel Hannah Coulter:
    “Love is what carries you, for it is always there, even in the dark, or most in the dark, but shining out at times like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery.”

    And I don’t have the quote, but the chapter in The Scarlet Letter where they meet in the woods is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful pieces of prose I’ve ever read.

  22. This was one of my favorites long before I had two boys. But now that I have two boys, its all the more special. I think you’ll like it too.

    “She lights a cigarette, leans against the counter and watches her son eat. This will be his last year in children’s sizes. He has his father’s head, his father’s way of eating steadily, neatly, the working of the jaw, the set of the shoulder and something about the eyes – though her son’s are brown – the same long lashes, and that open quality, the focused unawareness that is masculine innocence. She can almost see the face of the man emerging from that of the boy. Her gaze is a thing of substance. Between a mother’s eyes and her son’s face, there is not air. There is something invisible and invincible. Even though – or because – he will go out into the world, she will never lose her passion to protect him. Girls and different. They know more. And they don’t leave you.”
    -Ann Marie MacDonald, The Way the Crow Flies

    • Maureen says...

      Love… thanks for sharing.

  23. Kristen says...

    “I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded; not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.”
    ― Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

  24. Kristen says...

    She died in a suburb of Sydney. The house number was forty-five–the same as the Fielders’ shelter–and the sky was the best blue of afternoon. Like her papa, her soul was sitting up.— ‘The Book Thief’ by
    Markus Zusak

  25. “I found him whom my soul loves: I held him, and would not let him go” Song of Solomon 3:4

  26. Ameer says...

    The whole page is great, but since it’s too long, here’s the end of it:

    “I crossed Homewood and ran up the block. The joy multiplied as I ran–I ran never actually quite leaving the ground–and multiplied still as I felt my stride begin to fumble and my knees begin to quiver and stall. The joy multiplied even as I slowed bumping to a walk. I was all but splitting, all but shooting sparks. Blood coursed free inside my lungs and bones, a light-shot stream like air. I couldn’t feel the pavement at all.

    I was too aware to do this, and had done it anyway. What could touch me now? For what were the people on Penn Avenue to me, or what was I to myself, really, but a witness to any boldness I could muster, or any cowardice if it came to that, any giving up on heaven for the sake of dignity on earth? I had not seen a great deal accomplished in the name of dignity, ever.”

    -Annie Dillard, An American Childhood

    • Kirsten says...

      This is one of the most beautifully written books. The passage about the Polyphemus moth is burned into my brain forever…

  27. megan says...

    Pablo Neruda is my favorite poet. Here are a few lines by him that I love:

    “Your wide eyes are the only light I know
    from extinguished constellations;
    Your skin throbs like the streak
    of a meteor through rain.”

    “I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
    I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
    so I love you because I know no other way

    than this: where I does not exist; nor you,
    so close that your hand on my chest is my hand
    so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.”

    • V says...

      Good call. Pablo is magnificent.

      “When I cannot look at your face
      I look at your feet.
      Your feet of arched bone,
      your hard little feet.
      I know that they support you,
      and that your sweet weight
      rises upon them.
      Your waist and your breasts,
      the doubled purple
      of your nipples,
      the sockets of your eyes
      that have just flown away,
      your wide fruit mouth,
      your red tresses,
      my little tower.
      But I love your feet
      only because they walked
      upon the earth and upon
      the wind and upon the waters,
      until they found me. “

  28. Frances says...

    My husband and I love this poem ‘The Hug’ by Thom Gunn:

    It was your birthday, we had drunk and dined
    Half of the night with our old friend
    Who’d showed us in the end
    To a bed I reached in one drunk stride.
    Already I lay snug,
    And drowsy with the wine dozed on one side.

    I dozed, I slept. My sleep broke on a hug,
    Suddenly, from behind,
    In which the full lengths of our bodies pressed:
    Your instep to my heel,
    My shoulder-blades against your chest.
    It was not sex, but I could feel
    The whole strength of your body set,
    Or braced, to mine,
    And locking me to you
    As if we were still twenty-two
    When our grand passion had not yet
    Become familial.
    My quick sleep had deleted all
    Of intervening time and place.
    I only knew
    The stay of your secure firm dry embrace.

  29. I actually have a whole series of this on my blog called The Dogeared Page and some of my favorite passages include:

    “But I can’t believe in fairies myself,” protested Emily sorrowfully. “I wish I could.”

    “But YOU are a fairy yourself–or you wouldn’t be able to find fairyland. You can’t buy a ticket there, you know. Either the fairies themselves give you your passport at your christening–or they don’t. That is all there is to it.”

    “Isn’t ‘Fairyland’ the LOVELIEST word?” said Emily dreamily.

    “Because it means everything the human heart desires,” said Dean.
    – L.M. Montgomery from Emily of New Moon

    And:
    Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

    “Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

    “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

    “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

    “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
    -The Velveteen Rabbit by Magery Williams

    And:
    “I have come,” said a deep voice behind them. They turned and saw the Lion himself, so bright and real and strong that everything else began to look pale and shadowy compared with him. In less time than it takes to breathe Jill forgot about the dead King of Narnia, and remembered only how she had made Eustace fall over the cliff, and how she had helped to muff nearly all the signs, and about all the snappings and quarellings. And she wanted to say “I’m sorry” but she could not speak. Then the Lion drew them toward him with his eyes and bent down and touched their pale faces with his tongue and said:
    “Think of that no more. I will not always be scolding. You have done the work for which I sent you into Narnia.”
    – The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

  30. “Hey, Boo,” I said.
    From To Kill a Mockingbird

    • Jael says...

      Amen.

  31. Callie says...

    This post is the best! Isn’t it almost heartbreaking that we can’t remember every beautiful thing we want to remember? That’s how I feel when I read, but here are a couple favorites, of many…

    From “Steps” by Frank O’Hara
    oh god it’s wonderful
    to get out of bed
    and drink too much coffee
    and smoke too many cigarettes
    and love you so much

    (This is written about NYC, but it’s been etched in my brain after my husband proposed to me.)

    “O Me! O Life!” by Walt Whitman
    Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
    Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
    Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
    Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
    Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
    Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
    The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

    Answer.
    That you are here—that life exists and identity,
    That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

  32. Liv says...

    ‘I never had any questions except the one about the moment when I could die. I should have chosen the moment before the arrival of my children, for since then I’ve lost the option of dying. The sharp smell of their sun-baked hair, the smell of sweat on their backs when they wake from a nightmare, the dusty smell of their hands when they leave a classroom, meant that I have to live, to be dazzled by the shadow of their eyelashes, moved by a snowflake, bowled over by a tear on their cheek. My children have given me the exclusive power to blow on a wound to make the pain disappear, to understand words unpronounced, to possess the universal truth, to be a fairy. A fairy smitten with the way they smell. From Ru by Kim Thuy.

    All the heartbreak and desperate love of being a parent. I’ll never sleep peacefully again.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I’m moved to tears! Thank you so much for sharing, Liv.

    • Cora says...

      this is the best explanation of parenthood I’ve ever read. Simply beautiful.

    • Julia E says...

      this is truly beautiful

    • LOVE this!!!

  33. Jael says...

    The book “Wise Man’s Fear,” as well as “The Name of the Wind,” are two of the most beautifully written books I have ever read in my life. Patrick Rothfuss has the rare and wonderful gift of turning a perfect phrase. I once cried while reading TNOTW not because a beloved character died, but because of the way a passage was written about MUSIC. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever read, but without the context of the story as a whole, it is less powerful. So here’s a simple one that I think is highly relatable:

    “We love what we love. Reason does not enter into it. In many ways, unwise love is the truest love. Anyone can love a thing because. That’s as easy as putting a penny in your pocket. But to love something despite. To know the flaws and love them too. That is rare and pure and perfect.”

    • Melanie Dawn says...

      Yes! Patrick Rothfuss is such an exquisite writer. I’ve been moved by tears by a simple blog post or Facebook update of his. Great choice.

  34. “It seems to me that the sum of human happiness remains much the same from age to age, no matter how it may vary in distribution, and that all the ‘many inventions’ neither lessen nor increase it.” – Lucy Maud Montgomery, Rilla of Ingleside

  35. Melanie Dawn says...

    “And for the first time I understood the shape of my grief. I could feel exactly how big it was. It was the strangest feeling, like holding something the size of a mountain in my arms.”

    H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

  36. Aimee says...

    “The brain may take advice, but not the heart, and love, having no geography, knows no boundaries: weight and sink it deep, no matter, it will rise and find the surface: and why not? any love is natural and beautiful that lies within a person’s nature; only hypocrites would hold a man responsible for what he loves, emotional illiterates and those of righteous envy, who, in their agitated concern, mistake so frequently the arrow pointing to heaven for the one that leads to hell. ”
    ― Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms

  37. Jess says...

    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
    – Shakespeare (Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio)

    • Gina says...

      Yes.

  38. Lara says...

    As soon as I read the title I knew this would be an epic post. Thanks Joanna and everyone for the others. Some are so good it hurts :)

    Even though I don’t think of this quote as my favorite anymore, I remember reading it 456567 times to myself and others when I first read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

    “I like to see people reunited, I like to see people run to each other, I like the kissing and the crying, I like the impatience, the stories that the mouth can’t tell fast enough, the ears that aren’t big enough, the eyes that can’t take in all of the change, I like the hugging, the bringing together, the end of missing someone.”

    • Karlú says...

      Where is this from? I loved it!

    • Karlú says...

      Oh sorry, I just saw it :p

  39. Jessica S. says...

    “And as I lay there with her I could see how important physical love was, how necessary it was for us to be in each other’s arms, giving and taking. The universe was exploding, each particle away from the next, hurtling us into dark and lonely space, eternally tearing us away from each other – child out of womb, friend away from friend, moving from each other, each through his own pathway toward the goal-box of solitary death.
    But this was the counterweight, the act of binding and holding. As when men to keep from being swept overboard in the storm clutch at each other’s hand to resist being torn apart, so our bodies fused a link in the human chain that kept us from being swept into nothing.”

    -Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon

  40. Sara says...

    “He thought that in the beauty of the world were hid a secret. He thought that the world’s heart beat at some terrible cost and that the world’s pain and its beauty moved in a relationship of diverging equity and that in this headlong deficit the blood of multitudes might ultimately be exacted for the vision of a single flower.”
    – Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

  41. Cheryl says...

    “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
    The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
    Hath had elsewhere its setting,
    And cometh from afar:
    Not in entire forgetfulness,
    And not in utter nakedness,
    But trailing clouds of glory do we come
    From God, who is our home”
    William Wordsworth
    And the absolutely soul crushing beauty of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, the whole book.
    But especially On Children:
    “Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing
    For itself.
    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you yet they
    Belong not to you.
    You may give them your love but not
    Your thoughts,
    For they have their own thoughts.
    You may house their bodies but not
    Their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
    Which you cannot visit, not even
    In your dreams.
    You may strive to be like them, but seek
    Not to make them like you.
    For life goes not backward nor tarries
    With yesterday.
    You are the bows from which your children
    As living arrows are sent forth.
    The archer sees the mark upon the path
    Of the infinite, and He bends you with His
    Might that His arrows may go swift and far.
    Let your bending in the archer’s hand
    Be for gladness;
    For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
    So He loves also the bow that is stable”
    Great fun to read all of these wonderful words from so many people! Thank you.

  42. R.A.T. says...

    “You build your world around someone, and then what happens when he disappears? Where do you go- into pieces, into atoms, into the arms of another man? You go shopping, you cook dinner, you work odd hours, you make love to someone else on June nights. But you’re not really there, you’re someplace else where there is blue sky and a road you don’t recognize. If you squint your eyes, you think you see him, in the shadows, beyond the trees. You always imagine that you see him, but he’s never there. It’s only his spirit, that’s what’s there beneath the bed when you kiss your husband, there when you send your daughter off to school. It’s in your coffee cup, your bathwater, your tears. Unfinished business always comes back to haunt you, and a man who swears he’ll love you forever isn’t finished with you until he’s done.”
    ― Alice Hoffman, Here on Earth

    • Annie says...

      This just made me cry! Amazing.

  43. jimjam says...

    “There’s a moment when love makes you believe in death for the first time. You recognize the one whose loss, even contemplated, you’ll carry forever, like a sleeping child. All grief, anyone’s grief…is the weight of a sleeping child.”
    ― Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces

  44. Brooke says...

    “I crossed Homewood and ran up the block. The joy multiplied as I ran – I ran never actually quite leaving the ground- and multiplied still as I felt my stride begin to fumble and my knees began to quiver and stall. The joy multiplied even as I slowed bumping to a walk. I was all but splitting, all but shooting sparks. What could touch me now? For what were the people on Penn Avenue but a witness to any boldness I could muster, any giving up on heaven for the sake of dignity on earth?”

    Annie Dillard American Childhood.

    I feel SO alive and free and in my body like I did as an eleven year old every time I read this.

  45. “I believe that creature is a changeling: she is a perfect cabinet of oddities; but I should be dull without her.” -Villette, Charlotte Bronte

    My favorite novel!! Gothic romances are my kryptonite.

    -Elise
    http://thelifeofawildchildblog.blogspot.com/

  46. Christina says...

    What a great topic! Here’s one of my favorites…there are so many.
    “He said that those who have endured some misfortune will always be set apart but that it is just that misfortune which is their gift and which is their strength.”
    ― Cormac McCarthy, All The Pretty Horses

  47. Casey says...

    And the joys I’ve felt have not always been joyous. I could have lived differently. When I was your age, my grandfather bought me a ruby bracelet. It as too big for me an would slide up and down my arm. It was almost a necklace. He later told me that he had asked the jeweler make that way. Its size was supposed to be a symbol of his love. More rubies, more love. But I could not wear it comfortably. I could not wear it at all. So here is the point of everything I have been trying to say. IF I were to give a bracelet to you, now, I would measure your wrist twice. – Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

  48. Vera says...

    “He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”
    ― Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights

    • love wuthering heights <3

  49. Brooke says...

    Not the book or author, but this passage speaks so loudly of that feeling we had as teenagers. Insignificant.

    “I wanted so badly to lie down next to her on the couch, to wrap my arms around her and sleep. Not fuck, like in those movies. Not even have sex. Just sleep together in the most innocent sense of the phrase. But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.”
    John Green, Looking for Alaska

  50. Meredith says...

    “Reader, I married him”. -Jane Eyre

    It’s my absolute favorite book ever and for some reason it always summed up their relationship perfectly to me, like despite faults and still-existing wives ;0 and all, I married him anyway because I loved him. My favorite love story.

    • gayathri says...

      My mother loves Jane Eyre too :)

  51. Maddy says...

    “My little beast, my eyes, my favorite stolen egg. Listen. To live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know. In perfect stillness, frankly, I’ve only found sorrow.”
    – Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

  52. Courtney says...

    “She asked, ‘you are in love, what does love feel like?’ to which I replied, ‘like everything I’ve ever lost come back to me.” — Nayyirah Waheed

    “Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are endless ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” — Rumi

    I read this quote during a speech at my brother’s wedding — “The only rock I know that stays steady, the only institution I know that works, is the family.” — Lee Iacocca

  53. Sara says...

    “Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
    Enwrought with golden and silver light,
    The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
    Of night and light and the half-light,
    I would spread the cloths under your feet:
    But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
    I have spread my dreams under your feet;
    Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. ”
    – William B. Yeats

    “Silence is the perfectest herald of joy.
    I were but little happy if I could say how much.”
    – W. Shakespeare (Much Ado About Nothing)

    Such a great post!

  54. Rebecca says...

    She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight.
    -their eyes were watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

  55. BeccaQ says...

    She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight.
    -their eyes were watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

  56. Carol says...

    “One writes of scars healed, a loose parallel to the pathology of the skin, but there is no such thing in the life of an individual. There are open wounds, shrunk sometimes to the size of a pin-prick but wounds still. The marks of suffering are more comparable to the loss of a finger, or of the sight of an eye. We may not miss them, either, for one minute in a year, but if we should there is nothing to be done about it.”
    ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender Is the Night

  57. Robyn says...

    “Death is always on the way, but the fact that you don’t know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life. It’s that terrible precision that we hate so much. But because we don’t know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.” -Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky (also inscribed on Brandon Lee’s tombstone in Seattle, WA)

  58. “On the way back to the Carlyle, his mental reenactment of their last kiss told him, yes, she loves me, and he once again saw Lacey as an illuminating white light, forgetting that white is composed of disparate streaks of color, each as powerful as the whole.”

    – “An Object of Beauty” by Steve Martin

  59. belinda says...

    “I spend most of my time, however, alone with my God, on the moors. I sat for an hour (perhaps it was 10 minutes) on a rock this afternoon, and considered how I should describe the colour of the Atlantic.”
    Virginia Woolf, from her letters to Lytton Strachey, 1908

  60. Kristi says...

    Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself” excerpt:

    “I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
    I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

    I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
    If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

    You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
    But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
    And filter and fibre your blood.

    Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
    Missing me one place search another,
    I stop somewhere waiting for you. ”

    -After my father’s death, it’s meant so much to me.

    • sarah d. says...

      I recently lost my dad and this is very comforting to me. Thank you.

    • Annie says...

      This is beautiful, thank you.

  61. Lena says...

    I LOVE this post! There are always two pieces that come to my mind when I think of a question like this:

    The first is from Betty Smith’s “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”:

    “Those were the Rommely women: Mary, the mother, Evy, Sissy, and Katie, her daughters, and Francie, who would grow up to be a Rommely woman even though her name was Nolan. They were all slender, frail creatures with wondering eyes and soft fluttery voices. But they were made out of thin invisible steel.”

    And the other is a short poem I love by Turkish poet Cemal Süreya; it’s called “Keep the Change”:

    “I’m dying, my God
    This day has come too

    Every death is an early death,
    I know my God

    But this life that you are taking
    It wasn’t bad

    Keep the change.”

  62. From Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf:

    “Such fools we are, she thought, crossing Victoria Street. For Heaven only knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh; but the veriest frumps, the most dejected of miseries sitting on doorsteps (drink their downfall) do the same; can’t be dealt with, she felt positive, by Acts of Parliament for that very reason: they love life. In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June.”

    • yes! i thought of posting this. glad you did :)

  63. Caz says...

    What a great post Jo!

    It’s been a while since I’ve read it, but I think The Pleasure Seekers by Tishani Doshi is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. I always remember this line struck me as so beautiful, especially as I read it when I had just moved halfway round the world:
    “It was a strange feeling of disconnection. Of walking down the streets and discovering that there was nothing you could claim, nothing that belonged to you; that if you were to lift yourself out of the scene, it would continue on without you.”

    Also:
    “It’s how I fill the time when nothing’s happening. Thinking too much, flirting with melancholy.” -Tim Winton

    “We are all broken. That’s how the light gets in.” – Ernest Hemingway

  64. jen says...

    It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realized, somehow, through the screaming in my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn’t sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when it’s all you’ve got, that freedom is a universe of possibility. And the choice you make, between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life.
    Think. Act. Feel. Add our little consequence to the tides of good and evil that flood and drain the world. Drag our shadowed crosses into the hope of another night. Push our brave hearts into the promise of a new day. With love: the passionate search for a truth other than our own. With longing: the pure, ineffable yearning to be saved. For so long as fate keeps waiting, we live on. God help us. God forgive us. We live on. (last paragraph of Shantaram)

  65. jen says...

    Last paragraph of Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts: ” It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realized, somehow, through the screaming in my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn’t sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when it’s all you’ve got, that freedom is a universe of possibility. And the choice you make, between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life.
    Think. Act. Feel. Add our little consequence to the tides of good and evil that flood and drain the world. Drag our shadowed crosses into the hope of another night. Push our brave hearts into the promise of a new day. With love: the passionate search for a truth other than our own. With longing: the pure, ineffable yearning to be saved. For so long as fate keeps waiting, we live on. God help us. God forgive us. We live on. “

  66. “there’s nothing so small but i love it and choose
    to paint it gold-groundly and great
    and hold it most precious and know not whose
    soul it may liberate…” – rainer maria rilke

  67. Katie says...

    “When our women fail in courage,
    Shall our men be fearless still?”

    -L.M. Montgomery, Rilla of Ingleside

  68. rose says...

    From the Blue shoe by Anne Lamott…….
    Harry was in the fourth grade now and there was at least an hour of home work every night, real homework. No matter how hard she tried, Mattie could not get him to sit down, do the work, put it away, dust his hands, and reclaim any of the night. It was hopeless, she thought. He had no future. He would have to work at 7-eleven when he grew up, helping people find longer straws for slurpees.
    His backpack looked as if he had stolen it from a wino. At bedtime on Sunday nights, he would announce, “I have homework”.
    “Oh Harry why didn’t you mention this before?”
    ” God. It’s not a big deal,” he’d reply disdainfully. “Where do we keep our dowels and cheesecloth?”
    Having a son in fourth grade when I was reading this may be why this was so poignant to me.A true depiction of what it’s like to have an older elementary student.

  69. Emiley says...

    I second the comment that this is such a lovely post. And the person who reference the last line’s of the Sun Also Rises. Here are a few that I think of often.

    First, this:

    “Yet even in the loneliness of the canyon I knew there were others like me who had brothers they did not understand but wanted to help. We are probably those referred to as “our brother’s keepers,” possessed of one of the oldest and possibly one of the most futile and certainly one of the most haunting instincts. It will not let us go.”

    – Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It (and that entire book, really)

    “There is more beauty in truth, even if it is a dreadful beauty. The storytellers at the city gate twist life so that it looks sweet to the lazy and the stupid and the weak, and this only strengthens their infirmities and teaches nothing, cures nothing, nor does it let the heart soar.”

    – John Steinbeck, East of Eden

    How many loved your moments of glad grace,
    And loved your beauty with love false or true,
    But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
    And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

    – William Butler Yeats, When You are Old

    “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

    – C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

  70. “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away” –William Shakespeare

  71. I noticed this in the Reform siddur (prayer book) Mishkan Tefillah once when I was going through a particularly rough time and it really gave me hope.

    Tell them I’m struggling to sing with angels
    who hint at it in black words printed on old paper gold-edged by time.
    Tell them I wrestle the mirror every morning.
    Tell them I sit here invisible in space;
    nose running, coffee cold & bitter
    Tell them I tell them everything
    & everything is never enough.

    Tell them I’m davening & voices rise up from within to startle children
    Tell them i walk off into the woods to sing.
    Tell them I sing loudest next to waterfalls.
    Tell them the books get fewer, words go deeper
    some take months to get through.
    Tell them there are moments when it’s all perfect;
    above & below, it’s perfect,
    even in moments in between where sparks in space
    (terrible, beautiful sparks in space)
    are merely metaphors for the void between
    one pore & another.

    –David Meltzer

  72. michaela says...

    I need to bookmark this to read through as I have time. Wonderful picks.

    My favorites are all related to grief because I think times of of loss are when works of art or writing often speak to us most strongly:

    Do not stand at my grave and weep.
    I am not there. I do not sleep.
    I am a thousand winds that blow.
    I am the diamond glints on snow.
    I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
    I am the gentle autumn rain.
    When you awaken in the morning’s hush
    I am the swift uplifting rush
    Of quiet birds in circled flight.
    I am the soft stars that shine at night.
    Do not stand at my grave and cry;
    I am not there. I did not die.
    – Mary Elizabeth Frye

    Nature’s first green is gold,
    Her hardest hue to hold.
    Her early leafs a flower;
    But only so an hour.
    Then leaf subsides to leaf.
    So Eden sank to grief,
    So dawn goes down to day.
    Nothing gold can stay.
    – Robert Frost

    Someone else already posted E.E. Cummings’ “I carry you in my heart” poem but that is one of my favorites as well.

  73. Jenny says...

    The sun had come up brilliantly after a heavy rain, and the trees were glistening and very wet. On some impulse, plain exuberance, I suppose, the fellow jumped up and caught hold of a branch, and a storm of luminous water came pouring down on the two of them, and they laughed and took off running, the girl sweeping water off her hair and her dress as if she were a little bit disgusted, but she wasn’t. It was a beautiful thing to see, like something from a myth. I don’t know why I thought of that now, except perhaps because it is easy to believe in such moments that water was made primarily for blessing, and only secondarily for growing vegetables or doing the wash. I wish I had paid more attention to it. My list of regrets may seem unusual, but who can know that they are, really. This is an interesting planet. It deserves all the attention you can give it.

    Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

  74. Joanne says...

    So many!

    e.e.cummings –
    it may not always be so; and i say
    that if your lips, which i have loved, should touch
    another’s, and your dear strong fingers clutch
    his heart, as mine in time not far away;
    if on another’s face your sweet hair lay
    in such a silence as i know, or such
    great writhing words as, uttering overmuch,
    stand helplessly before the spirit at bay;

    if this should be, i say if this should be—
    you of my heart, send me a little word;
    that i may go unto him, and take his hands,
    saying, Accept all happiness from me.
    Then shall i turn my face, and hear one bird
    sing terribly afar in the lost lands.

    Also all of The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, such as:
    ‘Childhood tiptoed out.
    Silence slid in like a bolt.’

    ‘She was thirty-one. Not old, not young, but a viable, die-able age.’

    Ben Okri-
    You walked gently towards me
    In the evening light
    And brought silence with you
    Which fell off when
    I touched your shoulder
    And felt the rain on it.

    We went through the city
    Up the roaring streets
    Full of many lights
    And we sought a place
    To be alone
    And found none.

    The evening was merciful
    On your smile.
    Your laughter touched
    The hungry ghosts
    Of passing years.

    You moved smoothly
    On the waters
    Your shadow sounded of silk
    You led me to places
    Full of mellow darkness
    Secret coves where they
    Didn’t let us in
    And under the rain
    You bid me kiss you with
    Your silent and uncertain eyes.

    We walked home
    And the rain laughed around us
    With its insistent benediction
    And you hair was strung with
    Diadems
    Your face with glittering dreams
    And my eyes were wet
    With your luminous spirited joy.

    • I love these selections, but given I turn 31 a week from today, that quote terrifies me!

  75. Erin says...

    This, because the words are beautiful and the idea is beautiful:

    Keeping Things Whole by Mark Strand

    In a field
    I am the absence
    of field.
    This is
    always the case.
    Wherever I am
    I am what is missing.

    When I walk
    I part the air
    and always
    the air moves in
    to fill the spaces
    where my body’s been.

    We all have reasons
    for moving.
    I move
    to keep things whole.

  76. So simple yet full of meaning:

    “She was lost in her longing to understand”
    -Gabriel Garcia Marquez “Love in the time of cholera”

  77. 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)

    -E E Cummings

    Kristi | Be Loverly

  78. Kathleen says...

    Isn’t Hemingway the best at these? He is such a dream. My favorite is the end of The Sun Also Rises:

    “Oh, Jake,” Brett said, “we could have had such a damned good time together.”
    “Yes,” I said, “isn’t it pretty to think so?”

    • Kristi says...

      Ohh, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” is so amazing– one of those lines you can read once and always remember.

  79. Diana says...

    His soul swooned as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead. – James Joyce, Dubliners

    I didn’t want to kiss you goodbye, that was the trouble. I wanted to kiss you goodnight. And theres a lot of difference. -Hemingway

    Most of what matters in our lives takes place in our absence. -Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children

    You will hear thunder and remember me,
    And think: she wanted storms.
    The rim of the sky will be the colour of hard crimson,
    And your heart,
    as it was then,
    will be on fire. – Anna Akhmatova

    You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. – Antoine de Sain Exupery, The Little Prince

    You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand. – The Velveteen Rabbit

  80. Lastly, kid, there is a certain sadness that you will feel all your life. It comes and goes, often without explanation. You will feel it alone and with boys and in rooms of people you love. There’s nothing wrong with it or with you. Own it. Don’t look for other people as the cause. Learn how to handle it yourself and understand that no one will ever be able to fix it for you. And no one should. To be able to be okay on your own? It’s important.

  81. Grace says...

    My favourite passage by Rebecca Solnit in “A Field Guide to Getting Lost”

    “The world is blue at its edges and in its depths. This blue is the light that got lost. Light at the blue end of the spectrum does not travel the whole distance from the sun to us. It disperses among the molecules of the air, it scatters in water. Water is colorless, shallow water appears to be the color of whatever lies underneath it, but deep water is full of this scattered light, the purer the water the deeper the blue. The sky is blue for the same reason, but the blue at the horizon, the blue of land that seems to be dissolving into the sky, is a deeper, dreamier, melancholy blue, the blue at the farthest reaches of the places where you see for miles, the blue of distance. This light that does not touch us, does not travel the whole distance, the light that gets lost, gives us the beauty of the world, so much of which is in the color blue.”

  82. Beth says...

    “I come to a tree so rich with autumn’s golds and reds it makes for a mild ache. I lie down under it, close my eyes, and let my mind wander. I think of all that is happening elsewhere, as I lie here. Nearby, I can hear the sounds of a road crew. Somewhere else, monkeys chatter in trees. A male seahorse becomes pregnant. A diamond forms, a bee dances out directions, a windshield shatters. Somewhere a mother spreads peanut butter for her son’s lunch, a lover sighs, a knitter binds off the edge of a sleeve. Clouds gather to make rain, corn ripens on the stalk, a cancer cell divides, a little league team scores. Somewhere blossoms open, a man pushes a knife in deeper, a painter darkens her blue. A cashier pours new dimes into an outstretched hand, rainbows form and fade, plates in the earth shift and settle. A woman opens a velvet box, male spiders pluck gently on the females’ webs, falcons fall from the sky. Abstracts are real and time is a lie, it cannot be measured when one moment can expand to hold everything. You can want to live and end up choosing death; and you can want to die and end up living. What keeps us here, really? A thread that breaks in a breeze. And yet a thread that cannot be broken.” ~Elizabeth Berg, Never Change

  83. “The moment you stop to think about whether you love someone, you’ve already stopped loving that person forever.”
    ― Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

    I read this book shortly before I ended the first real relationship I had had in my adult life, and nothing stuck more true about love than this passage to me then or now.

  84. Sarah Brakke says...

    Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky-tonks, restaurants and whore-houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flop-houses. Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, “whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches,” by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peep-hole he might have said: “Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men,” and he would have meant the same thing.
    Cannery Row – John Steinbeck

  85. Vicky says...

    This poem by Constantine P. Cavafys makes me cry every time I read it:

    ITHAKA

    When setting out upon your way to Ithaca,
    wish always that your course be long,
    full of adventure, full of lore.
    Of the Laestrygones and of the Cyclopes,
    of an irate Poseidon never be afraid;
    such things along your way you will not find,
    if lofty is your thinking, if fine sentiment
    in spirit and in body touches you.
    Neither Laestrygones nor Cyclopes,
    nor wild Poseidon will you ever meet,
    unless you bear them in your soul,
    unless your soul has raised them up in front of you.

    Wish always that your course be long;
    that many there be of summer morns
    when with such pleasure, such great joy,
    you enter ports now for the first time seen;
    that you may stop at some Phoenician marts,
    to purchase there the best of wares,
    mother-of-pearl and coral, amber, ebony,
    hedonic perfumes of all sorts–
    as many such hedonic perfumes as you can;
    that you may go to various Egyptian towns
    to learn, and learn from those schooled there.
    Your mind should ever be on Ithaca.
    Your reaching there is your prime goal.
    But do not rush your journey anywise.
    Better that it should last for many years,
    and that, now old, you moor at Ithaca at last,
    a man enriched by all you gained upon the way,
    and not expecting Ithaca to give you further wealth.
    For Ithaca has given you the lovely trip.
    Without her you would not have set your course.
    There is no more that she can give.
    If Ithaca seems then too lean, you have not been deceived.
    As wise as you are now become, of such experience,
    you will have understood what Ithaca stands for.

    Constantine P. Cavafy

    http://cavafis.compupress.gr/kave_17.htm

    • thank you for posting this. it’s my father’s favorite poem, and it will always remind me of him. i was once asked to recite it in greek when i was a young student. occasionally when my mind drifts, certain lines come back to me. it is all the more powerful and beautiful in greek.

  86. Kendra says...

    i have 2, both from the Little Prince, both said by the Fox

    “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

    and

    “But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat . . .”

  87. Kendra says...

    i don’t know, but i wish i looked like that when I’m reading. Gah.

  88. Haylie says...

    Life is life and fun is fun, but it’s all so quiet when the goldfish die.
    —West with the Night, Beryl Markham

    LOVED this post, Joanna!

  89. “He Drifted off into sleep and Janie looked down on him and felt a self-crushing love. So her soul crawled out from its hiding place.”
    ― Zora Neale Hurston

    “From time to time, sit close to the one you love, hold his or her hand, and ask, ‘Darling, do I understand you enough? Or am I making you suffer? Please tell me so that I can learn to love you properly. I don’t want to make you suffer, and if I do so because of my ignorance, please tell me so that I can love you better, so that you can be happy.’ If you say this in a voice that communicates your real openness to understand, the other person may cry.”
    ― Thích Nhất Hạnh

  90. Thao says...

    Seriously the best blog post ever! =)

  91. Happy to know I’m not the only one who carries words close long after the book is over. People are sharing such beauty here.

    Cloud Atlas:
    “Because I, only I, see her smile a fraction before it reaches her face.”

    “Each day, you must rise with restless enthusiasm. If you do not, you are working.”

  92. Sophie says...

    “you can’t make homes out of human beings
    someone should have already told you that
    and if he wants to leave
    then let him leave
    you are terrifying
    and strange and beautiful
    something not everyone knows how to love.”
    ― Warsan Shire

    • This is the best thing, I’ve read. Thank you Sophie

    • Angy says...

      Agreed. These are spectacular words. Spectacular. Xx

  93. lauren says...

    Emily Dickinson’s letter to her friend, Susan Huntington Gilbert. This is only the start of it:

    “I have but one thought, Susie, this afternoon of June, and that of you, and I have one prayer, only; dear Susie, that is for you. That you and I in hand as we e’en do in heart, might ramble away as children, among the woods and fields, and forget these many years, and these sorrowing cares, and each become a child again — I would it were so, Susie, and when I look around me and find myself alone, I sigh for you again; little sigh, and vain sigh, which will not bring you home.”

  94. Some say that we shall never know, and that to the gods we are like the flies that the boys kill on a summer’s day, and some say, to the contrary, that the very sparrows do not lose a feather that has not been brushed away by the finger of God.”
    ― Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey

  95. Kristina says...

    The last paragraph of my favorite book, I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb: “I am not a smart man, particularly, but one day, at long last, I stumbled from the dark woods of my own, and my family’s, and my country’s past, holding in my hands these truths: that love grows from the rich loam of forgiveness; that mongrels make good dogs; that the evidence of God exists in the roundness of things. This much, at least, I’ve figured out. I know this much is true.”

  96. Mary says...

    This passage literally took my breath away. Thank you!

  97. Katie says...

    What a great post – and I love all of the comments. I read this poem at least one million times while going through a divorce and it kept me sane. I love the whole thing, but particularly the last lines: “I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell, but just coming to the end of his triumph.”

    Flying and Falling by Jack Gilbert

    Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
    It’s the same when love comes to an end,
    or the marriage fails and people say
    they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
    said it would never work. That she was
    old enough to know better. But anything
    worth doing is worth doing badly.
    Like being there by that summer ocean
    on the other side of the island while
    love was fading out of her, the stars
    burning so extravagantly those nights that
    anyone could tell you they would never last.
    Every morning she was asleep in my bed
    like a visitation, the gentleness in her
    like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
    Each afternoon I watched her coming back
    through the hot stony field after swimming,
    the sea light behind her and the huge sky
    on the other side of that. Listened to her
    while we ate lunch. How can they say
    the marriage failed? Like the people who
    came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
    and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
    I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
    but just coming to the end of his triumph.

  98. what a wonderful post!! almost everything from Rob Sheffield’s “Love Is a Mix Tape” kills me but..

    “When we die, we will turn into songs, and we will hear each other and remember each other.”

  99. Ashley says...

    Also:

    Meditation at Lagunitas” Robert Haas

    “All the new thinking is about loss.
    In this it resembles all the old thinking.
    The idea, for example, that each particular erases
    the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-
    faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk
    of that black birch is, by his presence,
    some tragic falling off from a first world
    of undivided light. Or the other notion that,
    because there is in this world no one thing
    to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
    a word is elegy to what it signifies.
    We talked about it late last night and in the voice
    of my friend, there was a thin wire of grief, a tone
    almost querulous. After a while I understood that,
    talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,
    pine, hair, woman, you and I. There was a woman
    I made love to and I remembered how, holding
    her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,
    I felt a violent wonder at her presence
    like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river
    with its island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,
    muddy places where we caught the little orange-silver fish
    called pumpkinseed. It hardly had to do with her.
    Longing, we say, because desire is full
    of endless distances. I must have been the same to her.
    But I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread,
    the thing her father said that hurt her, what
    she dreamed. There are moments when the body is as numinous
    as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
    Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
    saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.”

  100. Jenn says...

    “What Do Women Want?”
    BY KIM ADDONIZIO

    I want a red dress.
    I want it flimsy and cheap,
    I want it too tight, I want to wear it
    until someone tears it off me.
    I want it sleeveless and backless,
    this dress, so no one has to guess
    what’s underneath. I want to walk down
    the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store
    with all those keys glittering in the window,
    past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
    donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
    slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
    hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
    I want to walk like I’m the only
    woman on earth and I can have my pick.
    I want that red dress bad.
    I want it to confirm
    your worst fears about me,
    to show you how little I care about you
    or anything except what
    I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment
    from its hanger like I’m choosing a body
    to carry me into this world, through
    the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
    and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin,
    it’ll be the goddamned
    dress they bury me in.

  101. Danielle says...

    I don’t have a specific line to quote, but I recently read All the Light We Cannot See. The beautiful writing swept me away to France and Germany in World War II. I could see, taste, hear, feel and smell everything.

    • Anna says...

      Added to my to-read list. Thanks x

    • Rebecca says...

      I also thought it was a beautiful book. It was one of my favorites from 2014. I found myself reading many passages aloud to my husband.

  102. Megan says...

    Such a beautiful post!! One of my favorite poems is The Orange by Wendy Cope. My boyfriend gave me a copy of the poem on my birthday last year and it still brings tears to my eyes whenever I read it.

    • tricia says...

      I love that one, too.

  103. Katie says...

    “And that same day, too, gazing far down from his boat’s side into that same golden sea, Starbuck lowly murmured: -‘Loveliness unfathomable, as ever lover saw in his young bride’s eye! – Tell me not of thy teeth-tiered sharks, and thy kidnapping cannibal ways. Let faith oust fact; let fancy oust memory; I look deep down and do believe.'”
    –One of many passages from “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville

  104. Colleen says...

    “Half the night I waste in sighs,
    Half in dreams I sorrow after
    The delight of early skies;
    In a wakeful dose I sorrow
    For the hand, the lips, the eyes,
    For the meeting of the morrow,
    The delight of happy laughter,
    The delight of low replies.”
    -Alfred Lord Tennyson “Maud”

  105. Anna says...

    This is so moving and entertaining. Thank you for the post.
    A few quotes to which I return every now and then are by Stefan Zweig, Patti Smith and Milan Kundera.

    “Paths that cross will cross again.”- Patti Smith, Just Kids

    “..the natural animosity between those who slept and those who were stirring in the sleeping city.” – Stefan Zweig, The POst-Office Girl

    “Sabina was now by herself. She went back to the mirror, still in her underwear. She put the bowler hat back on her head and had a long look at herself. She was amazed at the number of years she had spent pursuing one lost moment.” -Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (also, I can’t even count the times I have used this book title to describe a particularly beautiful moment in life)

  106. Katie says...

    “We throw our parties; we abandon our families to live alone in Canada; we struggle to write books that do not change the world, despite our gifts and our unstinting efforts, our most extravagant hopes. We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep. It’s as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out windows, or drown themselves, or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us are slowly devoured by some disease, or, if we’re very fortunate, by time itself. There’s just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we’ve ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) know these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish the city, the morning; we hope, more than anything, for more. Heaven only knows why we love it so…”
    ― Michael Cunningham, The Hours

    “We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.”
    ― Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

    “Life takes us to unexpected places sometimes. The future is never set in stone, remember that.”
    ― Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

    “Life is made up of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement. It would be wonderful if they came to us unsummoned, but particularly in lives as busy as the ones most of us lead now, that won’t happen. We have to teach ourselves how to make room for them, to love them, and to live, really live.”
    ― Anna Quindlen, A Short Guide to a Happy Life

    • I loved The Night Circus, great quote from that book!

  107. Wow, that Hemingway quote, so great.

    My favorite:

    “Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and above all, those who live without love.” Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter

  108. Natasha says...

    “Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.

    An you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.

    And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” – Murakami, Kafka on the Shore.

    • Lord above. That passage may very well have saved me. Xx

  109. Emily says...

    “…and our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream…” – Jacob 7:26, Book of Mormon

    My daughter died on Valentine’s Day 2014 and since then I’ve always associated her with hearts. This poem, though well known and a bit clichéd, has given me great comfort in her loss…

    “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 with me(i carry it in my heart)”
    – E. E. Cummings

    • Savannah says...

      How special of you to share this with us. This is such a beautiful poem, and the feeling in each word is heavy and real yet light and free. Your daughter is out there somewhere, just in a different form, and she’s carrying you in her heart as well. Much love.

    • Emily says...

      Savannah – thank you so much for your kind words. They were just what I needed today. Every day I feel more peace, but some days I just miss her. It’s comforting to know she is always with me. Love to you.

    • Lauren says...

      I am so sorry for your loss- my 26 year old sister died unexpectedly this year, on February 16th. This poem weighed heavily on my mind and has often come to mind. I’m considering tattooing some lines of it on my arms…

  110. Tricia Murphy says...

    “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
    -Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

    • Thank you for this! My fiance and I will be staying in John Steinbeck’s Writer’s Studio in Pacific Grove, CA for our honeymoon and I’ve been trying to read as much of his work as possible. This letter is so endearing and lovely. xoxo

  111. Aga says...

    “A Fine Balance” by Rohinston Mistry. Every sentence is masterful. Beautiful prose. Amazing storytelling. The best novel I’ve read, and I read for a living.

    • liz says...

      I agree! Love this book.

  112. tricia says...

    Postscript

    And some time make the time to drive out west
    Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
    In September or October, when the wind
    And the light are working off each other
    So that the ocean on one side is wild
    With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
    The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
    By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
    Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
    Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
    Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
    Useless to think you’ll park and capture it
    More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
    A hurry through which known and strange things pass
    As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
    And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

    – Seamus Heaney

  113. Lauren says...

    “You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
    Psalm 16:11

    Fullness of joy. Can you imagine? I have read and re-read this countless times and it still brings me to a place of awe and wonder.

  114. Tricia says...

    “One of life’s quiet excitements is to stand somewhat apart from yourself and watch yourself softly becoming the author of something beautiful even if it is only a floating ash.”

    -Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

    • maggie says...

      This book transported me as a teen. I have enjoyed it many times since, reveling in its simple, subtle beauty about love.

    • Tricia says...

      Maggie, I also read it first as a teen and feel exactly the same about it.

  115. Some of my favorite lines are from the book Margherita Dolce Vita by Stefano Benni. A select few…

    “Oh, my father sighs, if only we had a screwdriver that could unscrew wrongheaded ideas; if only we had a hammer to drive home good intentions; if only we had a pipe wrench to tighten hearts in everlasting love; a saw that we could use to make a clean cut with the past!”

    “That’s what art is: escaping everyday normality, which wants to eat you alive.”

    …and just for kicks…
    “Being in love, as both Plato and David Bowie have pointed out, is horrible.”

    • Julie says...

      Oh, these are so great!

  116. Amanda G says...

    This just made my day. I haven’t even begun to read through the comments yet :)

  117. Tricia says...

    “My affections and wishes have not changed, but one word from you will silence me forever. If, however, your feelings have changed, I will have to tell you: you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on.” Pride and Prejudice

  118. Amy says...

    I love these lines because they pinpoint the beauty of a well-crafted novel (or really, any great piece of art):

    “There did not have to be a moral. She need only show separate minds, as alive as her own, struggling with the idea that other minds were equally alive. It wasn’t only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding, above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you. And only in a story could you enter these different minds and show how they had an equal value. That was the only moral a story need have.”
    ― Ian McEwan, Atonement

  119. “We lay in bed and discussed life, the universe, and religion. I told him I think we’re too young as a species to fully comprehend our place in the universe. So while I don’t subscribe to a religion or believe in a deity, I like to stay open-minded to the infinite possibilities of it all. I think we’re probably just a bunch of lucky stardust, in the right place at the right time, winners of a cosmic lottery. I find beauty in the potential meaningless of it all.” – Jessica Walsh

    • Katie says...

      Oh… I still love. 40 Days of Dating. Be still my heart.

  120. Julia says...

    Echo by Christina Rossetti

    Come to me in the silence of the night;
    Come in the speaking silence of a dream;
    Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as bright
    As sunlight on a stream;
    Come back in tears,
    O memory, hope, love of finished years.

    O dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter sweet,
    Whose wakening should have been in Paradise,
    Where souls brimfull of love abide and meet;
    Where thirsting longing eyes
    Watch the slow door
    That opening, letting in, lets out no more.

    Yet come to me in dreams, that I may live
    My very life again though cold in death:
    Come back to me in dreams, that I may give
    Pulse for pulse, breath for breath:
    Speak low, lean low
    As long ago, my love, how long ago.

  121. This, because of the heat today. From To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

    “Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. Somehow it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summers day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.”

  122. Jessica Sandoval says...

    “I’ve never cared more about anything in my life. EVER.”

    A text my teenage daughter recieved from a friend. His family is hoping to adopt a 2 week old girl that’s currently in their home.

    • alana says...

      Oh, this brought tears to my eyes!

    • Emmanuella says...

      After reading through so many great lines in these comments, this one is my favorite!

    • Utterly beautiful x

    • Gina says...

      Oh!
      Thank you for sharing. So touched.

  123. My mother is a fish. — William Faulkner.

  124. genevieve regan says...

    “Do you want to see the most beautiful thing I’ve ever filmed? It was one of those days when it’s a minute away from snowing, and there’s this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it. And this bag was just, dancing with me, like a little kid beggin’ me to play with it – for fifteen minutes. And that’s the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know that there was no reason to be afraid, ever. Video’s a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember – I need to remember. Sometimes, there’s so much beauty in the world – I feel like I can’t take it, like my heart is just going to cave in.”

    -Ricky Fitts (to Janey), from the movie “American Beauty”

  125. Addie says...

    We read a lot of children’s books in my home right now and my two favorite lines EVERY time are
    “..the moon called the Dew, so the grass seemed to weep” – I took the moon for a walk by Carolyn Curtis
    and “The night is just a blanket that puts the earth to sleep” – I’ll see you in the morning by Mike Jolley

    • carolyn says...

      Thank you, Addie, for loving and sharing I Took the Moon for a Walk.

  126. Victoria says...

    Beautiful, especially the J.D. Salinger line. Some of my favorites:

    “And the air was full of Thoughts and Things to Say. But at times like these, only the Small Things are ever said. Big Things lurk unsaid inside.”
    ― Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

    “The love, born of beauty was not mine; I had nothing in common with it: I could not dare to meddle with it, but another love, venturing diffidently into life after long acquaintance, furnace-tried by pain, stamped by constancy, consolidated by affection’s pure and durable alloy, submitted by intellect to intellect’s own tests, and finally wrought up, by his own process, to his own unflawed completeness, this Love that laughed at Passion, his fast frenzies and his hot and hurried extinction, in this Love I had a vested interest; and whatever tended either to its culture or its destruction, I could not view impassibly.”
    ― Charlotte Brontë, Villette

  127. Lauren E. says...

    I have to add one more, in case it’s not already here. If you were ever a young woman in New York, I know you can relate to this. It’s been repeated too many times to count, but they say cliches are cliches for a reason. :)

    “Of course it might have been some other city, had circumstances been different and the time been different and had I been different, might have been Paris or Chicago or even San Francisco, but because I am talking about myself I am talking here about New York. That first night I opened my window on the bus into town and watched for the skyline, but all I could see were the wastes of Queens and big signs that said MIDTOWN TUNNEL THIS LANE and then a flood of summer rain (even that seemed remarkable and exotic, for I had come out of the West where there was no summer rain), and for the next three days I sat wrapped in blankets in a hotel room air conditioned to 35 degrees and tried to get over a cold and a high fever. It did not occur to me to call a doctor, because I knew none, and although it did occur to me to call the desk and ask that the air conditioner be turned off, I never called, because I did not know how much to tip whoever might come—was anyone ever so young? I am here to tell you that someone was. All I could do during those years was talk long-distance to the boy I already knew I would never marry in the spring. I would stay in New York, I told him, just six months, and I could see the Brooklyn Bridge from my window. As it turned out the bridge was the Triborough, and I stayed eight years.” – Joan Didion, Goodbye to All That

    • genevieve regan says...

      Brilliant

  128. Thank you so much for this post. I have so enjoyed reading everyone’s comments with words they hold dear. I love words. I truly adore them and here are some of my favorites:

    There is always something left to love. — One Hundred Years of Solitude

    I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving. – Pablo Neruda

    She discovered with great delight that one does not love one’s children just because they are one’s children but because of the friendship formed while raising them. — Love in the Time of Cholera

    Tell him yes. Even if you are dying of fear, even if you are sorry later, because whatever you do, you will be sorry all the rest of your life if you say no. — Love in the Time of Cholera

    A true friend is the one who holds your hand and touches your heart. – Gabriel Gracia Marquez

    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 the 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)

    May the Lord bless you, and keep you
    May the Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you
    May the Lord life his countenance upon you, and give you peace – Numbers 6: 24-26

    If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you. – Winnie The Pooh

    • Jen says...

      Oh man, that Winnie the Pooh quote just had me tearing up in my cubicle at work!

    • Michelle R. says...

      Wow, you added so many of my favorites – Neruda and Marquez!

  129. Ana Bolic says...

    “Babies are soft. Anyone looking at them can see the tender, fragile skin and know it for the rose-leaf softness that invites a finger’s touch. But when you live with them and love them, you feel the softness going inward, the round-cheeked flesh wobbly as custard, the boneless splay of the tiny hands. Their joints are melted rubber, and even when you kiss them hard, in the passion of loving their existence, your lips sink down and seem never to find bone. Holding them against you, they melt and mold, as though they might at any moment flow back into your body.

    But from the very start, there is that small streak of steel within each child. That thing that says “I am,” and forms the core of personality.

    In the second year, the bone hardens and the child stands upright, skull wide and solid, a helmet protecting the softness within. And “I am” grows, too. Looking at them, you can almost see it, sturdy as heartwood, glowing through the translucent flesh.

    The bones of the face emerge at six, and the soul within is fixed at seven. The process of encapsulation goes on, to reach its peak in the glossy shell of adolescence, when all softness then is hidden under the nacreous layers of the multiple new personalities that teenagers try on to guard themselves.

    In the next years, the hardening spreads from the center, as one finds and fixes the facets of the soul, until “I am” is set, delicate and detailed as an insect in amber.”

    – Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber

    • Erica says...

      Ah! I’m reading this now! Loving it so far :))

  130. Shannon says...

    I don’t know quite why, but this quote from Thomas Hardy’s “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” has stuck with me since reading the book over a decade ago in high school:

    “‘O mother, my mother!’ cried the agonized girl, turning passionately upon her parent as if her poor heart would break. ‘How could I be expected to know?'”

  131. Eleanor says...

    This is perfect timing. Just this morning, I was remembering one of my favorite quotes. Whenever I travel or relocate, on long trips or short, I think about it and find it to be true:

    “Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.”

  132. Kaitlin says...

    I love this post! My favorite quote from my favorite series, Anne of Green Gables:

    For a moment Anne’s heart fluttered queerly and for the first time her eyes faltered under Gilbert’s gaze and a rosy flush stained the paleness of her face. It was as if a veil that had hung before her inner consciousness had been lifted, giving to her view a revelation of unsuspected feelings and realities. Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one’s life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one’s side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music, perhaps. . . perhaps. . .love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath. ”
    ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

    • I love finding kindred spirits who love Anne Shirley too. :)

  133. Lisa says...

    Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

    You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
    For they have their own thoughts.
    You may house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
    which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
    You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

    You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
    and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
    Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
    For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
    so He loves also the bow that is stable.
    – Kahlil Gibran

  134. The piece from Peter Pan made me tear up, so beautiful.

    “There are a few things in life so beautiful they hurt: swimming in the ocean while it rains, reading alone in empty libraries, the sea of stars that appear when you’re miles away from the neon lights of the city, bars after 2am, walking in the wilderness, all the phases of the moon, the things we do not know about the universe, and you.”
    — Beau Christopher Taplin

  135. Kaitlin says...

    Quentin describing his sister Caddy in Faulkner’s Sound and the Fury: “she never was a queen or a fairy she was always a king or a giant or a general…”

  136. Cmr says...

    ‘I was up at a great height, upon the roof of the world, a small figure in the tremendous retort of earth and air yet one with it; I did not know that I was at the height and upon the roof of my own life.
    (Karen Blixen from Out of Africa).’

  137. This was written on the wall in Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta:

    People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway. If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
    If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
    Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
    In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

  138. I have to say that my favorite thing to read was my son’s letter to Santa Claus!! Simple but true! Still cannot get over the innocence and cuteness…So sweet!
    I’m loving the comments and reading lots of beautiful passages!
    Thanks!

    Alina
    http://www.eclecticalu.blogspot.com

  139. Isabelle says...

    From Rules of Civility:

    “Because when some incident sheds a favorable light on an old and absent friend, that’s about as good a gift as chance intends to offer.”

    and pretty much every line in the book!

    From Euphoria:
    “We’re always, in everything we do in this world, she said, limited by subjectivity. But our perspective can have enormous wingspan, if we give it the freedom to unfurl.”

  140. Lauren E. says...

    Great, now I’m crying at work. These are GORGEOUS. My favorite comes from a book I’ve never read! There’s logic for you.

    “I wanted so badly to lie down next to her on the couch, to wrap my arms around her and sleep. Not f*ck, like in those movies. Not even have sex. Just sleep together in the most innocent sense of the phrase. But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.”

    ― John Green, Looking for Alaska

  141. Julie D says...

    I have a soft spot for this love letter from Captain Wentworth to Anne Elliot, in Persuasion (Jane Austen). I can read it over and over…

    “I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in

    F. W.

    I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never. “

  142. Hunter says...

    How lovely…the peter pan quote gave me chills

  143. And New York is the most beautiful city in the world? It is not far from it. No urban night is like the night there… Squares after squares of flame, set up and cut into the aether. Here is our poetry, for we have pulled down the stars to our will.
    Ezra Pound

  144. Catherine says...

    I thought Justice Kennedy’s decision on marriage equality was beautifully written.

    “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right,”

  145. “Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.” -Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

    “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” -East of Eden

    “We cross our bridges as we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and the presumption that once our eyes watered.” -Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

    and perhaps less inspiring, but no less insightful:

    “That very afternoon they had seemed full of brilliant qualities; now she saw that they were merely dull in a loud way. Under the glitter of their opportunities she saw the poverty of their achievement.” -House of Mirth

    • Ryan says...

      That is one of my favorite lines from Eat of Eden. I love that book dearly.

  146. “Hope” is the thing with feathers –
    That perches in the soul –
    And sings the tune without the words –
    And never stops – at all –

    And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
    And sore must be the storm –
    That could abash the little Bird
    That kept so many warm –

    I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
    And on the strangest Sea –
    Yet – never – in Extremity,
    It asked a crumb – of me.

    – Emily Dickinson

  147. amina wirjosemito says...

    Another one from Atul Gawande that I find to be lovely:

    “In fact, he argued, human beings need loyalto. It does not necessarily produce happiness, and can even be painful, but we all require devotion to something more than ourselves for our lives to be endurable. Without it, we have only our desires to guide us, and they are fleeting, capricious, and insatiable.”

  148. So hard to choose but this passage became a bit of a meditation for me during crisis.

    Life is a good teacher and a good friend. Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it. To stay with that shakiness – to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge – that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic – this is the spiritual path.” – Pema Chodron

  149. Desiderata
    “Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
    As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
    Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
    Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
    If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
    for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

    Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
    Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
    Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
    But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
    and everywhere life is full of heroism.

    Be yourself.
    Especially, do not feign affection.
    Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

    Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
    Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
    Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

    You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
    you have a right to be here.
    And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

    Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
    and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
    With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.” © Max Ehrmann 1927