"“We don’t live here to stay inside,” my friend says, hearing the news. She is right: If there are people in this valley who don’t go outside, I don’t know their names. We choose different methods of play –– snowmobiles, skis, horses –– but we are united in the appreciation of wild lands. We celebrate the golden splash of larches across the lower face of Chief Joseph Mountain and exchange text messages about trail runs and mountain bike rides. The mountains are the first place we look at sunrise and the last thing we see before darkness closes us in. The mountains are part of us, not separate.
So when an avalanche sweeps down in the remote backcountry and two people never go home again, it feels almost like a betrayal. Of course, I know that the mountains are not safe, not ever. There are bears and high creek crossings and the sudden slip on a slick hillside. There are so many ways not to come back, but I am used to expecting that all of us will. The biggest blow is indifference. I love the mountains, but I am reminded again and again that they do not love me back."
"On Mountains and Avalanches and Risk," Mary Emerick
"Now, this heroic desire to return to nature, is, of course, in some respects, rather like the heroic desire of a kitten to return to its own tail. A tail is a simple and beautiful object, rhythmic in curve and soothing in texture; but it is certainly one of the minor but characteristic qualities of a tail that it should hang behind. It is impossible to deny that it would in some degree lose its character if attached to any other part of the anatomy. Now, nature is like a tail in the sense that it vitally important, if it is to discharge its real duty, that it should be always behind. To imagine that we can see nature, especially our own nature, face to face, is a folly; it is even a blasphemy. It is like the conduct of a cat in some mad fairy-tale, who should set out on his travels with the firm conviction that he would find his tail growing like a tree in the meadows at the end of the world. And the actual effect of the travels of the philosopher in search of nature, when seen from the outside, looks very like the gyrations of the tail-pursuing kitten, exhibiting much enthusiasm but little dignity, much cry and very little tail. The grandeur of nature is that she is omnipotent and unseen, that she is perhaps ruling us most when we think that she is heeding us least. “Thou art a God that hidest Thyself,” [See Isaiah 45:15] said the Hebrew poet. It may be said with all reverence that it is behind a man’s back that the spirit of nature hides."
"Tolstoy and the Cult of Simplicity," G. K. Chesterton
"It was a village, and the people died like the elms did, and I do not know those who live in their houses now. I go back there now and then, but whether it is I that am no longer young or the people who have changed, I know only that things are alien to me there and I am as strange to the place as if I had never known it. The cars, for one thing, jam bumper to bumper along the curbs on streets where there was so much clear space we could have bumping matches with our first jalopies, and ride backwards and forwards and up on the sidewalks and never find an obstruction anywhere. And people seem to move in and out more often than they did, and there are many who have lived there five or six years now and the people next door still don’t know what they do for a living, or anything more than their names. The drugstore has a chromium front now and fluorescent lighting, and young Mr. Dozik is a gray-haired man. A lot of picture windows are being put in to get a better view of the wall of the next house a driveway’s width away. And when anyone looks out the picture window all the people next door are there watching television anyway."
"A Boy Grew in Brooklyn," Arthur Miller
"Auden’s sense of his divided motives was inseparable from his idiosyncratic Christianity. He had no literal belief in miracles or deities and thought that all religious statements about God must be false in a literal sense but might be true in metaphoric ones. He felt himself commanded to an absolute obligation—which he knew he could never fulfill—to love his neighbor as himself, and he alluded to that commandment in a late haiku: “He has never seen God/but, once or twice, he believes/he has heard Him.” He took communion every Sunday and valued ancient liturgy, not for its magic or beauty, but because its timeless language and ritual was a “link between the dead and the unborn,” a stay against the complacent egoism that favors whatever is contemporary with ourselves. The book he wrote while returning in 1940 to the Anglican Communion of his childhood was titled The Double Man. It had an epigraph from Montaigne: “We are, I know not how, double in ourselves, so that what we believe we disbelieve, and cannot rid ourselves of what we condemn.” He felt obliged to reveal to his neighbor what he condemned in himself."
"The Secret Auden," Edward Mendelson
"There are no soul mates. Not in the traditional sense, at least. In my 20s someone told me that each person has not one but 30 soul mates walking the earth. (“Yes,” said a colleague, when I informed him of this, “and I’m trying to sleep with all of them.”) In fact, “soul mate” isn’t a pre-existing condition. It’s an earned title. They’re made over time.
You will miss out on some near soul mates. This goes for friendships, too. There will be unforgettable people with whom you have shared an excellent evening or a few days. Now they live in Hong Kong, and you will never see them again. That’s just how life is."
"What You Learn in Your 40s," Pamela Druckerman
(Source: The New York Times)
"In your modesty you seem to consider that writers are of different blood and bone from yourselves; that they know more of Mrs Brown than you do. Never was there a more fatal mistake. It is this division between reader and writer, this humility on your part, these professional airs and graces on ours, that corrupt and emasculate the books which should be the healthy offspring of a close and equal alliance between us."
"The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true."