To live on this primarily nonhuman planet, we must change how we think of nonhumans. They are not here merely to serve as our resources. They are intelligent agents, deserving of legal standing, creatures that want something from each other and from us. They, much more than we, have created this place. We are not their masters; our dependence on them should make us more like their resourceful servants. They are gifts, and all of us know how sparingly and reverently a gift is best used. As a friend puts it: How little we would need if we knew how much we have.

—Richard Powers

Everyone knows that stories are simplifications. To tell a story is to select. Only in this way can a story be given a form and so be preserved. If you tell a story about somebody you love, a curious thing happens. The storyteller is like a dressmaker cutting a pattern out of cloth. You cut from the cloth as fully and intelligently as possible. Inevitably there are narrow strips and awkward triangles which cannot be used – which have no place in the form of the story. Suddenly you realize it is those strips, those useless remnants, which you love most. Because the heart wants to retain all.

—John Berger

Text is a way of voice, a speaking to the ear and to the eye. Letters were once bodies, are bodies now. They are not symbols, are not static. Nothing is static; nothing is unmoving. Not ink, not thread. Everything is energy. Text is a happening. In some moments, letters become an extension of my physical body: when I am writing them, or thinking them, or when I am pressing my eyes over their dark bodies on the page. A page, like a letter, has a sound. It speaks. It moves. Once spoken, once touched with the eye, it is loose—an energy from a cage to which it cannot be returned. It goes on forever and will outlast its maker. —Natalie Diaz


All those things for which we have no words are lost. The mind – the culture – has two little tools, grammar and lexicon: a decorated sand bucket and a matching shovel. With these we bluster about the continents and do all the world’s work. With these we try to save our very lives. —Annie Dillard

I would say that there exist a thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else, and that our dignity and our chances are one. The farthest star and the mud at our feet are our family; and there is no decency or sense in honoring one thing, or a few things, and then closing the list. The pine tree, the leopard, the Platte River, and ourselves—we are at risk together, or we are on our way to a sustainable world together. We are each other's destiny. 

I could not be a poet without the natural world. Someone else could. But not me. For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple. 

—Mary Oliver, Upstream

There is something wonderful in watching a figure emerge from the stone unsummoned, feeling the presence of something within you, the writer, and also beyond you – something consistent, wilful, and benevolent, that seems to have a plan, which seems to be: to lead you to your own higher ground. —George Saunders

"To me, the grounds for hope are simply that we don’t know what will happen next, and that the unlikely and the unimaginable transpire quite regularly.” —Rebecca Solnit


Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

It might be better to say that all of us need to flee blindly from time to time so as not to become copies of the world's expectations, and maybe, too, to give us the courage to remember some of those great, bold thoughts that made a child get up in the night, heart pounding, and write down a secret promise for his life.

—Frederick Sjöberg, The Fly Trap

I stretched by back and started two lists. What does it mean to love a person? What does it mean to love a place? Before long, I discovered I had made two copies of the same list. To love—a person and a place—means at least this: 

One. To want to be near it, physically. 

Number two. To want to know everything about it—its story, its moods, what it looks like by moonlight. 

Number three. To rejoice in the fact of it. 

Number four. To fear its loss, and grieve for its injuries. 

Five. To protect it—fiercely, mindlessly, futile, and maybe tragically, but to be helpless to do otherwise. 

Six. To be transformed in its presence—lifted, lighter on your feet, transparent, open to everything beautiful and new. 

Number seven. To want to be joined with it, taken in by it, lost in it. 

Number eight. To want the best for it. 

Number nine. Desperately. 

I knew there was something important missing from my list, but I was struggling to put it into words. Loving isn't just a state of being, it's a way of acting in the world. Love isn't a sort of bliss, it's a kind of work, sometimes hard, spirit-testing work. To love a person is to accept the responsibility to act lovingly toward them, to make their needs your own needs. To love a place is to care for it, to keep it healthy, to attend to its needs as if they were your own, because they are your own. Responsibility grows from love. It is the natural shape of caring.

-Kathleen Dean Moore, The Pine Island Paradox

The great and mysterious thing about this reading experience is this: the more discriminatingly, the more sensitively, and the more associatively we learn to read, the more clearly we see every thought and every poem in its uniqueness, its individuality, in its precise limitations and see that all beauty, all charm depend on this individuality and uniqueness — at the same time we come to realize ever more clearly how all these hundred thousand voices of nations strive toward the same goals, call upon the same gods by different names, dream the same wishes, suffer the same sorrows. Out of the thousandfold fabric of countless languages and books of several thousand years, in ecstatic instants there stares at the reader a marvelously noble and transcendent chimera: the countenance of humanity, charmed into unity from a thousand contradictory features.

-Hermann Hesse, My Belief: Essays on Life and Art

"I am a glorifier, not very high up

on the vocational chart, and I glorify everything I see,

everything I can think of.  I want ordinary men and women,

brushing their teeth, to feel the ocean in their mouth.

I am going to glorify the sink with toothpaste spat in it.

I am going to say it's a stretch of beach where the foam

rolls back and leaves little shells."

-Mary Ruefle, "Glory"