Presents Under The Tree Quotes

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Nothing ever seems too bad, too hard or too sad when you've got a Christmas tree in the living room. All those presents under it, all that anticipation. Just a way of saying there's always light and hope in the world.
J.D. Robb
I never believed in Santa Claus. None of us kids did. Mom and Dad refused to let us. They couldn't afford expensive presents and they didn't want us to think we weren't as good as other kids who, on Christmas morning, found all sorts of fancy toys under the tree that were supposedly left by Santa Claus. Dad had lost his job at the gypsum, and when Christmas came that year, we had no money at all. On Christmas Eve, Dad took each one of us kids out into the desert night one by one. "Pick out your favorite star", Dad said. "I like that one!" I said. Dad grinned, "that's Venus", he said. He explained to me that planets glowed because reflected light was constant and stars twinkled because their light pulsed. "I like it anyway" I said. "What the hell," Dad said. "It's Christmas. You can have a planet if you want." And he gave me Venus. Venus didn't have any moons or satellites or even a magnetic field, but it did have an atmosphere sort of similar to Earth's, except it was super hot-about 500 degrees or more. "So," Dad said, "when the sun starts to burn out and Earth turns cold, everyone might want to move to Venus to get warm. And they'll have to get permission from your descendants first. We laughed about all the kids who believed in the Santa myth and got nothing for Christmas but a bunch of cheap plastic toys. "Years from now, when all the junk they got is broken and long forgotten," Dad said, "you'll still have your stars.
Jeannette Walls (The Glass Castle)
I'd felt obligated to get Ian a Christmas present. A chunk of coal sat in a brightly wrapped box under the tree, his name written in big bold letters on the front of it. Ian might be family, but he still had been a very naughty boy this year.
Jeaniene Frost (The Bite Before Christmas (Argeneau, #15.5; Night Huntress, #6.5))
All around us lies what we neither understand nor use. Our capacities, our instincts for this our present sphere are but half developed. Let us confine ourselves to that till the lesson be learned; let us be completely natural; before we trouble ourselves with the supernatural. I never see any of these things but I long to get away and lie under a green tree and let the wind blow on me. There is marvel and charm enough in that for me.
Margaret Fuller
But we shouldn't be concerned about trees purely for material reasons, we should also care about them because of the little puzzles and wonders they present us with. Under the canopy of the trees, daily dramas and moving love stories are played out. Here is the last remaining piece of Nature, right on our doorstep, where adventures are to be experienced and secrets discovered. And who knows, perhaps one day the language of trees will eventually be deciphered, giving us the raw material for further amazing stories. Until then, when you take your next walk in the forest, give free rein to your imagination-in many cases, what you imagine is not so far removed from reality, after all!
Peter Wohlleben (The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World)
I find that, usually, answers present themselves. They are not hidden under rocks or camouflaged among trees. Answers are right there, in front of our eyes. But if you haven't cause to look, then of course you will probably never find them.
Cecelia Ahern (Thanks for the Memories)
Nothing ever seems too bad, too hard or too sad when you’ve got a Christmas tree in the living room. All those presents under it, all that anticipation. Just a way of saying there’s always light and hope in the world. And you’re lucky enough to have a family to share it with.
J.D. Robb (Memory in Death (In Death, #22))
At Christmas, for example, when you see a big, brightly wrapped package under the tree with your name on it, you’re interested. But it’s not the wrapping paper you’re looking forward to. It’s the present inside. Lingerie works the same way. It’s nice—but naked is always better. Except for this. This is the wet dream of every man born after 1975. It’s the elite of eroticism. The ultimate fantasy. Oh yeah—it’s the Princess Leia bikini.
Emma Chase (Tangled Extra Scenes (Tangled, #1.1))
This is what I had come for, just this, and nothing more. A fling of leafy motion on the cliffs, the assault of real things, living and still, with shapes and powers under the sky- this is my city, my culture, and all the world I need.
Annie Dillard (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)
A wonderful serenity has taken possession of my entire soul, like these sweet mornings of spring which I enjoy with my whole heart. I am alone, and feel the charm of existence in this spot, which was created for the bliss of souls like mine. I am so happy, my dear friend, so absorbed in the exquisite sense of mere tranquil existence, that I neglect my talents. I should be incapable of drawing a single stroke at the present moment; and yet I feel that I never was a greater artist than now. When, while the lovely valley teems with vapour around me, and the meridian sun strikes the upper surface of the impenetrable foliage of my trees, and but a few stray gleams steal into the inner sanctuary, I throw myself down among the tall grass by the trickling stream; and, as I lie close to the earth, a thousand unknown plants are noticed by me: when I hear the buzz of the little world among the stalks, and grow familiar with the countless indescribable forms of the insects and flies, then I feel the presence of the Almighty, who formed us in his own image, and the breath of that universal love which bears and sustains us, as it floats around us in an eternity of bliss; and then, my friend, when darkness overspreads my eyes, and heaven and earth seem to dwell in my soul and absorb its power, like the form of a beloved mistress, then I often think with longing, Oh, would I could describe these conceptions, could impress upon paper all that is living so full and warm within me, that it might be the mirror of my soul, as my soul is the mirror of the infinite God! O my friend — but it is too much for my strength — I sink under the weight of the splendour of these visions!
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (The Sorrows of Young Werther)
Presently I went back to my Companions, and slept under the apple trees, wrapped in my cloak and with my head on Cabal's flank for a pillow. There is no pillow in the world so good as a hound's flank.
Rosemary Sutcliff (Sword at Sunset)
The alchemist saw the union of opposites under the symbol of the tree, and it is therefore not surprising that the unconscious of present-day man, who no longer feels at home in his world and can base his existence neither on the past that is no more nor on the future that is yet to be, should hark back to the symbol of the cosmic tree rooted in this world and growing up to heaven - the tree that is also man. In the history of symbols this tree is described as the way of life itself, a growing into that which eternally is and does not change; which springs from the union of opposites and, by its eternal presence, also makes that union possible. It seems as if it were only through an experience of symbolic reality that man, vainly seeking his own “existence” and making a philosophy out of it, can find his way back to a world in which he is no longer a stranger.
C.G. Jung (Psychological Types)
Forest air is the epitome of healthy air. People who want to take a deep breath of fresh air or engage in physical activity in a particularly agreeable atmosphere step out into the forest. There's every reason to do so. The air truly is considerably cleaner under the trees, because the trees act as huge air filters. Their leaves and needles hang in a steady breeze, catching large and small particles as they float by. Per year and square mile this can amount to 20,000 tons of material. Trees trap so much because their canopy presents such a large surface area. In comparison with a meadow of a similar size, the surface area of the forest is hundreds of times larger, mostly because of the size difference between trees and grass. The filtered particles contain not only pollutants such as soot but also pollen and dust blown up from the ground. It is the filtered particles from human activity, however, that are particularly harmful. Acids, toxic hydrocarbons, and nitrogen compounds accumulate in the trees like fat in the filter of an exhaust fan above a kitchen stove. But not only do trees filter materials out of the air, they also pump substances into it. They exchange scent-mails and, of course, pump out phytoncides, both of which I have already mentioned.
Peter Wohlleben (The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World)
In 1850, August Salzmann photographed, near Jerusalem, the road to Beith-Lehem (as it was spelled at the time): nothing but stony ground, olive trees; but three tenses dizzy my consciousness: my present, the time of Jesus, and that of the photographer, all this under the instance of 'reality' — and no longer through the elaborations of the text, whether fictional or poetic, which itself is never credible down to the root.
Roland Barthes (Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography)
I want to think about trees. Trees have a curious relationship to the subject of the present moment. There are many created things in the universe that outlive us, that outlive the sun, even, but I can’t think about them. I live with trees. There are creatures under our feet, creatures that live over our heads, but trees live quite convincingly in the same filament of air we inhabit, and in addition, they extend impressively in both directions, up and down, shearing rock and fanning air, doing their real business just out of reach.
Annie Dillard (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)
She died." I had to prompt him. "Soon after?" "In the early hours of February the nineteenth, 1916." I tried to see the expression on his face, but it was too dark. "There was a typhoid epidemic. She was working in a hospital." "Poor girl." "All past. All under the sea." "You make it seem present." "I do not wish to make you sad." "The scent of lilac." "Old man's sentiment. Forgive me." There was a silence between us. He was staring into the night. The bat flitted so low that I saw its silhouette for a brief moment against the Milky Way. "Is this why you never married?" "The dead live." The blackness of the trees. I listened for footsteps, but none came. A suspension. "How do they live?" And yet again he let the silence come, as if the silence would answer my questions better than he could himself; but just when I had decided he would not answer, he spoke. "By love.
John Fowles (The Magus)
As joy dwindles with the years I wistfully recall When the christmas tree Looked ten feet tall And the presents under it Seemed endless And more Than mere wrapping paper.
Justin Wetch (Bending The Universe)
It was a sunrise, a kid’s sight of snowfall on a school morning. Hope. That all this can turn out okay, that somehow a tide this big and black can be turned back. Hope like a wildfire, thoughts of presents under a Christmas tree and a smell of cookies coming from a kitchen and a certain look in a girl’s eyes that lights you up inside. That beautiful border between nightmare and morning when you realize that all of the monsters menacing you have evaporated like smoke, leaving behind only the warm blanket and the pale sunlight of a Saturday dawn.
David Wong (John Dies at the End (John Dies at the End, #1))
A kind of northing is what I wish to accomplish, a single-minded trek towards that place where any shutter left open to the zenith at night will record the wheeling of all the sky’s stars as a pattern of perfect, concentric circles. I seek a reduction, a shedding, a sloughing off. At the seashore you often see a shell, or fragment of a shell, that sharp sands and surf have thinned to a wisp. There is no way you can tell what kind of shell it had been, what creature it had housed; it could have been a whelk or a scallop, a cowrie, limpet, or conch. The animal is long since dissolved, and its blood spread and thinned in the general sea. All you hold in your hand is a cool shred of shell, an inch long, pared so thin that it passes a faint pink light. It is an essence, a smooth condensation of the air, a curve. I long for the North where unimpeded winds would hone me to such a pure slip of bone. But I’ll not go northing this year. I’ll stalk that floating pole and frigid air by waiting here. I wait on bridges; I wait, struck, on forest paths and meadow’s fringes, hilltops and banksides, day in and day out, and I receive a southing as a gift. The North washes down the mountains like a waterfall, like a tidal wave, and pours across the valley; it comes to me. It sweetens the persimmons and numbs the last of the crickets and hornets; it fans the flames of the forest maples, bows the meadow’s seeded grasses and pokes it chilling fingers under the leaf litter, thrusting the springtails and the earthworms deeper into the earth. The sun heaves to the south by day, and at night wild Orion emerges looming like the Specter over Dead Man Mountain. Something is already here, and more is coming.
Annie Dillard (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)
Finding a taxi, she felt like a child pressing her nose to the window of a candy store as she watched the changing vista pass by while the twilight descended and the capital became bathed in a translucent misty lavender glow. Entering the city from that airport was truly unique. Charles de Gaulle, built nineteen miles north of the bustling metropolis, ensured that the final point of destination was veiled from the eyes of the traveller as they descended. No doubt, the officials scrupulously planned the airport’s location to prevent the incessant air traffic and roaring engines from visibly or audibly polluting the ambience of their beloved capital, and apparently, they succeeded. If one flew over during the summer months, the visitor would be visibly presented with beautifully managed quilt-like fields of alternating gold and green appearing as though they were tilled and clipped with the mathematical precision of a slide rule. The countryside was dotted with quaint villages and towns that were obviously under meticulous planning control. When the aircraft began to descend, this prevailing sense of exactitude and order made the visitor long for an aerial view of the capital city and its famous wonders, hoping they could see as many landmarks as they could before they touched ground, as was the usual case with other major international airports, but from this point of entry, one was denied a glimpse of the city below. Green fields, villages, more fields, the ground grew closer and closer, a runway appeared, a slight bump or two was felt as the craft landed, and they were surrounded by the steel and glass buildings of the airport. Slightly disappointed with this mysterious game of hide-and-seek, the voyager must continue on and collect their baggage, consoled by the reflection that they will see the metropolis as they make their way into town. For those travelling by road, the concrete motorway with its blue road signs, the underpasses and the typical traffic-logged hubbub of industrial areas were the first landmarks to greet the eye, without a doubt, it was a disheartening first impression. Then, the real introduction began. Quietly, and almost imperceptibly, the modern confusion of steel and asphalt was effaced little by little as the exquisite timelessness of Parisian heritage architecture was gradually unveiled. Popping up like mushrooms were cream sandstone edifices filigreed with curled, swirling carvings, gently sloping mansard roofs, elegant ironwork lanterns and wood doors that charmed the eye, until finally, the traveller was completely submerged in the glory of the Second Empire ala Baron Haussmann’s master plan of city design, the iconic grand mansions, tree-lined boulevards and avenues, the quaint gardens, the majestic churches with their towers and spires, the shops and cafés with their colourful awnings, all crowded and nestled together like jewels encrusted on a gold setting.
E.A. Bucchianeri (Brushstrokes of a Gadfly, (Gadfly Saga, #1))
You think winter will never end, and then, when you don't expect it, when you have almost forgotten it, warmth comes and a different light. Under the bare trees the wildflowers bloom so thick you can't walk without stepping on them. The pastures turn green and the leaves come. You look around presently, and it is summer. It has been dry a while, maybe, and now it has rained. The world is so full and abundant it is like a pregnant woman carrying a child in one arm and leading another by the hand.
Wendell Berry (Hannah Coulter)
Your Kentuckian of the present day is a good illustration of the doctrine of transmitted instincts and peculiarities. His fathers were mighty hunters, - men who lived in the woods, and slept under the free, open heavens, with the stars to hold their candles; and their descendant to this day always acts as if the house were his camp, - wears his hat at all hours, tumbles himself about, and puts his heels on the tops of chairs or mantel-pieces, just as his father rolled on the green sward, and put his upon trees or logs, - keep all the windows and doors open, winter and summer, that he may get air enough for his great lungs, - calls everybody "stranger", with nonchalant bonhommie, and is altogether the frankest, easiest, most jovial creature living.
Harriet Beecher Stowe (Uncle Tom's Cabin)
Sitting here, beneath this majestic oak tree under the hot afternoon sun in the middle of nowhere, the concept of time, present, and future, were all blurred. What was time if you didn’t know whether you had it? When you weren’t sure what you had to live for? - Skylla Warden
Rachael Wade (Repossession (The Keepers Trilogy, #1))
Almondine To her, the scent and the memory of him were one. Where it lay strongest, the distant past came to her as if that morning: Taking a dead sparrow from her jaws, before she knew to hide such things. Guiding her to the floor, bending her knee until the arthritis made it stick, his palm hotsided on her ribs to measure her breaths and know where the pain began. And to comfort her. That had been the week before he went away. He was gone, she knew this, but something of him clung to the baseboards. At times the floor quivered under his footstep. She stood then and nosed into the kitchen and the bathroom and the bedroom-especially the closet-her intention to press her ruff against his hand, run it along his thigh, feel the heat of his body through the fabric. Places, times, weather-all these drew him up inside her. Rain, especially, falling past the double doors of the kennel, where he’d waited through so many storms, each drop throwing a dozen replicas into the air as it struck the waterlogged earth. And where the rising and falling water met, something like an expectation formed, a place where he might appear and pass in long strides, silent and gestureless. For she was not without her own selfish desires: to hold things motionless, to measure herself against them and find herself present, to know that she was alive precisely because he needn’t acknowledge her in casual passing; that utter constancy might prevail if she attended the world so carefully. And if not constancy, then only those changes she desired, not those that sapped her, undefined her. And so she searched. She’d watched his casket lowered into the ground, a box, man-made, no more like him than the trees that swayed under the winter wind. To assign him an identity outside the world was not in her thinking. The fence line where he walked and the bed where he slept-that was where he lived, and they remembered him. Yet he was gone. She knew it most keenly in the diminishment of her own self. In her life, she’d been nourished and sustained by certain things, him being one of them, Trudy another, and Edgar, the third and most important, but it was really the three of them together, intersecting in her, for each of them powered her heart a different way. Each of them bore different responsibilities to her and with her and required different things from her, and her day was the fulfillment of those responsibilities. She could not imagine that portion of her would never return. With her it was not hope, or wistful thoughts-it was her sense of being alive that thinned by the proportion of her spirit devoted to him. "ory of Edgar Sawtelle" As spring came on, his scent about the place began to fade. She stopped looking for him. Whole days she slept beside his chair, as the sunlight drifted from eastern-slant to western-slant, moving only to ease the weight of her bones against the floor. And Trudy and Edgar, encapsulated in mourning, somehow forgot to care for one another, let alone her. Or if they knew, their grief and heartache overwhelmed them. Anyway, there was so little they might have done, save to bring out a shirt of his to lie on, perhaps walk with her along the fence line, where fragments of time had snagged and hung. But if they noticed her grief, they hardly knew to do those things. And she without the language to ask.
David Wroblewski (The Story of Edgar Sawtelle)
Don’t be too quick to leave the tree you are highly convinced of its future sweet fruits and comforting shade just because you see its present fruitlessness. Just sit under it and endure the scorching sun, one day, its branches will give you comfort and its fruits will give you smiles and nourish your body!
Ernest Agyemang Yeboah
So many people fail to receive what the Lord has offered them because they don’t understand what the gifts are or how to use them. They say ridiculous things such as, “Well, tongues is the least of the gifts, so I won’t pursue it.” If my children said this about one of the presents I’d put under the tree for them, I’d say, “This is yours! I don’t care how small you think it is. I bought it with you in mind, and I don’t give cheap gifts. If you’ll just open it, I’ll show you what it is and how to use it.” Such a rejection of gifts is arrogant. Thankfulness carries an attitude of humility. Thanksgiving is the only proper way to receive what God has given us because it honors our relationship with Him by expressing trust in His goodness, even if we don’t yet understand what we’ve received.
Bill Johnson (Spiritual Java)
Great stems rose about me, uplifting a thick multitudinous roof above me of branches, and twigs, and leaves-- the bird and insect world uplifted over mine, with its own landscapes, its own thickets, and paths, and glades, and dwellings; its own bird-ways and insect-delights. Great boughs crossed my path; great roots based the tree-columns, and mightily clasped the earth, strong to lift and strong to uphold. It seemed an old, old forest, perfect in forest ways and pleasure. And when, in the midst of this ectasy, I remembered that under some close canopy of leaves, by some giant stem, or in some mossy cave, or beside some leafy well, sat the lady of marble, whom my songs had called forth into the outer world, waiting (might it not be?) to meet and thank her deliverer in a twilight which would veil her confusion, the whole night became one dream-realm of joy, the central form of which was everywhere present, although unbeheld. Then, remembering how my songs seemed to have called her form the marble, piercing through the pearly shroud of alabaster -- "Why," thought I, "should not my voice reach her now, through the ebon night that inwraps her." My voice burst into song so spontaneously that it seemed involuntarily:
George MacDonald (Phantastes)
Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert talks about this phenomenon in his 2006 book, Stumbling on Happiness. “The greatest achievement of the human brain is its ability to imagine objects and episodes that do not exist in the realm of the real,” he writes. “The frontal lobe—the last part of the human brain to evolve, the slowest to mature, and the first to deteriorate in old age—is a time machine that allows each of us to vacate the present and experience the future before it happens.” This time travel into the future—otherwise known as anticipation—accounts for a big chunk of the happiness gleaned from any event. As you look forward to something good that is about to happen, you experience some of the same joy you would in the moment. The major difference is that the joy can last much longer. Consider that ritual of opening presents on Christmas morning. The reality of it seldom takes more than an hour, but the anticipation of seeing the presents under the tree can stretch out the joy for weeks. One study by several Dutch researchers, published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life in 2010, found that vacationers were happier than people who didn’t take holiday trips. That finding is hardly surprising. What is surprising is the timing of the happiness boost. It didn’t come after the vacations, with tourists bathing in their post-trip glow. It didn’t even come through that strongly during the trips, as the joy of travel mingled with the stress of travel: jet lag, stomach woes, and train conductors giving garbled instructions over the loudspeaker. The happiness boost came before the trips, stretching out for as much as two months beforehand as the holiday goers imagined their excursions. A vision of little umbrella-sporting drinks can create the happiness rush of a mini vacation even in the midst of a rainy commute. On some level, people instinctively know this. In one study that Gilbert writes about, people were told they’d won a free dinner at a fancy French restaurant. When asked when they’d like to schedule the dinner, most people didn’t want to head over right then. They wanted to wait, on average, over a week—to savor the anticipation of their fine fare and to optimize their pleasure. The experiencing self seldom encounters pure bliss, but the anticipating self never has to go to the bathroom in the middle of a favorite band’s concert and is never cold from too much air conditioning in that theater showing the sequel to a favorite flick. Planning a few anchor events for a weekend guarantees you pleasure because—even if all goes wrong in the moment—you still will have derived some pleasure from the anticipation. I love spontaneity and embrace it when it happens, but I cannot bank my pleasure solely on it. If you wait until Saturday morning to make your plans for the weekend, you will spend a chunk of your Saturday working on such plans, rather than anticipating your fun. Hitting the weekend without a plan means you may not get to do what you want. You’ll use up energy in negotiations with other family members. You’ll start late and the museum will close when you’ve only been there an hour. Your favorite restaurant will be booked up—and even if, miraculously, you score a table, think of how much more you would have enjoyed the last few days knowing that you’d be eating those seared scallops on Saturday night!
Laura Vanderkam (What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend: A Short Guide to Making the Most of Your Days Off (A Penguin Special from Portfo lio))
During any prolonged activity one tends to forget original intentions. But I believe that, when making a start on A Month in the Country, my idea was to write an easy-going story, a rural idyll along the lines of Thomas Hardy's Under the Greenwood Tree. And, to establish the right tone of voice to tell such a story, I wanted its narrator to look back regretfully across forty or fifty years but, recalling a time irrecoverably lost, still feel a tug at the heart. And I wanted it to ring true. So I set its background up in the North Riding, on the Vale of Mowbray, where my folks had lived for many generations and where, in the plow-horse and candle-to-bed age, I grew up in a household like that of the Ellerbeck family. Novel-writing can be a cold-blooded business. One uses whatever happens to be lying around in memory and employs it to suit one's ends. The visit to the dying girl, a first sermon, the Sunday-school treat, a day in a harvest field and much more happened between the Pennine Moors and the Yorkshire Wolds. But the church in the fields is in Northamptonshire, its churchyard in Norfolk, its vicarage London. All's grist that comes to the mill. Then, again, during the months whilst one is writing about the past, a story is colored by what presently is happening to its writer. So, imperceptibly, the tone of voice changes, original intentions slip away. And I found myself looking through another window at a darker landscape inhabited by neither the present nor the past.
J.L. Carr (A Month in the Country)
I wonder why he hastened to tell us that George Hearne was buried in the churchyard, and then added that naturally he was!' 'It's the natural place to be buried in,' said I. 'Quite. That's just why it was hardly worth mentioning.' I felt then, just momentarily, just vaguely, as if my mind was regarding stray pieces of a jig-saw puzzle. The fancied ringing of the telephone bell last night was one of them, this burial of George Hearne in the churchyard was another, and, even more inexplicably, the ladder I had seen under the trees was a third. Consciously I made nothing whatever out of them, and did not feel the least inclination to devote any ingenuity to so fortuitous a collection of pieces. Why shouldn't I add, for that matter, our morning's bathe, or the gorse on the hillside? But I had the sensation that, though my conscious brain was presently occupied with piquet, and was rapidly growing sleepy with the day of sun and sea, some sort of mole inside it was digging passages and connecting corridors below the soil. ("Expiation")
E.F. Benson (The Collected Ghost Stories of E.F. Benson)
I was in no tent under leaves, sleepless and glad. There was no moon at all; along the world’s coasts the sea tides would be springing strong. The air itself also has lunar tides; I lay still. Could I feel in the air an invisible sweep and surge, and an answering knock in the lungs? Or could I feel the starlight? Every minute on a square mile of this land one ten thousandth of an ounce of starlight spatters to earth. What percentage of an ounce did that make on my eyes and cheeks and arms, tapping and nudging as particles, pulsing and stroking as waves?
Annie Dillard (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)
Then you think, is this a better world, closer to the one before you knew of wars— earth wars? Before you found that canary in its cage laying, barely heaving. And you took it outside and said, Go Free! Go free! But it died there, right in your hands… like all of life. Is the ash in trees, babies, flowers, and visions of God better than the visions themselves? Then you think, none of this is tangible or concrete. So you have another cigarette and think about the (not one) but many ghosts you keep tucked away, under sheets, under beds, in notes, within other ghosts.
Derek Keck (The Kitchen Sinks of Yesterday Morning: The Urinal Cakes of Tomorrow)
Boy, it sure was some strange Christmas, she told herself as she opened the living room door. And then she stopped dead. Because her present wasn’t under the huge lighted Christmas tree. It was sitting on the sofa, looking toward her furiously, with a glass of whiskey in one lean hand. “Merry Christmas,” Winthrop said curtly. Her mouth flew open. He had a bow stuck on the pocket of his gray vested suit, and he looked hung over and pale and a little disheveled. But he was so handsome that her heart skipped wildly, and she looked into his dark eyes with soft dreams in her own. “You’ve got a bow on your pocket,” she said in a voice that sounded too high-pitched to be her own. “Of course I’ve got a bow on my pocket. I’m your damned Christmas present. Didn’t you listen to your father?
Diana Palmer (Woman Hater)
The landscape was misty and vague. I was still on the hill-side upon which this house now stands, and the shoulder rose above me grey and dim. I saw trees growing and changing like puffs of vapour, now brown, now green; they grew, spread, shivered, and passed away. I saw huge buildings rise up faint and fair, and pass like dreams. The whole surface of the earth seemed changed—melting and flowing under my eyes. The little hands upon the dials that registered my speed raced round faster and faster. Presently I noted that the sun belt swayed up and down, from solstice to solstice, in a minute or less, and that consequently my pace was over a year a minute; and minute by minute the white snow flashed across the world, and vanished, and was followed by the bright, brief green of spring.” ―The Time Machine,
H.G. Wells
Say you could view a time-lapse film of our planet: what would you see? Transparent images moving through light, “an infinite storm of beauty.” The beginning is swaddled in mists, blasted by random blinding flashes. Lava pours and cools; seas boil and flood. Clouds materialize and shift; now you can see the earth’s face through only random patches of clarity. The land shudders and splits, like pack ice rent by a widening lead. Mountains burst up, jutting and dull and soften before your eyes, clothed in forests like felt. The ice rolls up, grinding green land under water forever; the ice rolls back. Forests erupt and disappear like fairy rings. The ice rolls up-mountains are mowed into lakes, land rises wet from the sea like a surfacing whale- the ice rolls back. A blue-green streaks the highest ridges, a yellow-green spreads from the south like a wave up a strand. A red dye seems to leak from the north down the ridges and into the valleys, seeping south; a white follows the red, then yellow-green washes north, then red spreads again, then white, over and over, making patterns of color too swift and intricate to follow. Slow the film. You see dust storms, locusts, floods, in dizzying flash frames. Zero in on a well-watered shore and see smoke from fires drifting. Stone cities rise, spread, and then crumble, like patches of alpine blossoms that flourish for a day an inch above the permafrost, that iced earth no root can suck, and wither in a hour. New cities appear, and rivers sift silt onto their rooftops; more cities emerge and spread in lobes like lichen on rock. The great human figures of history, those intricate, spirited tissues that roamed the earth’s surface, are a wavering blur whose split second in the light was too brief an exposure to yield any images. The great herds of caribou pour into the valleys and trickle back, and pour, a brown fluid. Slow it down more, come closer still. A dot appears, like a flesh-flake. It swells like a balloon; it moves, circles, slows, and vanishes. This is your life.
Annie Dillard (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)
And under the cicadas, deeper down that the longest taproot, between and beneath the rounded black rocks and slanting slabs of sandstone in the earth, ground water is creeping. Ground water seeps and slides, across and down, across and down, leaking from here to there, minutely at a rate of a mile a year. What a tug of waters goes on! There are flings and pulls in every direction at every moment. The world is a wild wrestle under the grass; earth shall be moved. What else is going on right this minute while ground water creeps under my feet? The galaxy is careening in a slow, muffled widening. If a million solar systems are born every hour, then surely hundreds burst into being as I shift my weight to the other elbow. The sun’s surface is now exploding; other stars implode and vanish, heavy and black, out of sight. Meteorites are arcing to earth invisibly all day long. On the planet, the winds are blowing: the polar easterlies, the westerlies, the northeast and southeast trades. Somewhere, someone under full sail is becalmed, in the horse latitudes, in the doldrums; in the northland, a trapper is maddened, crazed, by the eerie scent of the chinook, the sweater, a wind that can melt two feet of snow in a day. The pampero blows, and the tramontane, and the Boro, sirocco, levanter, mistral. Lick a finger; feel the now. Spring is seeping north, towards me and away from me, at sixteen miles a day. Along estuary banks of tidal rivers all over the world, snails in black clusters like currants are gliding up and down the stems of reed and sedge, migrating every moment with the dip and swing of tides. Behind me, Tinker Mountain is eroding one thousandth of an inch a year. The sharks I saw are roving up and down the coast. If the sharks cease roving, if they still their twist and rest for a moment, they die. They need new water pushed into their gills; they need dance. Somewhere east of me, on another continent, it is sunset, and starlings in breathtaking bands are winding high in the sky to their evening roost. The mantis egg cases are tied to the mock-orange hedge; within each case, within each egg, cells elongate, narrow, and split; cells bubble and curve inward, align, harden or hollow or stretch. And where are you now?
Annie Dillard (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)
The central ceremony of Ritual Witchcraft was the so-called "Sabbath" - a word of unknown origin having no relation to its Hebrew homonym. Sabbaths were celebrated four times a year - on Candlemass Day, February 2nd, on Rood Mass Day, May 1st, on Lammas Day, August 1st, and on the eve of All Hallows, October 31st. These were great festivals, often attended by hundreds of devotees, who came from considerable distances. Between Sabbaths there were weekly "Esbats" from small congregations in the village where the ancient religion was still practiced. At all high Sabbaths the devil himself was invariably present, in the person of some man who had inherited, or otherwise acquired, the honor of being the incarnation of the two-faced god of the Dianic cult. The worshipers paid homage to the god by kissing his reverse face - a mask worn, beneath an animal's tail, on the devil's backside. There was then, for some at least of the female devotees, a ritual copulation with the god, who was equipped for this purpose with an artificial phallus of horn or metal. This ceremony was followed by a picnic (for the Sabbaths were celebrated out of doors, near sacred trees or stones), by dancing and finally by a promiscuous sexual orgy that had, no doubt, originally been a magical operation for increasing the fertility of the animals on which primitive hunters and herdsmen depend for their livelihood. The prevailing atmosphere at the Sabbaths was one of good fellowship and mindless, animal joy. When captured and brought to trial, many of the who had taken part in the Sabbath resolutely refused, even under torture, even at the stake, to abjure the religion which had brought them so much happiness.
Aldous Huxley (The Devils of Loudun)
They won’t do it, Ian,” Jordan Townsende said the night after Ian was released on his own recognizance. Pacing back and forth across Ian’s drawing room, he said again, “They will not do it.” “They’ll do it,” Ian said dispassionately. The words were devoid of concern; not even his eyes showed interest. Days ago Ian had passed the point of caring about the investigation. Elizabeth was gone; there had been no ransom note, nothing whatever-no reason in the world to continue believing that she’d been taken against her will. Since Ian knew damned well he hadn’t killed her or had her abducted, the only remaining conclusion was that Elizabeth had left him for someone else. The authorities were still vacillating about the other man she’d allegedly met in the arbor because the gardener’s eyesight had been proven to be extremely poor, and even he admitted that it “might have been tree limbs moving around her in the dim light, instead of a man’s arms.” Ian, however, did not doubt it. The existence of a lover was the only thing that made sense; he had even suspected it the night before she disappeared. She hadn’t wanted him in her bed; if anything but a lover had been worrying her that night, she’d have sought the protection of his arms, even if she didn’t confide in him. But he had been the last thing she’d wanted. No, he hadn’t actually suspected it-that would have been more pain than he could have endured then. Now, however, he not only suspected it, he knew it, and the pain was beyond anything he’d ever imagined existed. “I tell you they won’t bring you to trial,” Jordan repeated. “Do you honestly think they will?” he demanded, looking first to Duncan and then to the Duke of Stanhope, who were seated in the drawing room. In answer, both men raised dazed, pain-filled eyes to Jordan’s, shook their heads in an effort to seem decisive, then looked back down at their hands. Under English law Ian was entitled to a trial before his peers; since he was a British lord, that meant he could only be tried in the House of Lords, and Jordan was clinging to that as if it were Ian’s lifeline. “You aren’t the first man among us to have a spoiled wife turn missish on him and vanish for a while in hopes of bringing him to heel,” Jordan continued, desperately trying to make it seem as if Elizabeth were merely sulking somewhere-no doubt unaware that her husband’s reputation had been demolished and that his very life was going to be in jeopardy. “They aren’t going to convene the whole damn House of Lords just to try a beleaguered husband whose wife has taken a start,” he continued fiercely. “Hell, half the lords in the House can’t control their wives. Why should you be any different?” Alexandra looked up at him, her eyes filled with misery and disbelief. Like Ian, she knew Elizabeth wasn’t indulging in a fit of the sullens. Unlike Ian, however, she could not and would not believe her friend had taken a lover and run away. Ian’s butler appeared in the doorway, a sealed message in his hand, which he handed to Jordan. “Who knows?” Jordan tried to joke as he opened it. “Maybe this is from Elizabeth-a note asking me to intercede with you before she dares present herself to you.” His smile faded abruptly. “What is it?” Alex cried, seeing his haggard expression. Jordan crumpled the summons in his hand and turned to Ian with angry regret. “They’re convening the House of Lords.” “It’s good to know,” Ian said with cold indifference as he pushed out of his chair and started for his study, “that I’ll have one friend and one relative there.
Judith McNaught (Almost Heaven (Sequels, #3))
There is a good deal of the Nietzschean standpoint in this verse. It is the evolutionary and natural view. Of what use is it to perpetuate the misery of tuberculosis, and such diseases, as we now do? Nature's way is to weed out the weak. This is the most merciful way, too. At present all the strong are being damaged, and their progress hindered by the dead weight of the weak limbs and the missing limbs, the diseased limbs and the atrophied limbs. The Christians to the Lions! Our humanitarianism, which is the syphilis of the mind, acts on the basis of the lie that the King must die. The King is beyond death; it is merely a pool where he dips for refreshment. We must therefore go back to Spartan ideas of education; and the worst enemies of humanity are those who wish, under the pretext of compassion, to continue its ills through the generations. The Christians to the Lions! Let weak and wry productions go back into the melting-pot, as is done with flawed steel castings. Death will purge, reincarnation make whole, these errors and abortions. Nature herself may be trusted to do this, if only we will leave her alone. But what of those who, physically fitted to live, are tainted with rottenness of soul, cancerous with the sin-complex? For the third time I answer: The Christians to the Lions! Hadit calls himself the Star, the Star being the Unit of the Macrocosm; and the Snake, the Snake being the symbol of Going or Love, the Dwarf-Soul, the Spermatozoon of all Life, as one may phrase it. The Sun, etc., are the external manifestations or Vestures of this Soul, as a Man is the Garment of an actual Spermatozoon, the Tree sprung of that Seed, with power to multiply and to perpetuate that particular Nature, though without necessary consciousness of what is happening. (―New Comment on Liber AL vel Legis III:48)
Aleister Crowley (Magical and Philosophical Commentaries on The Book of the Law)
Sometimes it takes a knock in life to make us sit up and grab life. And I had just undergone the mother of all knocks. But out of that despair, fear, and struggle came a silver lining--and I didn’t even know it yet. What I did know was that I needed something to give me back my hope. My sparkle. My life. I found that something in my Christian faith, in my family, and also in my dreams of adventure. My Christian faith says that I have nothing ever to fear or worry about. All is well. At that time, in and out of hospital, it reminded me that, despite the pain and despair, I was held and loved and blessed--my life was secure through Jesus Christ. That gift of grace has been so powerful to me ever since. My family said something very similar: “Bear, you are an idiot, but we love you anyway, forever and always.” That meant the world to me and gave me back some of the confidence that I was struggling to find again. Finally, I had my not insubstantial dreams of adventure. And those dreams were beginning to burn bright once more. You see, I figure that life is a gift. I was learning that more than anyone. My mum always taught me to be grateful for gifts. And as I slowly began to recover my strength and confidence, I realized that what mattered was doing something bold with that present. A gift buried under a tree is wasted. Alone one night in bed, I made a verbal, out-loud, conscious decision, that if I recovered well enough to be able to climb again, then I would get out there and follow those dreams to the max. Cliché? To me it was my only hope. I was choosing to live life with both arms open--I would grab life by the horns and ride it for all it was worth. Life doesn’t often give us second chances. But if it does, be bloody grateful. I vowed I would always be thankful to my father in heaven for having somehow helped me along this rocky road.
Bear Grylls (Mud, Sweat and Tears)
Why does the mind habitually deny or resist the Now? Because it cannot function and remain in control without time, which is past and future, so it perceives the timeless Now as threatening. Time and mind are in fact inseparable. Imagine the Earth devoid of human life, inhabited only by plants and animals. Would it still have a past and a future? Could we still speak of time in any meaningful way? The question “What time is it?” or “What’s the date today?” — if anybody were there to ask it — would be quite meaningless. The oak tree or the eagle would be bemused by such a question. “What time?” they would ask. “Well, of course, it’s now. The time is now. What else is there?” Yes, we need the mind as well as time to function in this world, but there comes a point where they take over our lives, and this is where dysfunction, pain, and sorrow set in. The mind, to ensure that it remains in control, seeks continuously to cover up the present moment with past and future, and so, as the vitality and infinite creative potential of Being, which is inseparable from the Now, becomes covered up by time, your true nature becomes obscured by the mind. An increasingly heavy burden of time has been accumulating in the human mind. All individuals are suffering under this burden, but they also keep adding to it every moment whenever they ignore or deny that precious moment or reduce it to a means of getting to some future moment, which only exists in the mind, never in actuality. The accumulation of time in the collective and individual human mind also holds a vast amount of residual pain from the past. If you no longer want to create pain for yourself and others, if you no longer want to add to the residue of past pain that still lives on in you, then don’t create any more time, or at least no more than is necessary to deal with the practical aspects of your life. How to stop creating time? Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life. Whereas before you dwelt in time and paid brief visits to the Now, have your dwelling place in the Now and pay brief visits to past and future when required to deal with the practical aspects of your life situation. Always say “yes” to the present moment. What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to something that already is? What could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now? Surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life — and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.
Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment)
It was that very same attitude that had caused the heaviness on her heart right now. The phone calls she had received came from people who had spent all year spending money on the things they wanted: new cars, TVs, clothes and going out to eat and now they had nothing left to give to someone else. "When did it happen?" she wondered, "-- this change in people's thinking." What happened to the times when even a small gift was greatly appreciated because you knew the person had sacrificed so much in order to buy or make it? What happened to the times when parents, spouses and children worked so hard in order to be able to give that special gift to someone they loved? When did it become acceptable to call on your expensive cell phone, from your favorite restaurant, to let others know that you can't buy them a gift this year because you can't afford it? Had she been mistaken all this time in her understanding of gift giving? With a droop in her shoulders she turns and walks toward the little tree. How could it have lost its sparkle in a matter of moments? Why do the presents under it suddenly look less gaily wrapped? With tears gently rolling down her cheeks, she stoops to turn off the tree's lights. As she reaches for the plug, her hand accidentally brushes her Bible laying on the table. She looks up through the blur, her eyes alight upon the passage on the open page. "For God so LOVED the world that he GAVE his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." A sweet peace starts warming her heart. She begins to smile and her tears are flowing even more freely now -- not from sadness, but from joy. The lights on the little tree become brighter and brighter, lighting up the whole room with it's sparkle. The gifts under it look more beautiful than those in the most expensive department stores for, in that moment, she realizes that she wasn't wrong to love, to sacrifice and to want to give gifts to the people she loves. Hadn't God Himself so loved us that He gave, with the greatest of sacrifices, the most wonderful gift, His Son. She was so glad that God hadn't spent His time in heaven selfishly using all His resources for Himself. She was thankful that He hadn't sent her a message saying, "Sorry, but I can't afford to give you a gift this year." In those few moments of heartbreak she had learned something more. She had learned what God must feel like to have the gift that He sacrificed so much to give be rejected and scorned. How hurtful to take away the blessing of giving from someone or to reject their gift. Yes, it seemed to be popular to say, "We can't afford to exchange gifts this year", but it didn't matter. She would continue to love, sacrifice and give, always following her heavenly Father's example.
Tawra Jean Kellam (Homemade Christmas)
Last year I had a very unusual experience. I was awake, with my eyes closed, when I had a dream. It was a small dream about time. I was dead, I guess, in deep blank space high up above many white stars. My own consciousness had been disclosed to me, and I was happy. Then I saw far below me a long, curved band of color. As I came closer, I saw that it stretched endlessly in either direction, and I understood that I was seeing all the time of the planet where I had lived. It looked like a woman’s tweed scarf; the longer I studied any one spot, the more dots of color I saw. There was no end to the deepness and variety of dots. At length I started to look for my time, but, although more and more specks of color and deeper and more intricate textures appeared in the fabric, I couldn’t find my time, or any time at all that I recognized as being near my time. I couldn’t make out so much as a pyramid. Yet as I looked at the band of time, all the individual people, I understood with special clarity, were living at that very moment with great emotion, in intricate, detail, in their individual times and places, and they were dying and being replaced by ever more people, one by one, like stitches in which wholly worlds of feeling and energy were wrapped in a never-ending cloth. I remembered suddenly the color and texture of our life as we knew it- these things had been utterly forgotten- and I thought as I searched for it on the limitless band, “that was a good time then, a good time to be living.” And I began to remember our time. I recalled green fields with carrots growing, one by one, in slender rows. Men and women in bright vests and scarves came and pulled the carrots out of the soil and carried them in baskets to shaded kitchens, where they scrubbed them with yellow brushes under running water. I saw white-faced cattle lowing and wading in creeks. I saw May apples in forests, erupting through leaf-strewn paths. Cells on the root hairs of sycamores split and divided, and apples grew spotted and striped in the fall. Mountains kept their cool caves and squirrels raced home to their nests through sunlight and shade. I remembered the ocean, and I seemed to be in the ocean myself, swimming over orange crabs that looked like coral, or off the deep Atlantic banks where whitefish school. Or again I saw the tops of poplars, and the whole sky brushed with clouds in pallid streaks, under which wild ducks flew with outstretched necks, and called, one by one, and flew on. All these things I saw. Scenes grew in depth and sunlit detail before my eyes, and were replaced by ever more scenes, as I remember the life of my time with increasing feeling. At last I saw the earth as a globe in space, and I recalled the ocean’s shape and the form of continents, saying to myself with surprise as I looked at the planet, “yes, that’s how it was then, that part there was called France.” I was filled with the deep affection of nostalgia- and then I opened my eyes. We all ought to be able to conjure up sights like these at will, so that we can keep in mind the scope of texture’s motion in time.
Annie Dillard
I took a shower after dinner and changed into comfortable Christmas Eve pajamas, ready to settle in for a couple of movies on the couch. I remembered all the Christmas Eves throughout my life--the dinners and wrapping presents and midnight mass at my Episcopal church. It all seemed so very long ago. Walking into the living room, I noticed a stack of beautifully wrapped rectangular boxes next to the tiny evergreen tree, which glowed with little white lights. Boxes that hadn’t been there minutes before. “What…,” I said. We’d promised we wouldn’t get each other any gifts that year. “What?” I demanded. Marlboro Man smiled, taking pleasure in the surprise. “You’re in trouble,” I said, glaring at him as I sat down on the beige Berber carpet next to the tree. “I didn’t get you anything…you told me not to.” “I know,” he said, sitting down next to me. “But I don’t really want anything…except a backhoe.” I cracked up. I didn’t even know what a backhoe was. I ran my hand over the box on the top of the stack. It was wrapped in brown paper and twine--so unadorned, so simple, I imagined that Marlboro Man could have wrapped it himself. Untying the twine, I opened the first package. Inside was a pair of boot-cut jeans. The wide navy elastic waistband was a dead giveaway: they were made especially for pregnancy. “Oh my,” I said, removing the jeans from the box and laying them out on the floor in front of me. “I love them.” “I didn’t want you to have to rig your jeans for the next few months,” Marlboro Man said. I opened the second box, and then the third. By the seventh box, I was the proud owner of a complete maternity wardrobe, which Marlboro Man and his mother had secretly assembled together over the previous couple of weeks. There were maternity jeans and leggings, maternity T-shirts and darling jackets. Maternity pajamas. Maternity sweats. I caressed each garment, smiling as I imagined the time it must have taken for them to put the whole collection together. “Thank you…,” I began. My nose stung as tears formed in my eyes. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect gift. Marlboro Man reached for my hand and pulled me over toward him. Our arms enveloped each other as they had on his porch the first time he’d professed his love for me. In the grand scheme of things, so little time had passed since that first night under the stars. But so much had changed. My parents. My belly. My wardrobe. Nothing about my life on this Christmas Eve resembled my life on that night, when I was still blissfully unaware of the brewing thunderstorm in my childhood home and was packing for Chicago…nothing except Marlboro Man, who was the only thing, amidst all the conflict and upheaval, that made any sense to me anymore. “Are you crying?” he asked. “No,” I said, my lip quivering. “Yep, you’re crying,” he said, laughing. It was something he’d gotten used to. “I’m not crying,” I said, snorting and wiping snot from my nose. “I’m not.” We didn’t watch movies that night. Instead, he picked me up and carried me to our cozy bedroom, where my tears--a mixture of happiness, melancholy, and holiday nostalgia--would disappear completely.
Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels)
Fussing over children who cry only encourages them, she told us. That's positive reinforcement for negative behavior. I never believed in Santa Claus. None of us kids did. Mom and Dad refused to let us. They couldn't afford expensive presents, and they didn't want us to think we weren't as good as other kids who, on Christmas morning, found all sorts of fancy toys under the tree that were supposedly left by Santa Claus...Pick out your favorite star, Dad said it was my Christmas present....Years from now, when all the junk they got is broken and long forgotten, Dad said, you'll still have your stars. Some babies are premature. Mine were all postmature. That's why they're so smart. Their brains had longer to develop. It's not being prejudiced, Mom said. It's a matter of accuracy in labeling. When Dad went crazy, we all had our own ways of shutting down and closing off, and that was what we did that night. I didn't feel like celebrating. After all he'd put himself through, I couldn't believe Dad had gone back to the booze. Dad, please come, we need you! I hollered. We need you! we shouted. You're the head of the family! You're the dad! I had to believe they'd come back, I told myself. If I didn't believe, then they might not return. They might leave us forever. Mom...Things usually work out in the end. What if they don't?...That just means you haven't come to the end yet.
Jeannette Walls (Author)
A flash of light came from deep inside the trees and pulled me to the present. It was so bright the glow kissed the treetops. Within seconds, Torin screeched to a stop beside me. His eyes burned under the glowing runes. “What are you doing?” His voice whipped through the night, and I winced. “Trying to get your attention,” I said. “See, I fixed all the trees you destroyed. Cool, right?” “You do not want to be around me right now, Freckles.” “I disagree. I plan to be around you when you are happy, sad, pissed off, hurting, acting like a jackass, goofing off, or showing off. Whatever and whenever. You and I are a package deal, pal. Equal partners and all that jazz.” I pointed at a nearby tree and moved my finger left and right. The tree swayed. “Any time you want to destroy nature, get me first.” He leaned in until we were eye level. “Go home, Raine.” His voice was mean. “Only if you come with me. You want to stay out here, then I’m staying, too. You want pull a Flash move and sprint to Portland and back, then I’ll either run with you or wait out here until you come back. But I’m not going anywhere without you, Torin St. James.
Ednah Walters (Seeress (Runes, #4))
I cannot tell you how exciting it is when you first see your book in paperback, then when the good reviews roll in it is just the red bow on the present under the tree.
Sue Stokes (Walking on Paths of Stones)
A person’s life is a bounded thing that must end. We will leave this earth with unfinished business. Regardless of the outcome of this writing project, I toyed with it long enough. I reconnoitered the world of fantasy and reality, manipulated ideas into sentences, and linked sentences into paragraphs. I peered into the past, weighed the present, and calculated the ramifications of living to experience the future. I told personal lies searching for universal truths and took ample liberty of the notion of an artistic license to make believe. I kicked the dirt, gazed into the sky, and sat under a tree waiting for inspiration. I examined my capacity for mental stagnation and self-deception. I meditated on the aesthetics of despair. I traveled many mental tributaries, and exhausted myself exploring worlds made of vapor. What I was once certain about I am now full of doubt. What I once doubted I now trust. I wrote the way a drunken man walks, rambling, staggering, jerking, and falling down. I retraced my steps to find my way back to the beginning, and erased my steps to arrive at the finale. Thankfully, the ending is coming, and I am finally ready.
Kilroy J. Oldster (Dead Toad Scrolls)
What’s the matter,’ she asks, shakes you and the numbness from your limbs, pulls the towel away and bows. Once upon a time the child would clap at the end of the pantomime, now you stare into the trees, wish you could go back under the umbrella with her again, into the warm towel-cover where the world would shrink back into a trusty, old feeling. There you would tell her everything you’ve learnt about the lifecycle of dragonflies from books and observations in the moor over the last few years. With the rhythm of the drumming and dripping rain and in long sentences that would pearl out of your mouth like the beads of water from the umbrella, you would initiate her into the secret of the insect which lives a long and boring childhood on the bottom of the pond until the strange and the most dangerous moment of its life when in the early morning hours it has climbed up a reed, shed its old skin and stands defenceless before its enemies. The act of metamorphosis can go wrong if the young dragonfly’s still-awkward wings get caught in its skin or hung up on a thorn. Its first attempt at flight, the maiden flight, is clumsy, the insect a new-found snack for birds, for in this phase the adolescent dragonfly, called an imago, is completely concentrated on trying out its new body which is still somewhat familiar to it. But the higher it rises into the air, the more confident and elegant its circles become and soon enough it is able to get around the birds’ beaks and fly off into the moor from where, you say in the final line of your presentation, it comes and where it belongs.
Gunther Geltinger (Moor)
The fact is,” said Van Gogh, “the fact is that we are painters in real life, and the important thing is to breathe as hard as ever we can breathe.” So I breathe. I breathe at the open window above my desk, and a moist fragrance assails me from the gnawed leaves of the growing mock orange. This air is as intricate as the light that filters through forested mountain ridges and into my kitchen window; this sweet air is the breath of leafy lungs more rotted than mine; it has sifted through the serrations of many teeth. I have to love these tatters. And I must confess that the thought of this old yard breathing alone in the dark turns my mind to something else. I cannot in all honesty call the world old when I’ve seen it new. On the other hand, neither will honesty permit me suddenly to invoke certain experiences of newness and beauty as binding, sweeping away all knowledge. But I am thinking now of the tree with the lights in it, the cedar in the yard by the creek I saw transfigured. That the world is old and frayed is no surprise; that the world could ever become new and whole beyond uncertainty was, and is, such a surprise that I find myself referring all subsequent kinds of knowledge to it. And it suddenly occurs to me to wonder: were the twigs of the cedar I saw really bloated with galls? They probably were; they almost surely were. I have seen these “cedar apples” swell from that cedar’s green before and since: reddish gray, rank, malignant. All right then. But knowledge does not vanquish mystery, or obscure its distant lights. I still now and will tomorrow steer by what happened that day, when some undeniably new spirit roared down the air, bowled me over, and turned on the lights. I stood on grass like air, air like lightning coursed in my blood, floated my bones, swam in my teeth. I’ve been there, seen it, been done by it. I know what happened to the cedar tree, I saw the cells in the cedar tree pulse charged like wings beating praise. Now, it would be too facile to pull everything out of the hat and say that mystery vanquishes knowledge. Although my vision of the world of the spirit would not be altered a jot if the cedar had been purulent with galls, those galls actually do matter to my understanding of this world. Can I say then that corruption is one of beauty’s deep-blue speckles, that the frayed and nibbled fringe of the world is a tallith, a prayer shawl, the intricate garment of beauty? It is very tempting, but I cannot. But I can, however, affirm that corruption is not beauty’s very heart and I can I think call the vision of the cedar and the knowledge of these wormy quarryings twin fjords cutting into the granite cliffs of mystery and say the new is always present simultaneously with the old, however hidden. The tree with the lights in it does not go out; that light still shines on an old world, now feebly, now bright. I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty beats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them, under the wind-rent clouds, upstream and down.
Annie Dillard (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)
You’re the one that whupped Galdran Merindar?” Unbidden, Shevraeth’s voice spoke inside my head: “You have never lied to me…” I thought desperately, Better late than never! And for a brief moment I envisioned myself snarling Yes, ha ha! And I minced fifty more like him, so you’d better run! Except it wasn’t going to stop them; I could see it in their eyes and in the way the woman gripped her sword. “No,” I said. “He knocked me off my horse. But I’d taken an oath, so I had to do my best.” I drew in a shaky breath. “I know I can’t fight forty of you, but I’m going to stand here and block you until you either go away or my arms fall off, because this, too, is an oath I took.” The woman muttered something in their home language. Her stance, her tone, made it almost clear it was “I don’t like this.” And he said something in a hard voice, his eyes narrowed. It had to mean “We have no choice. Better her than us.” And he took up a guard position again, his muscles tightening. My sweaty hand gripped my sword, and I raised it, gritting my teeth-- And there came the beat of hooves on the ground. All three of us went still. Either this was reinforcements for them, in which case I was about to become a prisoner--or a ghost--or… Blue and black and white tunicked riders thundered down through the trees toward the wagons. On the other side of the road, another group rounded the rise, and within the space of ten heartbeats, the wagons were surrounded by nine ridings of warriors, a full wing, all with lances pointed and swords at the ready. One of them flashed a grin my way--Nessaren! Then my attention was claimed when the wing commander trotted up, stopped, and bowed low over his horse’s withers. “Your orders, my lady?” He was utterly serious, but the impulse to dissolve into helpless laughter was shaking my already watery insides. “These gentle people may unload their stones, and pile them neatly for the locals to collect,” I said. “And then the drivers and their companions are yours. I think local villagers might be hired to drive the cargo of the wagons to the sea. Brine-soaked kinthus won’t hurt anyone and becomes mere wood. The wagons then might be offered to said villagers as partial payment.” The wing commander bowed again, turned, and issued orders. I noted from the salutes that Nessaren had risen in rank--she now appeared to have three ridings under her. Within a very short time, the prisoners were marched off in one direction and the wagons trundled slowly in another, driven by warriors whose fellows had taken their horses’ reins. All except for one riding. Nessaren presented herself to me and said, “My lady, if it pleases you, I have specific orders.” “And they are?” “You’re to come with us to the nearest inn, where you are to sleep for at least two candles. And then--” I didn’t even hear the “and then.” Suddenly, very suddenly, it was all I could do to climb back onto my pony. Nessaren saw this and, with a gesture, got her group to surround me. In tight formation we rode slowly back down the mountain… And I dismounted… And walked inside the inn… I don’t even remember falling onto the bed.
Sherwood Smith (Court Duel (Crown & Court, #2))
Filming wildlife documentaries couldn’t have happened without John Stainton, our producer. Steve always referred to John as the genius behind the camera, and that was true. The music orchestration, the editing, the knowledge of what would make good television and what wouldn’t--these were all areas of John’s clear expertise. But on the ground, under the water, or in the bush, while we were actually filming, it was 100 percent Steve. He took care of the crew and eventually his family as well, while filming in some of the most remote, inaccessible, and dangerous areas on earth. Steve kept the cameraman alive by telling him exactly when to shoot and when to run. He orchestrated what to film and where to film, and then located the wildlife. Steve’s first rule, which he repeated to the crew over and over, was a simple one: Film everything, no matter what happens. “If something goes wrong,” he told the crew, “you are not going to be of any use to me lugging a camera and waving your other arm around trying to help. Just keep rolling. Whatever the sticky situation is, I will get out of it.” Just keep rolling. Steve’s mantra. On all of our documentary trips, Steve packed the food, set up camp, fed the crew. He knew to take the extra tires, the extra fuel, the water, the gear. He anticipated the needs of six adults and two kids on every film shoot we ever went on. As I watched him at Lakefield, the situation was no different. Our croc crew came and went, and the park rangers came and went, and Steve wound up organizing anywhere from twenty to thirty people. Everyone did their part to help. But the first night, I watched while one of the crew put up tarps to cover the kitchen area. After a day or two, the tarps slipped, the ropes came undone, and water poured off into our camp kitchen. After a full day of croc capture, Steve came back into camp that evening. He made no big deal about it. He saw what was going on. I watched him wordlessly shimmy up a tree, retie the knots, and resecure the tarps. What was once a collection of saggy, baggy tarps had been transformed into a well-secured roof. Steve had the smooth and steady movements of someone who was self-assured after years of practice. He’d get into the boat, fire up the engine, and start immediately. There was never any hesitation. His physical strength was unsurpassed. He could chop wood, gather water, and build many things with an ease that was awkwardly obvious when anybody else (myself, for example) tried to struggle with the same task. But when I think of all his bush skills, I treasured most his way of delivering up the natural world. On that croc research trip in the winter of 2006, Steve presented me with a series of memories more valuable than any piece of jewelry.
Terri Irwin (Steve & Me)
Stood beneath the noose, already free this whole week now of that sorry and mortal body which was the sorry all which penance could rob him of, standing calm composed and at peace, the trivial noose already fitted to his neck and in his vision one last segment of the sky beyond which his theology had taught him he would presently be translated, and one single branch of an adjacent tree extending over the stockade as though in benison, one last gesture of earth’s absolution, with which he had long since severed any frail remaining thread; when suddenly a bird flew onto that bough and stopped and opened its tiny throat and sang—whereupon he who less than a second before had his very foot lifted to step from earth’s grief and anguish into eternal peace, cast away heaven, salvation, immortal soul and all, struggling to free his bound hands in order to snatch away the noose, crying, ‘Innocent! Innocent! I didn’t do it!’ even as the trap earth world and all, fell from under him—all because of one bird, one weightless and ephemeral creature which hawk might stoop at or snare or lime or random pellet of some idle boy destroy before the sun set—except that tomorrow, next year, there would be another bird, another spring, the same bough leafed again and another bird to sing on it, if he is only here to hear it, can only remain—Do you follow me?
William Faulkner (A Fable)
And off she went with a crock of marmalade and a bottle of red currant wine tied up in colored tissue paper. She reached the Blairs' as the last shard of blue daylight turned plummy. What had been the storefront window was now lit with candles. A woolly fir tree stood tall in the middle, its needled boughs drooping ever so slightly under the weight of twinkling glass ornaments, candy canes, and small pears balanced on top of them. An army of guests' presents, in every color of paper and ribbon, had been stacked beneath. one of the little Pye boys stole a peppermint off the tree and raced to the corner to devour it. A fiddle and a fife trilled out carols, and from the sway of the crowd inside, Marilla knew they were already dancing. She took in the night: home and friends and all that she cherished.
Sarah McCoy (Marilla of Green Gables)
The Unknown Soldier A tale to tell in bloody rhyme, A story to last ’til the dawn of end’s time. Of a loving boy who left dear home, To bear his countries burdens; her honor to sow. –A common boy, I say, who left kith and kin, To battle der Kaiser and all that was therein. The Arsenal of Democracy was his kind, –To make the world safe–was their call and chime. Trained he thus in the far army camps, Drilled he often in the march and stamp. Laughed he did with new found friends, Lived they together for the noble end. Greyish mottled images clipp’ed and hack´ed– Black and white broke drum Ʀ…ɧ..λ..t…ʮ..m..ȿ —marching armies off to ’ttack. Images scratched, chopped, theatrical exaggerate, Confetti parades, shouts of high praise To where hell would sup and partake with all bon hope as the transport do them take Faded icons board the ship– To steel them away collaged together –joined in spirit and hip. Timeworn humanity of once what was To broker peace in eagles and doves. Mortal clay in the earth but to grapple and smite As warbirds ironed soar in heaven’s light. All called all forward to divinities’ kept date, Heroes all–all aces and fates. Paris–Used to sing and play at some cards, A common Joe everybody knew from own heart. He could have been called ‘the kid’ by the ‘old man,’ But a common private now taking orders to stand. Receiving letters from his shy sweet one, Read them over and over until they faded to none. Trained like hell with his Commander-in-Arms, –To avoid the dangers of a most bloody harm. Aye, this boy was mortal, true enough said, He could be one of thousands alive but now surely dead. How he sang and cried and ate the gruel of rations, And grumbled as soldiers do at war’s great contagions. Out–out to the battle this young did go, To become a man; the world to show. (An ocean away his mother cried so– To return her boy safe as far as the heavens go). Lay he down in trenched hole, With balls bursting overhead upon the knoll. Listened hardnfast to the “Sarge” bearing the news, —“We’re going over soon—” was all he knew. The whistle blew; up and over they went, Charging the Hun, his life to be spent (“Avoid the gas boys that’ll blister yer arse!!”). Running through wires razored and deadened trees, Fell he into a gouge to find in shelter of need (They say he bayoneted one just as he–, face to face in War’s Dance of trialed humanity). A nameless sonnuvabitch shell then did untimely RiiiiiiiP the field asunder in burrrstzʑ–and he tripped. And on the field of battle’s blood did he die, Faceless in a puddle as blurrs of ghosting men shrieked as they were fleeing by–. Perished he alone in the no man’s land, Surrounded by an army of his brother’s teeming bands . . . And a world away a mother sighed, Listened to the rain and lay down and cried. . . . Today lays the grave somber and white, Guarded decades long in both the dark and the light. Silent sentinels watch o’er and with him do walk, Speak they neither; their duty talks. Lone, stark sentries perform the unsmiling task, –Guarding this one dead–at the nation’s bequest. Cared over day and night in both rain or sun, Present changing of the guard and their duty is done (The changing of the guard ’tis poetry motioned A Nation defining itself–telling of rifles twirl-clicking under the intensest of devotions). This poem–of The Unknown, taken thus, Is rend eternal by Divinity’s Iron Trust. How he, a common soldier, gained the estate Of bearing his countries glory unto his unknown fate. Here rests in honored glory a warrior known but to God, Now rests he in peace from the conflict path he trod. He is our friend, our family, brother, our mother’s son –belongs he to us all, For he has stood in our place–heeding God’s final call.
Douglas Laurent
DECEMBER 6 First Saturday of Advent Cure Every Disease Saint Nicholas, also known as Nicholas the Wonderworker, was a fourth-century Greek bishop. Legend has it that he saved the people of Myra from famine, protected the wrongly accused, and practiced secret gift-giving—putting coins, for example, in the shoes townsfolk would leave on their doorsteps. A friend once told a story from his childhood of Christmas morning. For weeks, he’d anticipated the opening of the presents. He’d seen the gifts under the tree, picked them up, hefted them to gauge the weight, held them up to his ear and shook, trying to guess. Finally, Christmas dawned; the family gathered; one by one he opened all kinds of beautiful gifts. He can’t now remember what the gifts were; what he remembers is that by afternoon he felt downcast, fretful. “What is it?” his mother finally asked. “What’s the matter?” “I didn’t get what I wanted,” he replied. “What did you want?” “I don’t know—I just know I didn’t get it.” Saint Nicholas reminds us that the Christmas practice of exchanging gifts is based on the greatest gift of all: Christ himself. To be a laborer for the harvest is to realize that we can never, ever get enough. It’s in giving that our demons are cast out. It’s in loving that we are healed.
Magnificat (2014 Magnificat Advent Companion)
Is the ash in trees, babies, flowers, and visions of God better than the visions themselves? Then you think, none of this is tangible or concrete. So you have another cigarette and think about the (not one) but many ghosts you keep tucked away, under sheets, under beds, in notes, within other ghosts.
Derek Keck
When he had made all the necessary preparations the army began to embark at the approach of the dawn; while according to custom he offered sacrifice to the gods and to the river Hydaspes, as the prophets directed. When he had embarked he poured a libation into the river from the prow of the ship out of a golden goblet, invoking the Acesines as well as the Hydaspes, because he had ascertained that it is the largest of all the rivers which unite with the Hydaspes, and that their confluence was not far off. He also invoked the Indus, into which the Acesines flows after its junction with the Hydaspes. Moreover he poured out libations to his forefather Heracles, to Ammon, and the other gods to whom he was in the habit of sacrificing, and then he ordered the signal for starting seawards to be given with the trumpet. As soon as the signal was given they commenced the voyage in regular order; for directions had been given at what distance apart it was necessary for the baggage vessels to be arranged, as also for the vessels conveying the horses and for the ships of war; so that they might not fall foul of each other by sailing down the channel at random. He did not allow even the fast-sailing ships to get out of rank by outstripping the rest. The noise of the rowing was never equalled on any other occasion, inasmuch as it proceeded from so many ships rowed at the same time; also the shouting of the boatswains giving the time for beginning and stopping the stroke of the oars, and the clamour of the rowers, when keeping time all together with the dashing of the oars, made a noise like a battle-cry. The banks of the river also, being in many places higher than the ships, and collecting the sound into a narrow space, sent back to each other an echo which was very much increased by its very compression. In some parts too the groves of trees on each side of the river helped to swell the sound, both from the solitude and the reverberation of the noise. The horses which were visible on the decks of the transports struck the barbarians who saw them with such surprise that those of them who were present at the starting of the fleet accompanied it a long way from the place of embarkation. For horses had never before been seen on board ships in the country of India; and the natives did not call to mind that the expedition of Dionysus into India was a naval one. The shouting of the rowers and the noise of the rowing were heard by the Indians who had already submitted to Alexander, and these came running down to the river’s bank and accompanied him singing their native songs. For the Indians have been eminently fond of singing and dancing since the time of Dionysus and those who under his bacchic inspiration traversed the land of the Indians with him.
Arrian (The Campaigns of Alexander)
All the substances that are the main drugs of abuse today originate in natural plant products and have been known to human beings for thousands of years. Opium, the basis of heroin, is an extract of the Asian poppy Papaver somniferum. Four thousand years ago, the Sumerians and Egyptians were already familiar with its usefulness in treating pain and diarrhea and also with its powers to affect a person’s psychological state. Cocaine is an extract of the leaves of Erythroxyolon coca, a small tree that thrives on the eastern slopes of the Andes in western South America. Amazon Indians chewed coca long before the Conquest, as an antidote to fatigue and to reduce the need to eat on long, arduous mountain journeys. Coca was also venerated in spiritual practices: Native people called it the Divine Plant of the Incas. In what was probably the first ideological “War on Drugs” in the New World, the Spanish invaders denounced coca’s effects as a “delusion from the devil.” The hemp plant, from which marijuana is derived, first grew on the Indian subcontinent and was christened Cannabis sativa by the Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus in 1753. It was also known to ancient Persians, Arabs and Chinese, and its earliest recorded pharmaceutical use appears in a Chinese compendium of medicine written nearly three thousand years ago. Stimulants derived from plants were also used by the ancient Chinese, for example in the treatment of nasal and bronchial congestion. Alcohol, produced by fermentation that depends on microscopic fungi, is such an indelible part of human history and joy making that in many traditions it is honoured as a gift from the gods. Contrary to its present reputation, it has also been viewed as a giver of wisdom. The Greek historian Herodotus tells of a tribe in the Near East whose council of elders would never sustain a decision they made when sober unless they also confirmed it under the influence of strong wine. Or, if they came up with something while intoxicated, they would also have to agree with themselves after sobering up. None of these substances could affect us unless they worked on natural processes in the human brain and made use of the brain’s innate chemical apparatus. Drugs influence and alter how we act and feel because they resemble the brain’s own natural chemicals. This likeness allows them to occupy receptor sites on our cells and interact with the brain’s intrinsic messenger systems. But why is the human brain so receptive to drugs of abuse? Nature couldn’t have taken millions of years to develop the incredibly intricate system of brain circuits, neurotransmitters and receptors that become involved in addiction just so people could get “high” to escape their troubles or have a wild time on a Saturday night. These circuits and systems, writes a leading neuroscientist and addiction researcher, Professor Jaak Panksepp, must “serve some critical purpose other than promoting the vigorous intake of highly purified chemical compounds recently developed by humans.” Addiction may not be a natural state, but the brain regions it subverts are part of our central machinery of survival.
Gabor Maté (In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction)
them, behind the trees, the strange Italian restaurant that had brought these, their real bodies, to this, the real, present world of Krikkit. The strong grass under their feet was real, the rich soil real, too. The heady fragrances from the tree, too, were real. The night was real night. Krikkit. Possibly the most dangerous place in the Galaxy for anyone who isn’t Krikkiter to stand.
Douglas Adams (Life, the Universe and Everything (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, #3))
From the Bridge” The Importance of History Not all that many years ago the Importance of history would have been a “no brainer!” People understood that there was very little new under the sun, and history was a good barometer to the future. “Those that fail to heed history are doomed to repeat it, “was an adage frequently heard. It gave us a perspective by which to stabilize our bearings and allowed us to find one of the few ways by which we could understand who we are. The myth that George Washington, not being able to lie, admitted to chopping down his father’s favorite cherry tree helped us create a moral compass. Abraham Lincoln’s moniker “Honest Abe,” took root when he worked as a young store clerk in New Salem, IL. The name stuck before he became a lawyer or a politician. His writings show that he valued honesty and in 1859 when he ran for the presidency the nickname became his campaign slogan. However, apparently ”Honest Abe” did lie about whether he was negotiating with the South to end the war and also knowingly concealed some of the most lethal weapons ever devised during the Civil War." These however, were very minor infractions when compared to what we are now expected to believe from our politicians. Since World War II the pace of life has moved faster than ever and may actually have overrun our ability to understand the significance and value of our own honesty. We no longer turn to our past for guidance regarding the future; rather we look into our future in terms of what we want and how we will get it. We have developed to the point that we are much smarter than our ancestors and no longer need their morality and guidance. What we don’t know we frequently fabricate and in most cases, no one picks up on it and if they do, it really doesn’t seem to matter. In short the past has become outdated, obsolete and therefore has become largely irrelevant to us. Being less informed about our past is not the result of a lack of information or education, but of ambivalence and indifference. Perhaps history belongs to the ages but not to us. To a great extent we as a people really do not believe that history matters very much, if at all. My quote “History is not owned solely by historians. It is part of everyone’s heritage,” was written for the opening page of my award winning book “The Exciting Story of Cuba.” Not only is it the anchor holding our Ship of State firmly secure, it is the root of our very being. Yes, history is important. In centuries past this statement would have been self-evident. Our predecessors devoted much time and effort in teaching their children history and it helped provide the foundation to understanding who they were. It provided them a reference whereby they could set their own life’s goals. However society has, to a great extent, turned its back on the past. We now live in an era where the present is most important and our future is being built on shifting sand. We, as a people are presently engaged in a struggle for economic survival and choose to think of ourselves in terms of where wind and tide is taking us, rather than where we came from. We can no longer identify with our ancestors, thus they are no longer relevant. Their lives were so different from our own that they no longer can shed any light on our experience or existence. Therefore, in the minds of many of us, the past no longer has the value it once had nor do we give it the credence it deserves. As in war, the truth is the first victim; however this casualty threatens the very fabric of our being. When fact and fiction are interchanged to satisfy the moment, the bedrock of history in undermined. When we depend on the truth to structure our future, it is vital that it be based on truthful history and the honesty of those who write it. It is a crime without penalty when our politicians tell us lies. In fact they are often shamefully rewarded; encouraging them to become even more blatant in the lies they tell.
Hank Bracker
This water was very different from any ordinary food. It was born from the walk under the stars, the song of the pulley, the effort of carrying him in my arms. It did the heart good, like a present. When I was a little boy, the lights of the Christmas tree, the music of the midnight mass, the sweetness of people's smiles, all formed part of the radiance of the Christmas gifts I received.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (The Little Prince)
The domestication of grain was accompanied by an equally radical innovation in the preparation of food: the invention of bread. In an endless variety of forms, from the unleavened wheat or barley of the Near East to the corn tortillas of the Mexicans and the yeast-risen bread of later cultures, bread has been up to now the center of every diet. No other form of food is so acceptable, so transportable, or so universal. "Give us this day our daily bread" became a universal prayer, and so venerated was this food, as the very flesh of God, that to cut it with a knife is still, in some cultures, a sacrilege. Daily bread brought a security in the food supply that had never before been possible. Despite seasonal fluctuations in yield due to floods or droughts, the cultivation of grains made man assured of his daily nourishment, provided he worked steadily and consecutively, as he had never been certain of the supply of game or his luck in killing it. With bread and oil, bread and butter, or bread and bacon, neolithic cultures had the backbone of a balanced diet, rich in energy, needing only fresh garden produce to be entirely adequate. With this security, it was possible to look ahead and plan ahead with confidence. Except in the tropical areas, where soil regeneration was not mastered, groups could now remain rooted in one spot, surrounded by fields under permanent cultivation, slowly making improvements in the landscape, digging ditches and irrigation canals, making terraces, planting trees, which later generations would be grateful for. Capital accumulation begins at this point: the end of hand-to-mouth living. With the domestication of grains, the future became predictable as never before; and the cultivator not merely sought to retain the ancestral past, but to expand all his present possibilities: once the daily bread was assured, those wider migrations and transplantations of men, which made the country town and the city possible, speedily followed.
Lewis Mumford (Technics and Human Development (The Myth of the Machine, Vol 1))
Men," said the little prince, "set out on their way in express trains, but they do not know what they are looking for. Then they rush about, and get excited, and turn round and round..." And he added: "It is not worth the trouble..." [...] "I am thirsty for this water," said the little prince. "Give me some of it to drink..." And I understood what he had been looking for. I raised the bucket to his lips. He drank, his eyes closed. It was as sweet as some special festival treat. This water was indeed a different thing from ordinary nourishment. Its sweetness was born of the walk under the stars, the song of the pulley, the effort of my arms. It was good for the heart, like a present. When I was a little bou, the lights of the Christmas tree, the music of the Midnight Mass, the tenderness of smiling faces, used to make up, so the radiance of the gifts I received. "The men where you live," said the little prince, "raised five thousand roses in the same garden - and they do not find in it what they are looking for. [...] And yet what they are looking for could be found in one single rose, or in a little water." "Yes, that is true," I said. And the little prince added: "But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart...
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (The Little Prince)
Mr Casaubon’s behaviour about settlements was highly satisfactory to Mr Brooke, and the preliminaries of marriage rolled smoothly along, shortening the weeks of courtship. The betrothed bride must see her future home, and dictate any changes that she would like to have made there. A woman dictates before marriage in order that she may have an appetite for submission afterwards. And certainly, the mistakes that we male and female mortals make when we have our own way might fairly raise some wonder that we are so fond of it. On a grey but dry November morning Dorothea drove to Lowick in company with her uncle and Celia. Mr Casaubon’s home was the manor-house. Close by, visible from some parts of the garden, was the little church, with the old parsonage opposite. In the beginning of his career, Mr Casaubon had only held the living, but the death of his brother had put him in possession of the manor also. It had a small park, with a fine old oak here and there, and an avenue of limes towards the south-west front, with a sunk fence between park and pleasure-ground, so that from the drawing-room windows the glance swept uninterruptedly along a slope of greensward till the limes ended in a level of corn and pastures, which often seemed to melt into a lake under the setting sun. This was the happy side of the house, for the south and east looked rather melancholy even under the brightest morning. The grounds here were more confined, the flower-beds showed no very careful tendance, and large clumps of trees, chiefly of sombre yews, had risen high, not ten yards from the windows. The building, of greenish stone, was in the old English style, not ugly, but small-windowed and melancholy-looking: the sort of house that must have children, many flowers, open windows, and little vistas of bright things, to make it seem a joyous home. In this latter end of autumn, with a sparse remnant of yellow leaves falling slowly athwart the dark evergreens in a stillness without sunshine, the house too had an air of autumnal decline, and Mr Casaubon, when he presented himself, had no bloom that could be thrown into relief by that background. ‘Oh dear!’ Celia said to herself, ‘I am sure Freshitt Hall would have been pleasanter than this.’ She thought of the white freestone, the pillared portico, and the terrace full of flowers, Sir James smiling above them like a prince issuing from his enchantment in a rosebush, with a handkerchief swiftly metamorphosed from the most delicately-odorous petals—Sir James, who talked so agreeably, always about things which had common-sense in them, and not about learning! Celia had those light young feminine tastes which grave and weather-worn gentlemen sometimes prefer in a wife; but happily Mr Casaubon’s bias had been different, for he would have had no chance with Celia.
George Eliot (Middlemarch)
Presently, as I followed the water down, the steep fall of the valley leveled somewhat, and the ground underfoot changed from moor grass to a dense aromatic carpet of bog myrtle interlaced with heather; and I began to feel for the firmness of every step. Then it dropped again, and the stream plunged after it in a long slide of black water smooth as polished glass under the overarching tangle of hawthorn trees, and rough pasture came up to meet me among the hillside outcrops of black rock, and almost in the same instant I snuffed the faint blue whisper of woodsmoke.
Rosemary Sutcliff (Sword at Sunset)
Plays, farces, spectacles, gladiators, strange beasts, medals, pictures, and other such opiates, these were for ancient peoples the bait toward slavery, the price of their liberty, the instruments of tyranny. By these practices and enticements the ancient dictators so successfully lulled their subjects under the yoke, that the stupefied peoples, fascinated by the pastimes and vain pleasures flashed before their eyes, learned subservience as naively, but not so creditably, as little children learn to read by looking at bright picture books. Roman tyrants invented a further refinement. They often provided the city wards with feasts to cajole the rabble, always more readily tempted by the pleasure of eating than by anything else. The most intelligent and understanding amongst them would not have quit his soup bowl to recover the liberty of the Republic of Plato. Tyrants would distribute largess, a bushel of wheat, a gallon of wine, and a sesterce: and then everybody would shamelessly cry, “Long live the King!” The fools did not realize that they were merely recovering a portion of their own property, and that their ruler could not have given them what they were receiving without having first taken it from them. A man might one day be presented with a sesterce and gorge himself at the public feast, lauding Tiberius and Nero for handsome liberality, who on the morrow, would be forced to abandon his property to their avarice, his children to their lust, his very blood to the cruelty of these magnificent emperors, without offering any more resistance than a stone or a tree stump. The mob has always behaved in this way---eagerly open to bribes that cannot be honorably accepted, and dissolutely callous to degradation and insult that cannot be honorably endured. Nowadays I do not meet anyone who, on hearing mention of Nero, does not shudder at the very name of that hideous monster, that disgusting and vile pestilence. Yet when he died---when this incendiary, this executioner, this savage beast, died as vilely as he had lived---the noble Roman people, mindful of his games and his festivals, were saddened to the point of wearing mourning for him.
Étienne de La Boétie (The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude)
All of this was overtaken in 1848, when the Illustrated London News published an engraving of Victoria and Albert beside a tabletop tree at Windsor. The accompanying text explained that this was the children’s tree, while the queen, the prince consort, the Duchess of Kent, and ‘the royal household’ all had their own, as well as additional trees in the dining-room.4 This single image cemented the Christmas tree in the popular consciousness, so much so that by 1861, the year of Albert’s death, it was firmly believed that this German prince had transplanted the custom to England with him when he married. In the USA, the engraving was rendered more democratic when Godey’s Lady’s Book, the bestselling monthly magazine in the country, reprinted it in 1850, merely removing Victoria’s jewellery and Albert’s sash and medals (as well as his moustache), and reducing the number of presents under the tree. The illustration was retitled ‘The Christmas Tree’, with no reference to royalty
Judith Flanders (Christmas: A Biography)