Moments with Books

“A waitress came and stood over them. She tapped her pencil on the order pad. ‘What can I get you?’ she said. Her name tag spelled out her name in all-capital letters: RITA! Flora narrowed her eyes. The exclamation point made Rita seem untrustworthy, or, at the very least, insincere.”

from Kate DiCamillo’s Flora & Ulysses

“Leo Matienne had the soul of a poet, and because of this, he liked very much to consider questions that had no answers. He like to ask ‘What if?’ and ‘Why not?’ and ‘Could it possibly be?’

. . .

‘Who are we to say what God intends?’ said Leo Matienne. He was silent for a long moment. ‘What if?’

‘Don’t you dare,’ said Gloria. ‘My heart has been broken too many times, and it cannot bear to hear your foolish questions.’

But Leo Matienne would not be silenced. ‘What if?’ he whispered to his wife.

‘No,’ said Gloria.

‘Why not?’


‘Could it be?’

‘No,’ said Gloria Matienne, ‘it cannot be.'”

from Kate DiCamillo’s The Magician’s Elephant

Jane’s hair overwhelmed two barrettes and a rubber band. Since her mouth was wider than her teeth, whenever she smiled or laughed, dark triangles pointed up her lips’ corners. Knowing, Lou looked hard and saw Jane was already showing. –You look wonderful, Jane told Reevadare. Reevadare’s humpback, which she named Surtsey, was now almost higher than her head. –Honey, I got enough troubles without looking good. Reevadare never used to call people honey. She was playing old age like a bass. –“The tragedy of old age,” Jane said, “is not that one is old but that one is young.” Reevadare led them to a red table in the garden. Unseen, a catbird sang baroque. The wind was clocking east. It cracked the cold sea line. (124)

from Annie Dillard’s The Maytrees

Reevadare’s hair’s part sunburned red. She was going hatless these days like everyone else. To Lou as a girl, old people’s following fashion was just as sickening to watch as old people’s not following fashion. Reevadare’s ears looked like Buddha’s. Her tea smelled like grass clippings. (125)

from Annie Dillard’s The Maytrees

Lou decided that the lower Cape’s ratio of gases and fluids to solids must be out of whack. Otherwise, she agreed with many out here who like her (and Maytree, Deary, and Jane) found it prudent not to waste life’s few years cultivating and displaying good taste. To whom? She could be reading. (125)

from Annie Dillard’s The Maytrees

Lou hoped scandalously to live her own life. A subnormal calling, since civilization means cities and cities mean social norms. She wanted only to hear herself think. She admired Diogenes who shaved half his head so he would stay home to think. How else might she hear any original note, any stray subject-and-verb in the head, however faint, should one come? She pushed her tiller hard over, came about, and set a slashing course upwind. The one-room ever-sparer dune shack was her chief dwelling from which only hurricane or frost exiled her. Over decades, she had reclaimed what she had forfeited of her own mind, if any. She took pains to keep outside the world’s acceleration. An Athens marketplace amazed Diogenes with “How many things there are in the world of which Diogenes hath no need!” Lou had long since cut out fashion and all radio but the Red Sox. In the past few years she had let go her ties to people she did not like, to ironing, to dining out in town, and to buying things not necessary and that themselves needed care. She ignored whatever did not interest her. With those blows she opened her days like a piñata. A hundred freedoms fell on her. She hitched free years to her lifespan like a kite tail. Everyone envied her the time she had, not noticing that they had equal time. (131)

from Annie Dillard’s The Maytrees

In the strictly-for-profit hospital, professionals did their best shorthanded. (148)

from Annie Dillard’s The Maytrees

“Los Angeles airport has twenty-five thousand parking spaces.” (131)

from Annie Dillard’s For the Time Being

“Ecstasy, I think, is a soul’s response to the waves holiness makes as it nears.” (138)

from Annie Dillard’s For the Time Being

“The more we wake to holiness, the more of it we give birth to, the more we introduce, expand, and multiply it on earth, the more God is ‘on the field.'” (140)

Joel Goldsmith’s ideas presented by Annie Dillard in For the Time Being

“The Baal Shem Tov danced and leaped as he prayed, and his congregation danced too. Hasids today dance and leap.[…] In 1903, this same Rabbi Nachman said, ‘I have danced a lot this year.’ During the preceding twelve months, in fact, Russia had passed a series of laws hobbling Jews. A disciple explained his master’s words: ‘By means of dance one can transform the evil forces and nullify decrees.'” (144)

from Annie Dillard’s For the Time Being

He was content to look me in the eye and converse about the world–a trait one finds among the world’s most sophisticated people, like this shopkeeper, and also among the world’s most unsophisticated people. Tribal Yemenis reaping barley in their high mountain villages understand faces too, and caboclo men and women killing chickens in the Equadoran Oriente along the Rio Napo, Nicaraguans fishing over the Costa Rican border, Inuit shooting geese at the edge of the Bering Sea, the Marquesas Islanders eating breadfruit in the Pacific. People whose parents were perhaps illiterate read strangers’ eyes–you can watch them read yours–and learn what they need to know. It does not take long. They understand that grand coincidence brings us together, upright and within earshot, in this flickering generation of human life on this durable planet–common language or not, sale or no sale–and therefore to mark the occasion we might as well have a little cigarette.
They settle in comfortably to talk, despite any outlandish appearance. This happens among people who have never clapped eyes on a tall woman, or a bareheaded woman, or a barefaced woman, or a pale-haired woman, or a woman wearing pants, or a woman walking alone; these wise men and women discard all that in a glance, and go for the eyes.” (162)

from Annie Dillard’s For the Time Being


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