Don’t try to make life a mathematics problem with yourself in the center and everything coming out equal. When you’re good, bad things can still happen. And if you’re bad, you can still be lucky.
Listen. Slide the weight from your shoulders and move forward. You are afraid you might forget, but you never will. You will forgive and remember.
I’ve seen how you can’t learn anything when you’re trying to look like the smartest person in the room.
Listen. To live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know. In perfect stillness, frankly, I've only found sorrow.
I attempted briefly to consecrate myself in the public library, believing every crack in my soul could be chinked with a book.
A first child is your own best foot forward, and how you do cheer those little feet as they strike out. You examine every turn of flesh for precocity, and crow it to the world. But the last one: the baby who trails her scent like a flag of surrender through your life when there will be no more coming after--oh, that' s love by a different name.
There is a strange moment in time, after something horrible happens, when you know it's true, but you haven't told anyone yet.
As long as I kept moving, my grief streamed out behind me like a swimmer's long hair in water. I knew the weight was there but it didn't touch me. Only when I stopped did the slick, dark stuff of it come floating around my face, catching my arms and throat till I began to drown. So I just didn't stop.
Misunderstanding is my cornerstone. It's everyone's, come to think of it. Illusions mistaken for truth are the pavement under our feet.
But the last one: the baby who trails her scent like a flag of surrender through your life when there will be no more coming after - oh, that's love by a different name. She is the babe you hold in your arms for an hour after she's gone to sleep. If you put her down in the crib, she might wake up changed and fly away. So instead you rock by the window, drinking the light from her skin, breathing her exhaled dreams. Your heart bays to the double crescent moons of closed lashes on her cheeks. She's the one you can't put down.
I could never work out whether we were to view religion as a life-insurance policy or a life sentence. I can understand a wrathful God who'd just as soon dangle us all from a hook. And I can understand a tender, unprejudiced Jesus. But I could never quite feature the two of them living in the same house. You wind up walking on eggshells, never knowing which... is at home at the moment.
Silence has many advantages. When you do not speak, other people presume you to be deaf or feeble-minded and promptly make a show of their own limitations.
No other continent has endured such an unspeakably bizarre combination of foreign thievery and foreign goodwill.
Sugar, it's no parade but you'll get down the street one way or another, so you'd just as well throw your shoulders back and pick up the pace.
But I've swallowed my pride before, that's for sure. I'm practically lined with my mistakes on the inside like a bad-wallpapered bathroom.
Every betrayal contains a perfect moment, a coin stamped heads or tails with salvation on the other side.
To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know.
The death of something living is the price of our own survival, and we pay it again and again. We have no choice. It is the one solemn promise every life on earth is born and bound to keep.
Every life is different because you passed this way and touched history. Even the child Ruth May touched history. Everyone is complicit. The okapi complied by living, and the spider by dying. It would have lived if it could. Listen: being dead is not worse than being alive. It is different, though. You could say the view is larger.
I stir in bed and the memories rise out of me like a buzz of flies from a carcass. I crave to be rid of them...
I know how people are, with their habits of mind. Most will sail through from cradle to grave with a conscience clean as snow...I know people. Most have no earthly notion of the price of a snow-white conscience.
A choir of seedlings arching their necks out of rotted tree stumps, sucking life out of death. I am the forest's conscience, but remember, the forest eats itself and lives forever.
He was my father. I own half his genes, and all of his history. Believe this: the mistakes are part of the story. I am born of a man who believed he could tell nothing but the truth, while he set down for all time the Poisonwood Bible.
I wonder that religion can live or die on the strength of a faint, stirring breeze. The scent trail shifts, causing the predator to miss the pounce. One god draws in the breath of life and rises; another god expires.
The arrogance of the able-bodied is staggering. Yes, maybe we'd like to be able to get places quickly, and carry things in both hands, but only because we have to keep up with the rest of you. We would rather be just like us, and have that be all right.
Shoes would interfere with her conversation, for she constantly addresses the ground under her feet. Asking forgiveness. Owning, disowning, recanting, recharting a hateful course of events to make sense of her complicity. We all are, I suppose. Trying to invent our version of the story. All human odes are essentially one, "My life; what I stole from history, and how I live with it.
Hunger of the body is altogether different from the shallow, daily hunger of the belly. Those who have known this kind of hunger cannot entirely love, ever again, those who have not.
For if there is any single thing that everyone hopes for most dearly, it must be this: that the youngest outlive the oldest.
But Anatole said suddenly, 'Don't expect God's protection in places beyond God's dominion. It will only make you feel punished. I'm warning you. When things go bad, you will blame yourself.' 'What are you telling me?' 'I am telling you what I'm telling you. Don't try to make life a mathematics problem with yourself in the center and everything coming out equal. When you are good, bad things can still happen. And if you are bad, you can still be lucky.
He was getting that look he gets, oh boy, like Here comes Moses tromping down off of Mount Syanide with ten fresh ways to wreck your life.
You can curse the dead or pray for them, but don't expect them to do a thing for you. They're far too interested in watching us, to see what in heaven's name we will do next.
I can think of no honorable answer. Why must some of us deliberate between brands of toothpaste, while others deliberate between damp dirt and bone dust to quiet the fire of an empty stomach lining? There is nothing about the United States I can really explain to this child of another world.
Tall and straight I may appear, but I will always be Ada inside. A crooked little person trying to tell the truth. The power is in the balance: we are our injuries, as much as we are our successes.
How is it right to slip free of an old skin and walk away from the scene of the crime? We came, we saw, we took away and we left behind, we must be allowed our anguish and our regrets.
Because I could not stop for death he kindly stopped for me, or paused at least to strike a glancing blow with his sky-blue mouth as he passed.
When I want to take God at his word exactly, I take a peep out the window at His creation. Because that, darling, He makes fresh for us everyday...
For time and eternity there have been fathers like Nathan who simply can see no way to have a daughter but to own her like a plot of land. To work her, plow her under, rain down a dreadful poison upon her. Miraculously, it causes these girls to grow. They elongate on the pale slender stalks of their longing, like sunflowers with heavy heads. You can shield them with your body and soul, trying to absorb that awful rain, but they'll still move toward him. Without cease they'll bend to his light.
...trust in Creation which is made fresh daily and doesn’t suffer in translation. This God does not work in especially mysterious ways. The sun here rises and sets at six exactly. A caterpillar becomes a butterfly. A bird raises its brood in the forest and a greenheart tree will only grow from a greenheart seed. He brings drought sometimes followed by torrential rains and if these things aren’t always what I had in mind, they aren’t my punishment either. They’re rewards, let’s say for the patience of a seed.
On the day I swore to uphold the Hippocratic oath, the small hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I waited for lightning to strike. Who was I, vowing calmly among all these necktied young men to steal life out of nature's jaws, every old time we got half a chance and a paycheck?... I could not accept the contract: that every child born human upon this earth comes with a guarantee of perfect health and old age clutched in its small fist.
Most of the girls my age, or even younger, have babies. They appear way too young to be married, till you look in their eyes. Then you'll see it. Their eyes look happy and sad at the same time, but unexcited by anything, shifting easily off to the side as if they've already seen most of what there is. Married eyes.
My little beast, my eyes, my favorite stolen egg. Listen. To live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know. In perfect stillness, frankly, I’ve only found sorrow.
He warned Mother not to flout God's Will by expecting too much of us. "Sending a girl to college is like pouring water in your shoes,' he still loves to say, as often as possible. 'It's hard to say which is worse, seeing it run out and waste the water, or seeing it hold in and wreck the shoes.
We aimed for no more than to have dominion over every creature that moved upon the earth. And so it came to pass that we stepped down there on a place we believed unformed, where only darkness moved on the face of the waters. Now you laugh, day and night, while you gnaw on my bones. But what else could we have thought? Only that it began and ended with us. What do we know, even now? Ask the children. Look at what they grew up to be. We can only speak of the things we carried with us, and the things we took away.
Back then I was still appalled that God would set down his barefoot boy and girl dollies into an Eden where, presumably, He had just turned loose elephantiasis and microbes that eat the human cornea. Now I understand, God is not just rooting for the dollies.
Oh, that river of wishes, the slippery crocodile dream of it, how it might have carried my body down through all the glittering sand bars to the sea.
You know things are bad when a woman without any legs and who recently lost two of her own kids feels sorry for you.
It lasted just a moment, whatever that is. One held breath? An ant's afternoon? It was brief, I can promise that much, for although it's been many years now since my children ruled my life, a mother recalls the measure of the silences.
There's a strange moment in time, after something horrible happens, when you know it's true but you haven't told anyone yet. Of all things, that is what I remember most. It was so quiet.
To live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know.
We would not wake up from this nightmare to find out it was someone's real life, and for once that someone wasn't just a poor unlucky nobody in a shack you could forget about. It was our life, the only one we were going to have.
But we've all ended up giving body and soul to Africa, one way or another. Even Adah, who's becoming an expert in tropical epidemiology and strange new viruses. Each of us got our heart buried in six feet of African dirt; we are all co-conspirators here. I mean, all of us, not just my family. So what do you do now? You get to find your own way to dig out a heart and shake it off and hold it up to the light again.
Forgive me, O Heavenly Father, according to the multitude of Thy mercies. I have lusted in my heart to break a man's skull and scatter the stench of his brains across several people's back yards.
Take your place, then. Look at what happened from every side and consider all the other ways it could have gone. Consider, even, an Africa unconquered altogether. Imagine those first Portuguese adventurers approaching the shore, spying on the jungle’s edge through their fitted brass lenses. Imagine that by some miracle of dread or reverence they lowered their spyglasses, turned, set their riggings, sailed on. Imagine all who came after doing the same. What would that Africa be now? All I can think of is the other okapi, the one they used to believe in. A unicorn that could look you in the eye.