beautiful, remarkable, ephemeral

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I’ve learned that I have to be gentle with myself, and I know that I can’t always do things other people can do. I must actively manage stress. I must avoid alcohol. I need at least eight hours of sleep and regular meals, low-impact exercise, and plenty of time with people I love who make me happy.

The relationship between body, mind, and spirit is undeniable and mysterious. I try to respect that and not judge myself too harshly, and I try to forgive those who might judge me without understanding what serious anxiety and depression is like.

Dyana Herron in an essay on depression and anxiety at Art House America

(Source: sarazarr)

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They’re not alike at all, really: writing and geology. There’s a deceit in writing; you’re trying to pull all the clever elements together and toss out the dull and round-edged ones. Basically, it’s building a lie and then swinging the lie’s massiveness into the path of the reader and hiding behind it. Curiously, however, in geology, when I pour a cup of coffee and sit down and begin to map, I’m not hiding behind anything; there’s no pretense, no deceit, just an inquisitive hunger and innocence where I am neither superior nor inferior to the reader, but am the reader. There’s truly an amount of trust. The earth lies there, still, and obeys certain rules. I have faith that I am not going to let myself believe something that is not true. It is perhaps the purest thing I’ve ever done.
Oil Notes, Rick Bass

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The Stone: The Essayification of Everything

I recently taught a graduate seminar on the topic and, at the end of the course, to the question “What can we say of the essay with absolute certainty?,” all of us, armed with our panoply of canonical essay theories and our own conjectures, had to admit that the answer is: “Almost nothing.” But this is the force of the essay: it impels you to face the undecidable. It asks you to get comfortable with ambivalence.

When I say “essay,” I mean short nonfiction prose with a meditative subject at its center and a tendency away from certitude. 

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Patricia Hampl on memoir

"Memoir is not what happened (if we’re lucky, that’s the best journalism). It is what has happened over time, in the mind, in the life as it attends to these tantalizing, dismaying, broken bits of life history. Such personal writing is, as the essay is, ‘an attempt.’ It is a try at the truth. The truth of a self in the world. 

"The spring of 1975 I heard for the first time about the Czech philosopher and exile of the seventeenth century (so many Czech centuries, each with its philosopher exile), Jan Komensky, Comenius as he is known in the West. His book, a great autobiographical testimony and philosophical treatise, Labyrinth of the World and Paradise of the Heart, bears in its doubleness the real enterprise of writing a life: not psychology, not even spirituality, and certainly not the American enterprise of  ‘finding a self.’ Memoir is trustworthy and its truth assured when it seeks the relation of self to time, the piecing of the shards of personal experience into the starscape of history’s night. The materials of memoir are humble, fugitive, a cottage knitting industry seeking narrative truth across the crevasse of time as autobiography folds itself into the vast, fluid essay that is history.  A single voice singing its aria in a corner of the crowded world.”

From “An International Incident,” in The Waterstone Review.

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Unless we are very, very careful, we doom each other by holding onto images of one another based on preconceptions that are in turn based on indifference to what is other than ourselves. This indifference can be, in its extreme, a form of murder and seems to me a rather common phenomenon. We claim autonomy for ourselves and forget that in so doing we can fall into the tyranny of defining other people as we would like them to be. By focusing on what we choose to acknowledge in them, we impose an insidious control on them. I notice that I have to pay careful attention in order to listen to others with an openness that allows them to be as they are, or as they think themselves to be. The shutters of my mind habitually flip open and click shut, and these little snaps form into patterns I arrange for myself. The opposite of this inattention is love, is the honoring of others in a way that grants them the grace of their own autonomy and allows mutual discovery.
Anne Truitt, Daybook, 12 August 1974

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Drafts for Heloise

If you need to let bread dough rise for 90 minutes before you preheat the oven, and your kitchen timer goes for only 60 minutes, and you will be writing and don’t want to have to get up after and hour and reset it, and you might be distracted by its ticking anyway, and you have a programmable coffeemaker, and you think you might welcome some fresh-brewed decaf in the afternoon, and you like the idea of the coffeemaker’s revving up as your signal that “you have a minute or two to bring this sentence or paragraph to a close” and its last satisfied sighs and wafting aroma as your cue and lure to get up and go to the kitchen, you can use your coffeemaker as a timer.