Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What's on the Wall?

How fitting that Anne should post about procrastination, just when I realize that I am avoiding cleaning my office. The chaos in my writing room is a habitual problem, so the avoidance is not new. The trouble is, a month ago I agreed to an online interview with Creative Spaces. This sounded fine, until I read the fine print and discovered that I would have to take pictures of my writing space--and then write about it. These photos are supposed to highlight some of my favorite objects (yes, they are endowed). I'm also supposed to wax eloquent about my room, with its clutter of photos, books, stacks of manuscripts, etc.

The deadline is approaching and my "creative space" shows no sign of cleaning itself up. I can move the piles of books and drafts to one side, to highlight the cherry boards of my writing table. I will happily photograph the narrow wall beside my computer table, to show off art by our own Lisa Jahn-Clough, by my pal the illustrator Eileen Christelow, and by my artist son, Ethan Murrow. But what to do about the quotes, typed up or hand-written on post-it notes, that litter my walls, cling with magnets to the filing cabinet, tilt at a drunken angle from my computer? These are quotes that made me laugh, or inspired me, or pleased me at the time. Do they make some sort of statement about my writing life? Or are they just random? (Kelly would say that's a good thing: being random.)

Here's a sample. "We are all just walking each other home." --Ram Dass (My husband, who grew up riding subways and buses in Manhattan, has no idea what this means.)

"What used to be called liberal is now called radical, what used to be called radical is now called insane, what used to be called reactionary is now called moderate, and what used to be called insane is now called solid conservative thinking." --Tony Kushner

"There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening which is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it."
--Martha Graham. (This is on my wall because my mom--now in a wheel chair--once danced with Graham. It's also a good quote for me to read when I think of giving it all up and going to work in a plant nursery.)

A scrap of paper, torn from the moleskin notebook I carry on garden walks, says: "Horticulture is the art and science of moving things around"--Dennis Collins (the horticultural director at Mt. Auburn Cemetery, which is also an arboretum and one of my favorite places to walk).

There are poems: "Kuan Yin" by Laura Fargas, about the Chinese goddess of mercy. "Today," by Billy Collins. "The Peace of Wild Things," by Wendell Berry.

"A List of Instructions for the New Milennium" from the Dalai Lama dangles from the filing cabinet. His devilish smile beams from a photo above my desk.

A post-it note has this, from E.B. White: "Life is always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for something to happen or to hatch." (I remember sticking that up when both of our daughters-in-law were expecting.)

And this, from Kurt Vonnegut: "Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies: 'God damn it, you've got to be kind.'"

Random? Perhaps. Revealing? Maybe. What's on your wall?


  1. Liza, I love your quotes! Here are the words posted on my wall right now:

    "Everything is a pitfall for the unwary and the faithless. And nothing is a pitfall for the courageous seeker who just shakes it off like a bear."
    --Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari

    "Pay attention.
    Be astonished.
    Tell about it."
    --Mary Oliver

    "The world is waiting to be known;
    Earth, what it has in it!
    The past is in it;
    All words, feelings, movements,
    words, bodies, clothes, girls, trees,
    stones, things of beauty, books, desires are in it;
    and all are to be known;
    Afternoons have to do with the whole world;
    And the beauty of mind,
    feeling knowingly the world!"
    --Eli Siegel

  2. "When I am dead, I hope it is said, 'His sins were scarlet, but his books were read.'" (Hilaire Belloc)

  3. The Vonnegut quote is one of my favorites, as well as his quotation of Eugene Debs: While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free. Of course, by criminals he meant folks who go on strike, as opposed to the ones who steal your GPS from your car. The Tony Kushner quote is a new favorite (Everyone should read his plays; he's a genius). I promote randomness as a way to justify my way of being:)

  4. I love the Ram Dass quote, the way I feel most good days.

    Here's a new fave of mine, sorry don't remember where I lifted it from:

    Why use bitter soup for healing,
    when sweet water is everywhere?

  5. Mary, that quote is from Rumi. What a guy.

  6. I have no quotes! Please forgive me.
    I have
    *a plaque a friend gave me that says "A friend loves at all times"
    *a carved rock with the word "create"
    *two glass covered boxes of antique miniatures with the important artifacts of my life which contain many things like:
    a worry box from Jane Resh Thomas
    scissors shaped like a bird from my Aunt Polly
    golden chickens from an old friend
    barber scissors from my great grandfather
    sea shells
    hand blown glass from my brother
    a fake blue bird and a rose from my wedding
    antique thread
    miniature fairy gardening tools
    antique bobby pins
    a mamoth tree seed from my husband
    rose quartz
    a tiny article about my mother "Former St.Joseph Woman in Theatre role"

    And I will not bore you with the dozen books within reach which are my all time favorites and listed on FB. I just read their spines, though I've wanted to tape some quotes on the wall. Maybe I can pick some of the above. One I thought about writing up somewhere this week was from a book about poverty. Only I loved it because it applied to my newfound, beloved ADD. Beloved because suddenly my whole life makes sense.
    "A hungry mind cannot focus."