Over the years I have squirreled away notes and quotes in a small book I keep on a shelf above my desk. I haven’t looked into it for sometime, but this morning, while looking for something else, I rediscovered it and spent an hour or so reading through what I have saved.
Many are quotations I wanted to remember, by authors I sometimes can’t recall. Fortunately, I’m a good researcher, and note the essential details whenever I write down something another has said or written. These scribbles range from absurd statements to true philosophy. I’m not sure where each one falls, but I thought I’d share at least some of them with you today. It is bits and pieces like these that spark ideas for what may turn into essays or short stories or novels or film scripts.
I begin with one of my favorite authors, Virginia-born and Nebraska-raised, Willa Cather. It is from On the Divide:
Milton made a sad mistake when he put mountains in Hell. All mountain peoples are religious. It was the cities of the plains that, because of their utter lack of spirituality and the mad caprice of their vice, were cursed by God.
With that as a starting place, I went on to another note written on the bottom of a shopping list (that had nothing to do with what I wrote) and no guide as to why I wrote it:
English is the universal language. If you don’t think so, go anywhere in the world and say "dollar."
I then turned up a description of behavior that doesn’t appear in the psychology books:
Assertive/Defensive: Assuming the necessity to adamantly defend an act or position before the need arises.
An all-to-frequent stance taken not only by our political leaders, but by strangers you might talk to in a meeting or a store.
A much longer note is for a story. The premise is that a nuclear holocaust has taken place, and the only survivors are those who have access to an anti-radiation drug (which does exist in some form already). These people are secure in only three countries. One is a democracy, one is a totalitarian state, and the third is one that has succeeded in avoiding war for a thousand years. All three share the same geologic features: deep underground caverns and caves in sturdy and immoveable mountains. In the story the generations renew themselves through their children, and their children’s children and so on until it is safe to re-emerge into the sunlight. It is a story I don’t think I’ll ever write.
Another quote, this time from Cicero:
My precept to all who build, is that the owner should be an ornament to the house, and not the house to the owner.
I believe that should stand for all who build, whether houses or songs or poetry of stories or, most importantly, lives.
And a return to Cather, from her story, Eric Hermannson’s Soul. It is a piece I was going to carve into the railing of the deck that overlooks our fields and mountain side:
I think if one lived here long enough one would quite forget how to be trivial, and would read only the great books that we never get time to read in the world, and would remember only the great music, and the things that are really worthwhile would stand out clearly against that horizon over there.
This last was written in 1771 by an author whose name is unreadable in my own handwriting. I offer it as a coda for any creative person regardless of your art-form:
We never reflect whether the story we read be truth or fiction. If the painting be lively, and a tolerable picture of nature, we are thrown into a reverie, from which if we awaken, it is the fault of the writer.