Canto

Good human work honors God’s work. Good work uses no thing without respect, both for what it is in itself and for its origin. It uses neither tool nor material that it does not respect and that it does not love. It honors nature as a great mystery and power, as an indispensable teacher, and as the inescapable judge of all work of human hands. It does not dissociate life and work, or pleasure and work, or love and work, or usefulness and beauty. To work without pleasure or affection, to make a product that is not both useful and beautiful, is to dishonor God, nature, the thing that is made, and whomever it is made for. This is blasphemy: to make shoddy work of the work of God. But such blasphemy is not possible when the entire Creation is understood as holy and when the works of God are understood as embodying and thus revealing His spirit.

—Wendell Berry, "Christianity and The Survival of Creation”,
via Alan Jacobs
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Peat Bog on Jæren (1900). Kitty Kielland.
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In the very earliest time
When both people and animals lived on earth
A person could become an animal if he wanted to
and an animal could become a human being.
Sometimes they were people
and sometimes animals
and there was no difference.
All spoke the same language
That was the time when words were like magic.
The human mind had mysterious powers.
A word spoken by chance might have strange consequences.
It would suddenly come alive
and what people wanted to happen could happen—
all you had to do was say it.
Nobody could explain this:
That’s the way it was.

—Nalungiaq,
Inuit woman interviewed by ethnologist Knud Rasmussen in the early twentieth century.

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Everything you are not stares back at what you are.

The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters,
Adam Nicolson

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At eight of a hot morning, the cicada speaks his first piece. He says of the world: heat. At eleven of the same day, still singing, he has not changed his note but has enlarged his theme. He says of the morning: love. In the sultry middle of the afternoon, when the sadness of love and of heat has shaken him, his symphonic soul goes into the great movement and he says: death. But the thing isn’t over. After supper he weaves heat, love, death into a final stanza, subtler and less brassy than the others. He has one last heroic monosyllable at his command. Life, he says, reminiscing. Life.

— E. B. White, “Life,” in E.B. White: Writings from the New Yorker, 1925-1976, ed. Rebecca M. Dale (New York: HarperCollins, 1990), 3.

{via}

Four kinds of landscape:

landscapes in which one may travel,
landscapes which can be contemplated,
landscapes in which one may ramble,
landscapes in which one may dwell.

—attributed to Guo Xi (c. 1020-c.1090)

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My childhood haunts keep beckoning to me.

Those playgrounds of my youth I long to see;
But the routine of my day bids fancy wait
Until the canyon's call shall find me free.

Today I heard the call and came at last.
The spell of sweet nostalgia held me fast,
And, giving in to pleasant reverie,
I mingled with the ghosts of Zion past.

[...]

I turned and said, "Greetings, old Flanigan Peak."
A voice came back, "Take to whom you speak,"
Brash upstart, you will not find here
The gift of immortality you seek."

“In tales you tell and pictures that you paint,
Your forebears oft appear without a taint;
But while you venerate ancestral lore,
Antiquity alone does not make one a saint.

“Those ghosts of yesterday with whom you talk
Are merely squatters in this land, and mock
The sanctity of these enduring shrines;
For flesh is not as durable as rock.

“Frail man, look quickly at my alpenglow;
For you shall pass, much as the winter snow.
Long after you have gone I’ll keep my watch.
I saw the Anasazi come and go.”

“Great Watchman, I look up to you.” I said,
“But let me also love my kindred dead,
And all whose sweat and toil built thoroughfares
On which the feet of all the world now tread.

“I’ll worship at these temples, not built by man,
And sing about their splendor while I can.
But I would give the pioneer his due.”
And the mountain smiled approval of my plan.

Then as I left I thought about my day;
And all my friends of now and yesterday.
I know their deeds are graven in the stone;
Instead of lightly scribbled in the clay.

As long as I can feel and hear and see
I’ll come here oft, just save a nook for me.
And when these senses dim, I’ll take my place
Among the ghosts of Zion yet to be.


—"The Ghosts of Zion" (excerpted),
J.L. Crawford
{via}

What heart could have thought you? –

Past our devisal
(O filigree petal!)
Fashioned so purely,
Fragilely, surely,
From what Paradisal
Imagineless metal,
Too costly for cost?
Who hammered you, wrought you,
From argentine vapor? –
“God was my shaper.
Passing surmisal,
He hammered, He wrought me,
From curled silver vapor,
To lust of His mind –
Thou could'st not have thought me!
So purely, so palely,
Tinily, surely,
Mightily, frailly,
Insculped and embossed,
With His hammer of wind,
And His graver of frost.

—"To a Snowflake",
Francis Thompson

Vega nightfishes in the Great Sky River. Copyright © 2021

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