Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship – Tom Ryan

Some excerpts that move me…

The naturalist John Muir might as well have been talking about my family when he wrote, “Most people are on the world, not in it—have no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them—undiffused, separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate.” That was us: touching but separate.

I thought of my beloved Thoreau, who said, “Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”

Death, like birth, was part of the package of life. She had come to peace with that. It was those of us who were left behind who struggled with it. In contemplating my late friend, I remembered something Mark Twain had said that I’d used in a letter to my father about Vicki’s last days: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence…”

…pantheism was a belief that God was in nature.

…Thomas Merton had said in a talk he gave: “The deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion. It is wordless, it is beyond words, and it is beyond speech, and it is beyond concept.

There are some things in life too powerful, too vivid, too life-altering to possibly leave them behind. They stay with you forever. They shape you from that moment on.

“I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering.” I could say the same for our quest, or for that matter,

“Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light; I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”


And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer – Fredrik Backman

Some excerpts that move me…

“The square got smaller again overnight.”

He always wants to know everything about school, but not like other adults, who only want to know if Noah is behaving.  Grandpa wants to know if the school is behaving.  It hardly ever is.   “Our teacher made us write a story about what we want to be when we are big,” Noah tells him.  “What did you write?”  “I wrote that I wanted to concentrate on being little first.”  “That’s a very good answer.”  “Isn’t it?  I would rather be old than a grown-up.  All grown-ups are angry, it’s just children and old people who laugh.”  “Did you write that?”  “Yes.”  “What did your teacher say?”  “She said I hadn’t understood the task.” “And what did you say?”  “I said she hadn’t understood my answer.”  “I love you,” Grandpa manages to say with closed eyes.

Not everyone knows that water and sunshine have scents, but they do, you just have to get far enough away from all the other smells to realize it.

[Minds]  One of them is getting bigger and one of them is getting smaller, the years allow them to meet in the middle.

“And we have to write essays all the time!  The teacher wanted us to write what we thought the meaning of life was once.”  “What did you write?”  “Company.”  Grandpa closes his eyes.  “That’s the best answer I’ve heard.”  “My teacher said I had to write a longer answer.”  “So what sis you do?”  “I wrote Company .  And ice cream.”  Grandpa spends a moment or two thinking that over.  Then he asks:  “What kind of ice cream?”  Noah smiles.  It’s nice to be understood.

…even the snow was happy that morning, falling soap-bubble light and landing on cold cheeks as though the flakes were gently trying to wake someone they loved.

“No, death is a slow drum.  It counts every beat.  We can’t haggle with it for more time.

“I miss the dawn.  The way it stamped its feet at the end of the water, increasingly frustrated and impatient, until there was no more holding back the sun.

‘NoahNoah, promise me something, one very last thing: once your good-bye is perfect, you have to leave me and not look back.  Live your life.  It’s an awful thing to miss someone who is still here.” [Alzheimer]

“…That’s why we get the chance to spoil our grandchildren, because by doing that we’re apologizing to our children.”

It’s never too late to ask [your child] about something [they] love.

Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Broks

Some excerpts that move me.


Loose one’s footing, as I did, and age matters not.  Ones cede all claims to childish innocence.   And my own sins were not mere nursery mischief but matter etched in stone upon the tablets of mortal error.  I broke the Commandments, day after day.  And I did it knowingly…. Like Eve, I thirsted after forbidden knowledge and ate the forbidden fruit.  For her, the apple, for me, the white hellebore [drink that coming of age Indians drink that causes hallucinatory experience] – different plant, proffered from the same hand.  And just as the serpent must have been lovely – I see him, his lustrous, shimmering scales, pouring liquid over Eve’s shoulders, his jewel eyes luminous as they gazed into her own – so too did Satan come to me in the form of irresistible beauty.

We are taught early here to see Nature as a foe to be subdued.  But I came, by stages, to worship it.

I picked up scallop shells in diverse colors and sizes – warm reds and yellows; cool stippled grays – and reflected on the diversity of God’s creation, and what might be the use and meaning of his making so many varieties of a single thing.  If he created scallops simply for our nourishment, why paint each shell with such delicate and particular colors? … It came to me then that God must must desire us to use each of our senses, to take delight in the varied tastes and sights and textures of his world.  Yet this seemed to go against so many of our preachment against the sumptuary and the carnal.

I thought of the shining bass in my friend’s hands, the raised rock, and his gentle words of thanks to the creature.  This no longer seemed outlandish to me, but fitting and somehow decent.  The idea that this heathen youth should show more refinement than we in such a matter only added to my leaden mood.

[Caleb]  “That is where he lives, is it not, your one God?  Up there, beyond the inconstant clouds?”  … “Only one god.  Strange, that you English, who gather about you so many things, are content with one only.  And so distant, up there in the sky.  I do not have to look so far.  I can see me skygod clear enough, right there,” he said, stretching out an arm towards the sun. “By day, Keesakand.  Tonight Nanpawshat.” … He prattled on, cataloging his pantheon of heathenish idols.  Trees, fish, animals and the like vanities, all of them invested with souls, all wielding powers.  But then I remembered …  the whispering to me that I already knew Keesakand, that I had already worshiped him many time as I bathed in the radiance of a sunrise, or paused to witness the glory of his sunset. … It was good, the voice whispered.  It was right and well to know these powers, to live in a world aswirl with spirits, everywhere ablaze with divinity.

…The Indians were more Christ-like that we Christians, who clung to our possessions even as read the gospel’s clear injunction to give up all we owned.

What profit was there in requiring little ones to behave like adults?  Why bridle their spirits and struggle to break their God-given nature before they had the least understanding of what was wanted of them?

[about Caleb]  In every outward particular, he was now a Christian.  But who could see into his heart?

[Of the cairns made in respect for Bethia’s father]  The stones had a kind of inner radiance that answered to the sun’s changing light at different times of the day…  We were, I think, taken aback by its power to touch our deeper feeling, every time we went to it.

[Caleb]  “Life is better then death.  I knw this.  Tequamuck says it is the coward’s talk.  I say it is braver, sometimes, to bend.”

[While Bethia and husband are int Italy] On feast days we would marvel at the procession of he papists, carrying their gilded, flower-bedecked statues through the streets.  In time, even Samuel came to wonder if our austere form or worship was the only one way to be godly.

Caleb was a hero, there was no doubt of it.  He ventured forth from one world to another with an explore’s courage, armored by the hope that he could serve his people.  He stood shoulder to shoulder with the most of learned of his day, ready to take the place with them as a man of affairs. … I am not a hero.  Life has not required it of me.  But neither will I go to my grave a coward, silent about what I did, and what it cost.  So, let these past pages be my death song — even if at the end it is no paean, but as it must be: a dissonant and tragic lament.