Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Words Lifted from Terry Tempest Williams' _When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice_

Yet again, I am writing a post with words that are not my own.  I promise that my blog has not become a blog of quotes rather than my own thoughts.  However, some words just must be remembered, and as the Thomas Merton words and, today, the words from Terry Tempest Williams are from library books (i.e., I can't write in them), they must be recorded.  Today's quotes from Terry Tempest Williams are lifted from her book When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice.  I am fairly certain that I am going to have to buy this lyrical and haunting book for myself.  I have been adding to this post for a few days, never quite knowing if I will post them for others to read or keep these words to myself.  This morning, though, as I finished the book with tears dripping onto the pages of this book that is not even my own, I realized I had to share them.  You can decide whether or not to read them.  Honestly, I would encourage you not to read these words lifted out of context here on my blog, but to read them nestled inside the poetry of the book itself.  But if you want a taste of the beauty of her words, here are some to enjoy:

Actually, I lied.  First, here are some words from Tillie Olsen that she quotes:  :)

"Literary history and the present are dark with silences . . . I have had special need to learn all I could of this over the years, myself so nearly remaining mute and having to let writing die over and over again in me.  These are not natural silences--what Keats called agonie ennuyeuse (the tedious agony)--that necessary time for renewal, lying fallow, gestation, in the natural cycle of creation.  The silences I speak of here are unnatural: the unnatural thwarting of what struggles to come into being, but cannot" (18).

And now the words of Williams:

"When silence is a choice, it is an unnerving presence.  When silence is imposed, it is censorship" (25). 

"Beauty and bravery meet--within the chambers of a quivering heart" (37).

"I fear silence because it leads me to myself, a self I may not wish to confront.  It asks that I listen.  And in listening, I am taken to an unknown place.  Silence leaves me alone in a place of feeling.  It is not necessarily a place of comfort" (57). 

"Silence introduced in a society that worships noise is like the moon exposing the night.  Behind darkness is our fear.  Within silence our voice dwells.  What is required from both is that we be still.  We focus.  We listen.  We see and we hear.  The unexpected emerges" (58).

"Finding one's voice is a process of finding one's passion" (80).

"Perfection is a flaw disguised as control" (89).

Discussing her powerful reaction after seeing L'Origine du monde by Gustave Courbet at the Musée d'Orsay:
"We come into the world through women, a woman who is spent, broken open, in awe.  No wonder women have been feared and worshipped ever since man first saw the crowning of a human head here, legs spread, a brushstroke of light.
"We are Fire.  We are Water.  We are Earth.  We are Air.
"We are all things elemental" (91).

"When we don't listen to our intuition, we abandon our souls.  And we abandon our souls because we are afraid if we don't, others will abandon us.  We've been raised to question what we know, to discount and discredit the authority of our gut.
"I want to know why.  I regret whenever I abandon myself.  But harboring regrets is making love to the past, and there is no movement here.  It's not the lips of a prince that will save us, but our own lips speaking. 
"I am breaking beyond my own conditioning, breaking set with what was breaking me" (114-15). 

"The courage to continue before the face of despair is the recognition that in those eyes of darkness we find our own night vision" (119).

"We borrow.  We steal.  We purchase what we need and buy what we don't.  We acquire things, people, places, all in the process of losing ourselves.  Busyness if the religion of distraction.  I cannot talk to you, because I have too much to do.
"I cannot do what I want, because I am doing what I must.  Must I forever walk away from what is real and true and hard" (154-55)?

"'How is your shadow--your honorable shadow?' This was a customary greeting between friends in Japan, a recognition that what we reject is as important as what we embrace.
I walk with my shadow behind me, sometimes ahead, and often to the side.  It is my capricious companion: visible, then hidden, amorphous.  A shadow is never created in darkness.  It is born of light.  We can be blind to it and blinded by it.  Our shadow asks us to look at what we don't want to see.  If we refuse to face our shadow, it will project itself on someone else so we have no choice but to engage" (174). 

"I am a woman wedded to words.  Words cast a shadow.  Without a shadow there is no depth.  Without a shadow there is no substance.  If we have no shadow, it means we are invisible.
"As long as I have a shadow, I am alive" (189). 

"I want to feel both the beauty and the pain of the age we are living in.  I want to survive my life without becoming numb.  I want to speak and comprehend words of wounding without having these words become the landscape where I dwell. I want to possess a light touch that can elevate darkness to the realm of stars" (204).

"Once upon a time, when women were birds, there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy.  The birds still remember what we have forgotten, that the world is meant to be celebrated" (205).

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