Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Now that the holidays are over, my wife and I are headed to coastal South Carolina, where the temperatures are a little more conducive to outdoor activities during the winter months.  Before departing, however, I want to post a few memorable quotes that have caught my attention in recent days.  The first two quotes are from Henry Miller and Thoreau, respectively, and the third is a poem by William Stafford.  The common theme in these quotes is the importance of surrendering to the beauty and mystery of the present moment — this day, this hour, this moment, NOW.  As Henry Miller states in the opening quote, we tamper with the universe at our own peril. 

When you put your mind to such a simple, innocent thing, for example, as making a water color, you lose some of the anguish which derives from being a member of a world gone mad.  Whether you paint flowers, stars, horses or angels you acquire respect and admiration for all the elements which go to make up our universe.  You don't call flowers friends, stars enemies, or horses Communists, and angels Fascists.  You accept them for what they are and you praise God that they are what they are.  You desist from improving the world or even yourself.  You learn to see not what your want to see but what is.  And what is is usually a thousand times better than what might be or ought to be.
If we could stop tampering with the universe we might find it a better world than we think it to be.  After all, we've only occupied it a few hundred million years, which is to say that we are just beginning to get acquainted with it.  And if we continue another billion years there is nothing to assure us that we will eventually know it. In the beginning as in the end, it remains a mystery.  And the mystery exists or thrives in every smallest part of the universe. It has nothing to do with size or distance, with grandeur or remoteness.  Everything hinges upon how you look at things.

Henry Miller 
"The Angel Is My Watermark"
Stand Still Like the Hummingbird

Above all, we cannot afford not to live in the present.  He is blessed over all mortals who loses no moment of the passing of life in remembering the past.  Unless our philosophy hears the cock crow in every barnyard within our horizon, it is belated.  That sound commonly reminds us that we are growing rusty and antique in our employments and habits of thoughts. His philosophy comes down to a more recent time than ours.  There is something suggested by it that is a newer testament, — the gospel according to this moment.  He has not fallen astern; he has got up early and kept up early, and to be where he is is to be in season, in the foremost rank of time.  It is an expression of the health and soundness of Nature, a brag for all the world, — healthiness as a spring burst forth, a new fountain of the Muses, to celebrate this last instant of time.


You Reading This, Be Ready

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened 
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now?  Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day.  This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life —

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

William Stafford

Reed Life



  1. I love the poetry of William Stafford. He has such a fine way of looking at things... Very nice quotes, all.

  2. To Teresa,

    Thanks, Teresa. Glad that you like William Stafford, as I do, as well as the quotes from the other writers. Happy new year!

  3. starting here...

  4. To Marie,

    A great place to start, a great time to stare — NOW! Happy new year.

  5. Mindfulness of the present moment (Now) seems as though it would be easy but is something I must constantly practice. I found the Stafford poem to be very wise, George. Safe trip to you and your Wife. Enjoy!

  6. I can't say that I'm a great fan of Henry Miller but when he says 'If we could stop tampering with the universe we might find it a better world than we think it to be.' he has it absolutely right. There is always beauty to be found if we look for it - I rather think I've said this sort of thing before:) I love the top picture, such lovely warm colours to cheer up what is a grey winter morning here.

  7. Warmly, happily, listening to Miles' "Kind of Blue," a background for George's paintings, and the words of Miller, Thoreau and Stafford. George, I like both paintings very much, but the first . . . if I could paint abstract art, it would look like that. It calls me inside.

    I love how Miller encapsulates a million years into no time. Also, I am planning to paint a bird for a friend's birthday this weekend, and the first paragraph of his passage presents an important and powerful meditation while I paint. I feel a little ashamed that I hadn't thought like that about painting birds, to embrace them in spirit and be one with them. But I was ready for the sunlight on the shining floor, and so now I will think of it. :) Of course I also like that title Stand Still Like the Hummingbird too.

    I love how Thoreau uses the cock's crow as a reminder that we are rusty! What a cool thing, to attach the sounds and sights of nature to some inner call to humility, balance, peace in this moment. The Gospel according to this moment ? I like his religion very much.

    And then, how beautiful what Stafford does. To raise awareness for what is memorable, to be ready for it, and it could be something as simple as sunlight on the floor (don't I always notice this . . . ).

    These are wonderful meditations, my friend, calling us to be ready, and not to look for the day when such-and-such will be, but to open and listen, look for it now. Thank you.

    Have a wonderful trip! I will look forward to your return and any postings with photos and thoughts you might share.

  8. I really needed these today George, when I go to see the neurologist about my recent illness. Thank you for that - I am starting out on the right foot!

  9. Great quotes all. I too have been arrested by the few Stafford poems I have read (mainly on blogs). Here's to the here and now, and have a good time on the coast.

  10. To Ruth,

    Pairing my painting with the music of Miles? That may be the best compliment I have ever received. I'm delighted, of course, that these little readings resonated with you. Another good title for this post would have simply been Thoreau's words, "The Gospel According to Now." I just love the way he captures the point.

    I don't travel without the laptop and camera these days, so expect to hear from me soon. Thanks for the lovely and thoughtful comments, and have a great day!

  11. To Barb,

    Yes, I agree that mindfulness and remaining in the present moment are more difficult in practice than they appear to be theory. In the course of time, however, I have found progress in my own life. Have a great day!

  12. To Rowan,

    How nice to know that one of my paintings warmed up a grey morning in your part of the world! I, too, love that Miller point about not tampering too much with the universe. Many people are wary of Miller because of his early novels and his encounters with censoring authorities. I find him to be a fascinating writer and philosopher, however, and usually confine myself to his great essays on art, people, literature, travel, and life itself.

  13. To Pat,

    Great, Pat! The most we can ever do is start out on the right foot. Best of luck on you visit to the neurologist today. I certainly hope that all goes well.

  14. To Robert,

    Thanks for the comments, Robert. As you know, I am a follower of what Thoreau calls "The Gospel According to Now." Having laptop and camera in hand, I will continue to post from South Carolina. Have a great day!

  15. Lovely thoughts for the new year. I am SO into William Stafford right now. I thoroughly enjoyed this, George. Safe travels!

  16. To Tess,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, Tess. I, too. love Stafford. You will be hearing from me while I am in S.C. I always travel with laptop and camera in hand. Have a nice day.

  17. Beautiful and uplifting, George! ...exactly the appreciation a new year needs.

  18. Brilliant .. all of it.

    the colours, the words,
    the moment when my heart says , yes. this.

    thank you George.

  19. The gospel according to right now, this moment.

    What could be better as a maxim for every day.
    It looks like I am going to have to explore Stafford. He is less well known over here than some others.

    Isn't blogging wonderful, every day I am learning something new.
    Have a happy time, George.

  20. How about tissue alerts?? That poem from Stafford really go to me. Will be copying and keeping where I can see it to remind me! :-) Thanks!

  21. To Gwen,

    Thanks for the nice comments, Gwen. I'm delighted that you found something uplifting in these words. Happy new year!

  22. To Deb,

    Thanks for your generous comments, Deb. Glad you found something in this posting that resonated with you. Have a good day.

  23. To Friko,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, Friko. I agree with you about the joys of blogging, and what I enjoy most is its educational value — being introduced daily to new ideas, new writers, new poems, new ways of thinking about things. And try Stafford — I think you will find him interesting.

  24. To Karin,

    I'm delighted, Karin, that the Stafford poem resonated deeply with you. Starting here, starting now, everything is quite beautiful, and the possibilities of new discoveries are infinite.

  25. Thank you for this. It's so easy to forget the 'here and now.'

  26. To Mary,

    Thanks for dropping by, Mary. I think this is the first time you have been here, and I hope you return. Happy new year.

  27. Thank you, George for reminding me of the here and now - and for your beautiful abstract paintings. The color palette of "Reed Life" is breathtaking. Where Ruth paired your paintings beautifully with Miles Davis, I would like to add a floral element with a piece I saw a few years ago at the Bouquets to Art exhibit at the De Young Museum:

    I would, however, substitute out the white flowers with the same crimson red in your painting (perhaps dahlia, roses, or tulips) and a hint of turquoise (forget-me-nots or bella donna delphiniums).

    Now we just need someone to choose some wine and cheese for us and we have ourselves a bona fide Here and Now Party.

    Happy New Year, George!

  28. To Dutchbaby,

    Thanks, Dutchbaby, for the thoughtful comments. I will go to your flickr photos and take a look at your floral contribution. Wine, cheese, you, and Ruth? I'm ready for that Here and Now party.

  29. "Tomorrow is another day"... oh, but maybe not! For some, sadly, it isn't. Starting here, now. A much better way to approach the new year. Enjoy the weather - I hope it is better than central NC!

  30. To Margaret,

    Thanks, Margaret. The weather here in South Carolina is quite cold, but a tad better than Maryland and central NC. We will make it; we always do. During the meantime, we will live in the here and now, even if it is cold.

  31. Thanks, Rachel, and happy new year!

  32. Quite thought provoking---something that maybe my juniors could sink their teeth into---our next unit of American lit has Thoreou in it. I'm so glad nancemarie sent me this way.

  33. To B. Meandering,

    Thanks so much for the lovely comments, and thanks for meandering over to my blog. I hope you will return. Happy new year!

  34. Wonderful quotes to start off the new year- did you know that William Stafford was a conscientious objector to wars- and he wrote anti-war and peace poetry- I have his book EVERY WAR HAS TWO LOSERS.
    much needed in our current madness and political climate.

  35. To Donna,

    Thanks, Donna. I did not know that William Stafford was a conscientious objector to wars, and I am definitely interesting in getting the book you identified. It is, indeed, a time of madness in our country. Let us hope that things will improve, and that, if improvement does not come soon, people will begin to seriously protest as they did in the sixties.

  36. The quotes speak for themselves and need no comment from me (just avid silent appreciation), but I want to say that your art work is arrestingly beautiful, George. Hope to see some of your paintings face-to-canvas sometime.

  37. To Lorenzo,

    Thanks, my friend, for your lovely comments. Let me take this opportunity to tell you how much I am enjoying the new Rilke site that you and Ruth have created. The excerpted works of Rilke are always thought-provoking, and the comments have created one of the liveliest discussions I have seen in the blogging world.

  38. I have just enjoyed a summer holiday with some camping beside the seaside in a simple camping ground. Slowing down, being there, able to watch the progress of the sunset in the sky, was a precious chance to relax and remember what is important. I hope your holiday brings you many chances to be slow in the present moments.

  39. To Kiwi Nomad,

    That sounds like a lovely way to begin the year. Thanks for your lovely comments, and may the new year bring you great simplicity and many blessings.

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