These Precious Days
- Ann Patchett
- My last highlight
- Number of highlights
When I dropped a stitch, I simply walked up to any female person who was older than I was and handed her my knitting. I did not limit myself to women in yarn shops.
Over time, you come to know the seminal stories of the person you live with.
In Denmark and Belgium, in the countryside of France, we watched women knitting. They knit in parks, in cafés, on trains. They made it seem like a task that was essential to adulthood.
To have a child required the willful forgetting of what childhood was actually like; it required you to turn away from the very real chance that you would do to the person you loved most in the world the exact same thing that was done to you.
Gregory Boyle’s Barking at the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship, a book that shows what the platitudes of faith look like when they’re put into action.)
“About that time I read something Dorothy Day had said. She said what she wanted to do was love the poor, not analyze them, not rehabilitate them. When I read that it was like a light clicking on. I thought about Mrs. Hopwood. I realized that Doy was not my problem to solve but my brother to love. I decided on the spot that I was going to love him and not expect anything from him, and overnight he changed. He stopped the cussing, stopped the violence. I feel we became brothers.
The trouble with good fortune is that we tend to equate it with personal goodness, so that if things are going well for us and less well for others, it’s assumed they must have done something to have brought that misfortune on themselves while we must have worked harder to avoid it.
In any practice there will be tests. That’s why we call it a practice—so we’ll be ready to meet our challenges when the time comes.
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty,
This is why we have to go back, because even as the text stays completely true to the writer’s intention, we readers never cease to change.
We found each other as little girls, and through everything, we’ve held on. Some years all we’ve managed to do is exchange birthday cards, while other years we’ve talked on the phone every week, usually when she’s driving to work. In the best years we see each other all the time. It really doesn’t matter. Ours is a friendship full of elasticity and trust. For fifty years we’ve adjusted our bond to fit the times.
I once saw a woman with six small children in a store: a baby strapped to her chest, a child barely walking holding her finger, the other four stair-steps. They hung together, a small flotilla, as she guided them forward. I watched in admiration and something like gratitude. Thank you for keeping the species alive, I could have said to her. You’re doing such good work.
People want you to want what they want. If you want the same things they want, then their want is validated. If you don’t want the same things, your lack of wanting can, to certain people, come across as judgment.
eat it,” I say. This gets trickier when applied to alcohol. I stopped drinking a long time ago. People feel much more strongly about having a drink than they do about having a burger. “So then just a glass of champagne.” “I don’t drink.” “But you’ll have champagne for the toast.” I shake my head. Does my declining a glass of champagne mean that I judge your glass of champagne? It does not. Does my choice not to have children mean I judge your choices, your children? That I think my life is in some way superior? It does not. What it means is that I don’t want children. Or a hamburger. Or a gin and tonic. That’s all it means.
An MFA is a funny degree. Unless you’re completely delusional, and many artists are, you don’t think it’s going to land you a job in your field, and yet MFA programs are thriving. I think, more than anything, it’s the idea of finding like-minded people, people who care about words, color, light, meter, chapter breaks, and ideas more than they care about food and shelter. As much as I look back on my time in Iowa as complete and utter madness, I did love being in the company of people I understood.
As every reader knows, the social contract between you and a book you love is not complete until you can hand that book to someone else and say, Here, you’re going to love this.
“Never judge a book by its cover” is a good way of saying that people shouldn’t be evaluated on the basis of looks alone, but the adage doesn’t apply to actual books. Where books are concerned, covers are what we have to go on. We might be familiar with the author’s name or like the title, but absent that information, it’s the jacket design—the size and shape of the font, the color, the image or absence of image—that makes us stop at the new releases table of our local independent bookstore and pick up one novel instead of another.
Kate and I had crossed paths a few times over the years and had a kind of “Hey, hi, how are you?” relationship, which is to say we had met but didn’t know each other.
Somewhere in the DiCamillo immersion, I got very sick, that kind of winter sickness that lasts a month or more, the kind of sick that seemed bad because it happened before COVID.
In life, time runs along in its sameness, but in fiction time is condensed—one action springboards into another, greater action. Cause and effect are so much clearer in novels than in life. You might not see how everything threads together as you read along, but when you look back from the end of the story, the map becomes clear.
MOST OF THE writers and artists I know were made for sheltering in place. The world asks us to engage, and for the most part we can, but given the choice, we’d rather stay home. I know how to structure my time.
Reading about other people’s hallucinogenic experiences is like listening to other people’s dreams at a dinner party. What’s fascinating fails to translate.
We will never know all the things other people worry about.