I’ve been having a good vacation in Maine and today was an especially lovely day: my parents and I went kayaking off of Deer Isle and a couple of its smaller neighboring islands. Some sunbathing seals splashed into the water en masse as we drew near and for the next fifteen to twenty minutes, we could see their heads pop up around us. Kayaking is fantastic for getting up close to nature. Seeing the islands on the horizon reminded me of the cover of Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book (my review here), which reminded me of the wonderfulness of that book, and the awesomeness of islands in both reality and in fiction.
Although books have been on my mind, I have not been reading a lot of them this vacation. I slowly worked my way through Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford and just finished it this morning. I’ve also been catching up on my blog reading.
In my stack of books for this trip, I had brought along a book of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays. After reading one of the essays, I realized that – while I like his ideas and writing – it is simply not vacation-mode reading material.
I definitely plan on returning to the book of essays post-vacation. I have a great regard for Emerson based on remembrance of high school readings, and most of all, for writing the following statement:
Finish every day and be done with it. For manners and for wise living it is a vice to remember. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. To-morrow is a new day; you shall begin it well and serenely, and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.
I first came across the quotation in an internship supervisor’s office, where a partial version of it was pinned up on the wall. Years later, I put the above fuller version up in my own office where it still resides. I was hoping that it would show up in the book of essays, but it turns out (according to wikiquote) the statement is from a letter Emerson wrote to his daughter.
My favorite part of the quotation is where it says “some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in.” I love how it matter-of-factly acknowledges and accepts that we will mess up and that people or events will turn out weirdly. And though I don’t think that I could or maybe even should completely forget those mistakes or absurdities, I can at least not make them a burden on the next day.
A great companion quote is from the Book of Matthew in the Bible which states “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (chapter 6, verse 34)
Together these quotations urge me not to be consumed by either regret about the past day(s) or by worry for the future day. I often consider these two quotations as calming word-companions for my everyday living.
Do you have any quotations that have worked themselves into your everyday life?
5 responses to “Vacation update and favorite quotations”
I really like that Emerson quote. And it sounds like you’re having such a lovely vacation! I wish I could see seals and be in a The Summer Book-ish place. Sadly I have to work all summer this year, so all I have are small weekend getaways. Better than nothing, I know!
I actually just ran across two quotes on NPR’s Fresh Air that I loved- David Mitchell describing humans as “narrative animals” (glorious!), and Brian Mays, lead guitarist of Queen, recently discussed his work in astrophysics and talked about how we are all, quite factually, stardust.
Nymeth – That’s sad that you don’t have a summer vacation (I now regard them as essential for workplace sanity), but I’m glad you’re able to get some weekend getaways.
Lit Omnivore – ooh, “narrative animals” is a splendid nugget. I still need to read a book by that guy.
One that I like is the idea that “way will open,” which is apparently a Quaker concept, though I read about it in a kids’ book, The Last Treasure by Janet S. Anderson, in which one character describes the concept to another like this: “I always envisioned that as. . . fumbling, in the dark, against a high wall covered with, oh, I don’t know, thorns and prickles and maybe ugly bugs that bite. No way through except, suddenly, because you’ve kept fumbling, kept trusting, your hand touches a knob, and you turn it, and then, well, then, a door opens, doesn’t it? Into light, of course. Light, and lots of other good things, most of which you didn’t expect. “
I like that concept as well and the phrase “way will open.” It’s surprising (or maybe not) what great imagery and insight kids’ books can offer.