The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels
How much of this earth is flesh?
We have so long forgotten how to be intimate with immensity.
Each river has its own recipe for water.
Grief is desire in its purest distillation.
It is in the solitude of love that we begin to drown.
How quickly the forest forgets us.
Everything in this world is what has been left behind.
Those moments that are the mortar of our days.
The way some stories bend in the middle after centuries of telling.
Who was the first person to desire certain plants for pleasure, to separate these plants from wilderness, the way prayer separates certain words from the rest of language?
Petrichor: the smell when rain starts to fall
We become ourselves when things are given to us or when things are taken away.
In every childhood there is a door that closes.
How much of our not noticing is a kind of relief?
And all the possible days.
Every object is also an idea.
Nothing proves the existence of the future like a question.
It will take all my life to learn what I have seen today.
Describe a landscape you love.
The living haunt us in ways the dead cannot.
A museum for those who have lost everything because they were misunderstood.
When you ask someone how he is, what you’re really asking is, “Are you in love?”
I come from a country where men begged not for their lives, but not to be murdered in front of their children.
Builders knows there is a grain in wood and a grain in stone; but there is also a grain in flesh.
One can never forgive oneself, it takes another person to forgive, and for that you could wait forever.
The commerce of invisible forces.
Grief bakes in us, it bakes until one day the blade pushes in and comes out clean.
Matisse: exactitude is not truth.
The comprehension that exists before touch makes one blind.
We are born with places of suffering in us, history is the proof of them.
We must learn the value of each other’s words, what they cost.
An old word looking for meaning in the mouth that speaks it.
Is desire the only determination of value?
Maps of argument, disappointment, remorse.
Language is only approximate, it’s violence that is precise.
The self born only in another’s touch.
I continue to hope, I cease to believe.
An explorer reaches land; the discovered place already has a name, but the explorer puts another in its place. This secret renaming of the body by another – this is how the body becomes a map, and this is what the explorer craves, this branding of the skin.
Shame is not the end of the story, it is the middle of the story.
A seriousness that expressed itself as kindness.
The closest thing he felt to belief was his love for his wife.
Everything that has been made with love is alive.
Knowing he was wrong gave him a real air of conviction.
Like an animal in a trap, he had bitten off parts of him to survive – mercy, generosity, patience, fatherhood.
A wall does not separate, it binds two things together.
Courage is just another kind of fear.
An appetite is more useful than a fever.
Some days are possible only because of love.
The earliest gardens were walled not to keep out the animals, but to keep them in, so they could not be hunted by strangers.
Life is short, there is not enough time to forget everything.
For the mind everything is in the future, for the heart everything is in the past.
A man loyal to his childhood.
Talk is only a reprieve.
The second most subversive act is to demonstrate affection.
Enemies know each other best.
Everything we are can be contained in a voice, passing forever into silence.
Fearlessness is a kind of despair.
Love always has a task.
It is not the last chance that we must somehow seize, but the chance that is lost.
Sometimes it takes more than two people to make a child.
We teach each other how to live.
I don’t believe home is where we’re born, or the place we grew up, not a birthright or an inheritance, not a name, or blood or country. It is not even the soft part that hurts when touched, that defines our loneliness the way a bowl defines water. It will not be located in a smell or a taste or a talisman or a word… Home is our first real mistake. It is the one error that changes everything, the one lesson you could let destroy you. It is from this moment that we begin to build our home in the world. It is this place that we furnish with smell, taste, a talisman, a name.
Only real love waits while we journey through our grief. That is the real trustworthiness between people. In all the epics, in all the stories that have lasted through many lifetimes, it is always the same truth: love must wait for wounds to heal. It is this waiting we must do for each other, not with a sense of mercy, or in judgment, but as if forgiveness were a rendezvous. How many are willing to wait for another in this way?