Brian Doyle Quotes
“So much held in a heart in a lifetime. So much held in a heart in a day, an hour, a moment. We are utterly open with no one, in the end -- not mother and father, not wife or husband, not lover, not child, not friend. We open windows to each but we live alone in the house of the heart. Perhaps we must. Perhaps we could not bear to be so naked, for fear of a constantly harrowed heart. When young we think there will come one person who will savor and sustain us always; when we are older we know this is the dream of a child, that all hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall. You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman's second glance, a child's apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words 'I have something to tell you,' a cat with a broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother's papery ancient hand in a thicket of your hair, the memory of your father's voice early in the morning echoing from the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children.”
“Our hearts are not pure:
our hearts are filled with need
and greed as much as with love and grace,
and we wrestle with our hearts all the time.
The wrestling is who we are.
How we wrestle is who we are.
What we want to be is never what we are.
Not yet. Maybe that's why we have these
relentless engines in our chests, driving us forward
toward what we might be."
Orion (Jan/Feb 2005)”
“She'll be a fierce woman, that one. It'll take a hell of a man to love her right. Be like living with a thunderstorm. Same as her mother. A fierce woman. Force of nature. The kind of woman you just hand on for the ride. The most exciting and the most heartbreaking woman you could ever meet. They don't know their own minds most of the time, but their hearts are so damn big it hurts em inside.”
“Everyone thinks that the old days were better, or that they were harder, and the modern times are chaotic and complex, or easier all around, but I think people's hearts have always been the same, happy and sad, and that hasn't changed at all. It's just the shapes of lives that change, not the lives themselves.”
“Rained gently last night, just enough to wash the town clean, and then today a clean crisp fat spring day, the air redolent, the kind of green minty succulent air you'd bottle if you could and snort greedily on bleak, wet January evenings when the streetlights hzzzt on at four in the afternoon and all existence seems hopeless and sad.”
“When young we think there will come one person who will savor and sustain us always; when we are older we know this is the dream of a child, that all hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall.”
“The coolest most amazing people I have met in my life, I said, are the ones who are not very interested in power or money, but who are very interested in laughter and courage and grace under duress and holding hands against the darkness, and finding new ways to solve old problems, and being attentive and tender and kind to every sort of being, especially dogs and birds, and of course children.”
“These things matter to me, Daniel, says the man with six days to live. They are sitting on the porch in the last light. These things matter to me, son. The way the hawks huddle their shoulders angrily against hissing snow. Wrens whirring in the bare bones of bushes in winter. The way swallows and swifts veer and whirl and swim and slice and carve and curve and swerve. The way that frozen dew outlines every blade of grass. Salmonberries thimbleberries cloudberries snowberries elderberries salalberries gooseberries. My children learning to read. My wife's voice velvet in my ear at night in the dark under the covers. Her hair in my nose as we slept curled like spoons. The sinuous pace of rivers and minks and cats. Fresh bread with too much butter. My children's hands when they cup my face in their hands. Toys. Exuberance. Mowing the lawn. Tiny wrenches and screwdrivers. Tears of sorrow, which are the salt sea of the heart. Sleep in every form from doze to bone-weary. Pay stubs. Trains. The shivering ache of a saxophone and the yearning of a soprano. Folding laundry hot from the dryer. A spotless kitchen floor. The sound of bagpipes. The way horses smell in spring. Red wines. Furnaces. Stone walls. Sweat. Postcards on which the sender has written so much that he or she can barely squeeze in the signature. Opera on the radio. Bathrobes, back rubs. Potatoes. Mink oil on boots. The bands at wedding receptions. Box-elder bugs. The postman's grin. Linen table napkins. Tent flaps. The green sifting powdery snow of cedar pollen on my porch every year. Raccoons. The way a heron labors through the sky with such a vast elderly dignity. The cheerful ears of dogs. Smoked fish and the smokehouses where fish are smoked. The way barbers sweep up circles of hair after a haircut. Handkerchiefs. Poems read aloud by poets. Cigar-scissors. Book marginalia written with the lightest possible pencil as if the reader is whispering to the writer. People who keep dead languages alive. Fresh-mown lawns. First-basemen's mitts. Dish-racks. My wife's breasts. Lumber. Newspapers folded under arms. Hats. The way my children smelled after their baths when they were little. Sneakers. The way my father's face shone right after he shaved. Pants that fit. Soap half gone. Weeds forcing their way through sidewalks. Worms. The sound of ice shaken in drinks. Nutcrackers. Boxing matches. Diapers. Rain in every form from mist to sluice. The sound of my daughters typing their papers for school. My wife's eyes, as blue and green and gray as the sea. The sea, as blue and green and gray as her eyes. Her eyes. Her.”
“On a clear day the Oregon coast is the most beautiful place on earth—clear and crisp and clean, a rich green in the land and a bright blue in the sky, the air fat and salty and bracing, the ocean spreading like a grin. Brown pelicans rise and fall in their chorus lines in the wells of the waves, cormorants arrow, an eagle kingly queenly floats south high above the water line.”
“He is only one of a million no, a billion stories you could tell about the living beings on just this side of the mountain. The fact is that there are more stories in the space of a single second, in a single square foot of dirt and air and water, then we could tell in a hundred years. The word amazing isn't much of a word for how amazing it is. The fact is that there are more stories in the world than there are fish in the sea or birds in the air or lies among politicians. You could be sad at how many stories go untold, but you could also be delighted at how many stories we catch and share in delight and wonder and astonishment and illumination and sometimes even epiphany.”
“But simple as the Sign of the Cross is, it carries a brave weight: it names the Trinity, celebrates the Creator, and brings home all the power of faith to the brush of fingers on skin and bone and belly. So do we, sometimes well and sometimes ill, labor to bring home our belief in God's love to the stuff of our daily lives, the skin and bone of this world — and the Sign of the Cross helps us to remember that we have a Companion on the road.”
“Did I ever tell you about Asin? She is the wild woman of the woods. It's an old story of the People. My mom used to tell me about Asin. Asin couldn't bear being married or having children or having friends. She always wanted to run wild. She ran wild through the woods. If you saw her running you had to run to water as fast as you could and drink or her restlessness would come into you like a thirst that could never be quenched. She was happy and unhappy. She had wild long hair and she was very tall and she ran like the wind. When you saw dunegrass rippling in a line she was running through it. When the wind changed direction suddenly that was Asin. She was never satisfied or content and so she ran and ran and ran. She would grab men who were fishing alone and make love to them and then throw them down on the ground and run away weeping. She would grab children who wandered too far alone in the woods but she would return them to the same spot after three days and run away again. She would listen to women talking by the fire or working in the village or gathering berries but if they invited her to join them she ran away. You could hear her crying sometimes when the sun went down. She wanted something but she never knew what it was so she had nothing. She was as free as anyone ever could be and she was trapped. When I was young I wanted to be Asin. Many times I wanted to be Asin. So do you, Nora. I know. It's okay. It's alright. My sweet love. Poor Asin. Sometimes I think to be Asin would be the saddest thing in the world. Poor thing.”
“There are some silences that are so huge, and fraught, and haunted, and weighed, and shocked, that they just are; there's nothing you can say about them that makes any sense. All you can do is witness them, and feel some deep ache that such things arrive, and must be endured, with wordless aching all around.”
“Whereas my tribe is motley and chaotic. My tribe is dense and tumultuous. We argue and tease and wrangle and goof and fly upside down. We are brilliant and stupid. We are lonely and livid. We lie, we laugh. We are greedy and foolish. Sometimes we all sing together. We tease dogs. We can be cruel, but never for very long. We just can't sustain it. If we could sustain and organize our cruelty we'd rule the world. But what kind of life is that? We all fly home together at the end of the day. We have no kings. We have no outlaws. We have no ranking. We have no priests. We have no status. Age confers nothing in our clan. Size confers nothing. We have no warriors. We have no beauties. That's just how it is. We all look the same. Our stories go all day long. We remember everything. Our life can be maddening. It gets loud. We never agree on anything. We bicker. We play jokes. We take chances. I have often taken refuge with your tribe just to escape the hubbub of my tribe. Your tribe is better able to be alone.”