Exerpts – Thirteen Moons

“All I can say is that we are mistaken to gouge such a deep rift in history that the things old men and old women know have become so useless as to be not worth passing on to grandchildren.”

thirteen-moons-cover“It is tempting to look back at Bear’s people from the perspective of this modern world and see them as changeless and pure, authentic people in ways impossible for anybody to be anymore.  We need Noble Savages for our own purposes.  Our happy imaginings about them and the pure world they occupied do us good when incoherent change overwhelms us.”  p.71

“-You ever feel like an apostrophe? she said.
-An apostrophe?
-Just a little faint mark to stand in for something more complete.  A place keeper.  A convention.  Barely more than nothing.”  p.144

“Third and finally, all accounts agree that the event happened during the first new moon in autumn, Nut Moon, with the apples all dead ripe on the trees, and hickory nuts and walnuts and chestnuts falling, and the leaves coloring.  The month of the year when the world was created and time began ticking.  Thus the first month of the new year is not in grey winter or green spring.  Everything starts with the grace of approaching death.”  p.164

“I would like to make the concluding act of Charley’s story an epic and tragic tale.  But almost nothing in life is epic or tragic at the moment of its enactment.  History in the making, at least on the personal level, is almost exclusively pathetic.  People suffer and die in ignorance and delusion.”  p.262

“There was no telling, really.  It was like so much of life: nearly hopeless, but you must go ahead and try.”  p.286

“He talked a great deal about several new opinions he had developed in my absence, one of which was that we come to value the fall of the year more and more as we age and decline.  It is easy in youth to become emotional at the overwhelming symbolic autumnal-ness of withered peaches and reddened honey-locust pods.  Later in life, though, the season becomes more actual to us, not sentimental, just sadly true.
Therefore, autumn was now Bear’s favorite season by far, replacing early summer in his affections.  He ached with newfound pleasure all through autumn’s many stages, the slow day-by-day coloring of fragile dogwood and sumac and redbud in late summer, then maple and poplar, and the sudden netherward jolt of the first frost and the overnight withering of the weeds, and finally the heroic fortitude of oak, its most persistent dead leaves gripping the branches all through the bitterest winter until finally cast to earth by the push of new growth in spring.  And above all, the waxing and waning of the several moons – End of Fruit, Nut, Harvest, Hunting – commanded Bear’s deepest interest.  The different ways they rise and fall in the sky and change from one to the next, from milky and enormous in late summer to tiny as a fingertip and etched hard as burning phosphorus against the wee stars in cold early winter.”  p.320

“I’ll go no further with this topic.  Grief is not a thing that can be convincingly shared with an audience.  Our worst pain is confined within our own skin.”  p.341

“Lovely, the way the sky works.  The constellations and planets and moons.  Enough reassurance to assure us of the probable continuation of the universe, but not so repetitive as to become boring during the limited span we have to watch it all spin around.”  p.371

“All of which may or may not reduce your sadness at leaving the world.  Does overwhelming change, the annihilation of all you know, create an intensity of memory that would not have existed otherwise?  When all you know is lost and gone forever, does it become sweeter in the mind?  Does it make you want to let go or hold on even tighter?
All I can say is that we are mistaken to gouge such a deep rift in history that the things old men and old women know have become so useless as to be not worth passing on to grandchildren.”  p.412

“When everything is immediately available and infinitely reproducible, nothing is valuable.  How can it be?  How many times might beauty or heartbreak or love be replicated and still have meaning?  It is like running the soul under a die press.  Reproduction breeds worthlessness.”  p.416


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