When I was in college, I started copying down quotes from books I read—from novels, essays, poetry. I still have those hand-written notes on yellow legal sheets and they remind me how young I was—how romantic and curious.
Here’s a line from poet Algernon Swinburne: “I have lived long enough having seen one thing, that love hath an end.” Oh, the anguish.
But I also needed a career, so I liked this from Emerson’s essay on Self-Reliance. “Thy lot or portion of life is seeking after thee; therefore be at rest from seeking after it.”
One portion of my life was a job in advertising where I inherited a dictionary with quotes at the bottom of each page. Including this from Shakespeare, “I would give all my fame for a pot of ale and safety.” Even without fame, I could guess that safety was more valuable—not to mention ale.
Today, these quotes fill file folders and scrapbooks—and my daughter says they will be her best inheritance. I use them to make cards for friends and to remind me how old I am, still romantic and curious.
“You could organize all this into a database,” someone said, “and find things quicker.” But it’s the things I’m not looking for that nourish me even more. Like this from Annie Dillard: “How you spend your days is how you spend your life.”