Essay: Wisdom by Heart

Aug 14, 2020

Since college, I’ve been collecting quotes from various sources—novels, newspapers, friends, strangers—looking for wisdom, insights, affirmations. 



In the early years, the quotes were mostly about romantic love—which often ends badly, which is what makes it romantic.  Lines of poetry helped me survive the heartbreak, such as these from Edna St. Vincent Millay: “I know I am but summer to your heart/And not the full four seasons of the year.”



Ahhh.  Gradually, I began to look beyond romance for answers and the quotes added up.  These days, I have eleven little scrapbooks full of wisdom, tucked into my top desk drawer.  Alas, not long ago, I spilled a cup of coffee into that drawer, soaking most of my scrapbooks.


Many of the quotes were smeared beyond recognition but I wasn’t worried.  Once the paper dried, I could fill in the blanks myself because I know them by heart.  Here are a few that have nourished me.

Sculptor Louise Nevelson has challenged me by asking, “What would you do with your life if you didn’t risk it?”  Algernon Swinburne has comforted me by promising, “Even the weariest river winds somewhere safe to sea.”


Lately, the quote I find most relevant and reassuring is from Ovid who lived from 43 BC to 17 AD.  He wrote, “Everything changes; nothing is lost.”