TransAtlantic

And there are moments that I would like to know what might have happened if it hadn't happened, and why it happened the way it did, and what it might have taken to prevent it from happening.

An optimist is a braver cynic.

A single man, he said he loved women but preferred engines.

Cynicism is easy. An optimist is a braver cynic.

How very odd it is to be abandoned by language, how the future demands what should have been asked in the past, how words can escape us with such ease, and we are left, then, only with the pursuit.

It's hardly wisdom, but the older I get the more I believe that our lives are built not out of time, but light. The problem is that the images that so often return to me are seldom those I want.

It was as if they wanted to take their older bodies and put their younger hearts inside.

It was that time of the century when the idea of a gentleman had almost become myth. The Great War had concussed the world. The unbearable news of sixteen million deaths rolled off the great metal drums of the newspapers. Europe was a crucible of bones.

Some days he wishes that he could simply empty the chambers of the men, fill the halls instead with women: the short sharp shock of three thousand two hundred mothers. The ones who picked through the supermarket debris for pieces of their dead husbands. The ones who still laundered their gone son's bed sheets by hand. The ones who kept an extra teacup at the end of the table, in case of miracles. The elegant ones, the angry ones, the clever ones, the ones in hairnets, the ones exhausted by all the dying. They carried their sorrow--not with photos under their arms, or with public wailing, or by beating their chests, but with a weariness around the eyes.

The children looked like remnants of themselves. Spectral. Some were naked to the waist.Many of them had sores on their faces. None had shoes. He could see the structures of them through their skin. The bony residue of their lives.

The conspiracy of women. We are in it together, make no mistake.

The elaborate search for a word, like the turning of a chain handle on a well. Dropping the bucket down the mineshaft of the mind. Taking up empty bucket after empty bucket until, finally, at an unexpected moment, it caught hard and had a sudden weight and she raised the word, then delved down into the emptiness once more.

The essence of intelligence was to know when, or if, to expose even the heart's deep need for instruction.

Their perfect English accents. As if serving all their vowels on a fine set of tongs.

The luxury of age was the giving up of vanity.

The old days, they arrive back in the oddest ways, suddenly taut, breaking the surface, a salmon leap.

The point of flight. To get rid of oneself. That was reason enough to fly.

There is always room for at least two truths.

There was something in the music of the accent that Douglass liked: it was as if the Cork people put long lazy hammocks in their sentences.

The short sharp shock of three thousand mother two hundred mothers. The ones who picked through the supermarket debris for pieces of their dead husbands. The ones who still laundered their gone son's bed sheets by hand. The ones who kept an extra teacup at the end of the table, in case of miracles. The elegant ones, the angry ones, the clever ones, the ones in hairnets, the ones exhausted by all the dying. They carried their sorrow - not with photos under their arms, or with public wailing, or by beating their chests, but with a weariness around the eyes. Mothers and daughters and children and grandmothers, too. They never fought the wars, but they suffered them, blood and bone.

The smallest moments: they return, dwell, endure.

The smell of the earth, so astoundingly fresh: it strikes Brown like a thing he might eat. His ears throb. His body feels as if it is still moving through the air. He is, he thinks, the first man ever to fly and stand at the exact same time. The war out of the machine. He holds the small bag of letters up in salute. On they come, soldiers, people, the light drizzle of gray.
Ireland.
A beautiful country. A bit savage on a man all the same.
Ireland.

The true nature of a democracy is its ability to say yes when even the powerful say no

The tunnels of our lives connect, coming to daylight at the oddest moments, and then plunge us into the dark again. We return to the lives of those who have gone before us, a perplexing möbius strip until we come home, eventually, to ourselves.

The world does not turn without moments of grace. Who cares how small.

They entered the wild country. Broken fences. Ruined castles. Stretches of bogland. Wooded headlands. Turfsmoke rose from cabins, thin and mean. On the muddy paths, they glimpsed moving rags. The rags seemed more animate than the bodies within. As they passed, the families regarded them. The children appeared marooned with hunger.

We seldom know what echo our actions will find, but our stories will most certainly outlast us.

What was a life anyway? An accumulation of small shelves of incident.

What was life anyway? An accumulation of small shelves if incident. Stacked at odd angles to each other.

When I sat down beside them, their silence was lined with tenderness. We have to admire the world for not ending on us.