Woman Of Wisdom: A Ritual

In January my husband and I prepared to move for the first time in 37 years. We had to reduce the size of our library to fit into a smaller space, and deciding which books to keep became a crazy-making endeavor for me. There were hundreds of books I couldn’t bear to let go.

Day after day I thumbed through pages that once introduced me to worlds unknown. My gushing tears seemed disproportionate to the activity, as did my frantic scribbles of words I somehow had to hold close to me.

Just as I thought I might actually be losing my mind, it struck me that I was simply doing something I’d loved since I was a child: collecting meaningful quotes I never wanted to forget.

This simple act unintentionally launched a ritual that now brings joy to my daily routine: once a day I post a beloved quote on Twitter. Most of the quotes I collected were – no surprise to me – from women, so using the ubiquitous Twitter hashtag, I label each #WomanOfWisdom.

A sampler of wisdom selected from the past 30 days is listed below:

#WomanOfWisdom Maya Angelou: “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

#WomanOfWisdom Emily Dickinson: “They say that God is everywhere, and yet we always think of Him as somewhat of a recluse.” (1878)

#WomanOfWisdom Bella Abzug: “I prefer the word ‘homemaker’ because ‘housewife’ always implies that there may be a wife someplace else.”

#WomanOfWisdom Lena Horne: “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”

#WomanOfWisdom Madeleine l’Engle: “The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”

#WomanOfWisdom Rebecca West: “People call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that distinguish me from a doormat.” (1913)

#WomanOfWisdom Zora Neale Hurston: “Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”

#WomanOfWisdom Ellen Parr: “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

#WomanOfWisdom Emma Goldman: “Women need not always keep their mouths shut and their wombs open.”

#WomanOfWisdom Wilma Mankiller: “I’ve run into more discrimination as a woman than as an Indian.”

#WomanOfWisdom Shana Alexander: “The sad truth is that excellence makes people nervous.”

#WomanOfWisdom Sarah Bernhardt: “Life begets life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.”

#WomanOfWisdom Anne Frank: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

#WomanOfWisdom Indira Gandhi: “You must learn to be still in the midst of activity and to be vibrantly alive in repose.”

#WomanOfWisdom Abigail Adams: “We have too many high-sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them.”

This ritual has eased the process of giving away my books. Over the past three months I’ve donated boxes and boxes to schools, libraries, bookshops, Materials for the Arts, and to my children and grandchildren of course.

A little piece of each book will be with me forever. And my hope is that the books will touch the hearts and minds and spirits of many who might not otherwise have been exposed to them. I love thinking about that.

How long do you suppose it will take to run out of wisdom?


8 Responses to “Woman Of Wisdom: A Ritual”

  1. Roger Morgan says:

    You Ann, are very brave, and wise. I have a terrible time deciding which ones to keep and which to throw out, donate, give, contribute or otherwise banish from my happy shelves. So far the answer is not to dispose of any. Next week I will decide.

  2. Ann Sachs says:

    You still make me laugh, Mr. Morgan, and it’ll be 42 years in July.

  3. Nancy Forsythe says:

    You both make me smile. Oh to be a fly on the wall, watching the two of you doing this!

  4. Diane Hardin says:

    “The best exercise for the heart is lifting others up.” Wish I knew who said that – it certainly fits!

    This is my favorite posting to date. I cheer you on in making the moments of life sweeter and more meaningful.

    Your fan friend, Diane

  5. Linda Essig says:

    Reading this reminds me of the warm hug you gave me Sunday morning. Thank you!

  6. Hi Ann,

    As a fellow bookphile, I can certainly relate to your predicament. In fact, just recently, I decided to go through some of my kids books given how many of them are below their reading level and as such, are taking up precious space on their bookshelves.

    Initially, the exercise was meant to help give them new space to add their new favourite books – ones that inspire their curiosity and imagination. And yet, as I went through the titles, I couldn’t bear to part with some of them because it brought back fond memories of snuggling up with them when they were little, and acting out with funny voices the tale found within the pages of these books.

    In the end, I did keep a few while donating the others to the first grade teacher who taught all my girls not only how to read, but instilled within them a love of reading. Hopefully these new books in her collection will inspire a love of books in other kids.

    As for the ones I kept, I plan on holding onto them for awhile longer – for that moment when I move from being a parent to a grandparent and I can once again snuggle with a little one on the couch, regaling them with the magic found within these books, funny voices and all.

  7. Ann Sachs says:

    Thank you to those who’ve commented – we seem to share a passion for reading, and I know we’ll always treasure the memories.

    Tanveer, snuggling seems to be a crucial element! Whether it was with our parents once-upon-a-time, or, eventually, with our grandchildren (be still my heart).

    Books = Magic. Let’s keep spreading the word.

  8. Kate Powers says:

    I feel your pain, Ann. I am terrible at giving up books. Just seeing them all lined up on the shelf makes me feel better, and reminds of the days when I have time to get lost in them. Also, it seems like we have a lot of the same books. 🙂

    Books = Magic, indeed.

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