Gretel Ehrlich

Gretel
Ehrlich
1946

American Travel Writer, Novelist and Essayist

Author Quotes

The toughness I was learning was not a martyred doggedness, a dumb heroism, but the art of accommodation. I thought: to be tough is to be fragile; to be tender is to be truly fierce.

There is nothing in nature that can't be taken as a sign of both morality and invigoration.

To emerge from isolation can be disorienting. Everything looks bright, new, vivid. After I had been herding sheep for only three days, the sound of the camp tender's pickup flustered me. Longing for human company, I felt a foolish grin take over my face; yet I had to resist an urgent temptation to run and hide.

To rise above tree line is to go above thought, and after, the descent back into birdsong, bog orchids, willows, and firs is to sink into the preliterate parts of ourselves.

To trace the history of a river, or a raindrop, as John Muir would have done, is also to trace the history of the soul, the history of the mind descending and arising in the body. In both we constantly seek and stumble on divinity, which, like the cornice feeding the lake and the spring becoming a waterfall, feeds, spills, falls, and feeds itself over and over again.

True solace is finding none, which is to say, it is everywhere.

Walking is also an ambulation of mind.

A sense of panic ensued, but panic is like fresh air. The world falls out from under us and we fly, we float, we skim mountains, and every draught we breathe is new. Exposed and raw, we are free to be lost, to ask questions. Otherwise we seize up and are paralyzed by self-righteousness, obsessed with our own perfection. If there is no death and regeneration, our virtues become empty shells.

All through autumn we hear a double voice: one says everything is ripe; the other says everything is dying. The paradox is exquisite. We feel what the Japanese call aware--an almost untranslatable word meaning something like beauty tinged with sadness.

From the clayey soil of northern Wyoming is mined bentonite, which is used as filler in candy, gum, and lipstick. We Americans are great on fillers, as if what we have, what we are, is not enough. We have a cultural tendency toward denial, but being affluent, we strangle ourselves with what we can buy. We gave only to look at the houses we build to see how we build *against* space, the way we drink against pain and loneliness. We fill up space as if it were a pie shell, with things whose opacity further obstructs our ability to see what is already there.

History is an illogical record. It hinges on nothing. It is a story that changes, and has accidents, and recovers with scars.

I thought: to be tough is to be fragile; to be tender is to be truly fierce.

Like water, I have no skin... only surface tension.

Love life first, then march through the gates of each season; go inside nature and develop the discipline to stop destructive behavior; learn tenderness toward experience, then make decisions based on creating biological wealth that includes all people, animals, cultures, currencies, languages, and the living things as yet undiscovered; listen to the truth the land will tell you; act accordingly.

The retreat and disappearance of glaciers—there are only 160,000 left—means we're burning libraries and damaging the planet, possibly beyond repair. Bit by bit, glacier by glacier, rib by rib, we're living the Fall.

Honesty is stronger medicine than sympathy, which may console but often hides.

The truest art I would strive for in any work would be to give the page the same qualities as earth: weather would land on it harshly, light would elucidate the most difficult truths; wind would sweep away obtuse padding. Finally, the lessons of impermanence taught me this: loss constitutes an odd kind of fullness; despair empties out into an unquenchable appetite for life.

Autumn teaches us that fruition is also death; that ripeness is a form of decay. The willows, having stood for so long near water, begin to rust. Leaves are verbs that conjugate the seasons.

Everything in nature invites us constantly to be what we are.

Author Picture
First Name
Gretel
Last Name
Ehrlich
Birth Date
1946
Bio

American Travel Writer, Novelist and Essayist