Author, Editor, and Florida Master Naturalist

Photo of Emily Dickinson

My Little Black Book

Poems were a frequent addition. Emily Dickinson’s poem, “Not in Vain” was on the first page of my notebook.

“If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching, or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.”

Do we ever know if we have lived up to our childhood ideals?

My aunt was a musician and quite creative, too. One of the family’s Christmas cards included a photo of their Christmas morning living room and a short poem that said, “Twas the day after Christmas and all through the house –what a mess! Toys and clothes and gifts galore, scattered on piano, table, and floor. Everyone happy, the kiddies all said, ‘Mommy, we want some more!’”

I didn’t always record the origin of what I wrote in my book, so some authors are unknown, like these:

“There are minute men, wait-a-minute men, and last minute men.”
“The best way to kill time is to work it to death.”
“Gratitude is the memory of the heart.”
“One good turn gets most of the blanket.”

When I got older, I realized the importance of including the origin or author and was a little more careful about noting it.

“He was like a cock who thought the sun had risen to hear him crow.” –George Eliot
"It takes a heap o’ livin’ to make a house a home.” --Edgar Guest

My brother, while he was in high school, wrote a poem that was selected to be included in the National High School Poetry Association annual publication. The last line of it says, “If the best of this world is to be thine, Have less open mouth and more open mind.” –Fred Sias Jr.

When our folks were doing some research about our family name in the Library of Congress, my brother and I stood in the rotunda of the building reading the engravings around the walls:

“Nature is the art of God.”
“The chief glory of every people arises from its authors.”
“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.”

My little book includes quotations by Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Benjamin Franklin, Tennyson, Thoreau, Kahlil Gibran, lots of Unknowns, and, of course, Anonymous.

It includes my father’s favorite quotation, “The Salutation of the Dawn” from the Sanskrit: “Look to this day, for it is Life – the very Life of Life.” There is more to the Salutation. I hope you look it up and commit it to memory, as my father did. So did I.

And my notebook includes a quotation by William Cooper that my brother illuminated when he was in high school. My brother became a very fine calligrapher with a special lettering that he designed himself. The small but lovely piece was framed and hung on my wall until I gave it to his daughter. The paper is beginning to yellow, but our mother saved it these many years. This is what it says:

“Knowledge and Wisdom, far from being one, have oft times no connection.
Knowledge dwells in minds replete with thoughts of other men;
Wisdom in minds attentive to their own.
Knowledge is proud that it has learned so much.
Wisdom is humble that it knows no more.”

My Little Black Book became stuffed so full of pages that I had to get a second book, and I continued my collection of thoughts until college days. Now it is a treasure for me.

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