Something that is loved is never lost.

Along with the rest of the world, I am mourning the loss of the immensely talented Toni Morrison today, who was such a seminal figure in my life. Her books, from The Bluest Eye to Beloved, were extraordinarily powerful touchstones in my development as a reader and a writer and a person, and her words shaped and educated and inspired me in ways I cannot begin to express.

Suffice to say, her passing is a profound loss to this country and to this world, and to me and so many others personally, but over the course of her 88 years, she gave us all so, so much, so I suppose all there really is to do today is to thank her, and remember her, and be grateful she was part of our lives.

In celebration of that, here a few of my all-time favorite excerpts from her work/speeches, some of which I still revisit and reflect on on a regular basis:

“I know that happiness had been the real, if covert, goal of your labors here. I know that it informs your choice of companions, the profession you will enter, but I urge you, please don’t settle for happiness. It’s not good enough. Of course, you deserve it. But if that is all you have in mind —  happiness —  I want to suggest to you that personal success devoid of meaningfulness, free of a steady commitment to social justice, that’s more than a barren life, it’s a trivial one. Its looking good instead of doing good.”

“Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.”

“Love is never any better than the lover.”

“To get to a place where you could love anything you chose, not to need permission for desire, well now that was freedom.”

“Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind.”

“Don’t beg anybody for anything, especially love.”

“But the picking out, the choosing. Don’t ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it. I saw you and made up my mind. My mind.”

“And I am all the things I have ever loved: scuppernong wine, cool baptisms in silent water, dream books and number playing.”

“I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it.”

“I didn’t plan on either children or writing. Once I realized that writing satisfied me in some enormous way, I had to make adjustments. The writing was always marginal in terms of time when the children were small. But it was major in terms of my head. I always thought that women could do a lot of things. All the women I knew did nine or ten things at one time. I always understood that women worked, they went to church, they managed their houses, they managed somebody else’s houses, they raised their children, they raised somebody else’s children, they taught. I wouldn’t say it’s not hard, but why wouldn’t it be? All important things are hard.”

“All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”

“When you gone to get married? You need to have some babies. It’ll settle you.”
“I don’t want to make somebody else. I want to make myself.”

“Beauty was not simply something to behold; it was something one could do.”

“You think because he doesn’t love you that you are worthless. You think that because he doesn’t want you anymore that he is right — that his judgement and opinion of you are correct. If he throws you out, then you are garbage. You think he belongs to you because you want to belong to him. Don’t. It’s a bad word, ‘belong.’ Especially when you put it with somebody you love. Love shouldn’t be like that. Did you ever see the way the clouds love a mountain? They circle all around it; sometimes you can’t even see the mountain for the clouds. But you know what? You go up top and what do you see? His head. The clouds never cover the head. His head pokes through, beacuse the clouds let him; they don’t wrap him up. They let him keep his head up high, free, with nothing to hide him or bind him. You can’t own a human being. You can’t lose what you don’t own. Suppose you did own him. Could you really love somebody who was absolutely nobody without you? You really want somebody like that? Somebody who falls apart when you walk out the door? You don’t, do you? And neither does he. You’re turning over your whole life to him. Your whole life, girl. And if it means so little to you that you can just give it away, hand it to him, then why should it mean any more to him? He can’t value you more than you value yourself.”

“The function of freedom is to free someone else.”

“You are your best thing.”