Category: Earth quotes

Earth Quotes: Myrtle Reed

Author Myrtle Reed was known for her stinging bon mots.

Early Twentieth-Century author Myrtle Reed penned a number of best-selling romances during her time, now all but completely forgotten.  “Old Rose and Silver,” from which I excerpted this Earth Quote, centers around how a group of characters interact in a small town. Thanks to a group of volunteers, you can read it for free on Kindle. Known for her witticisms and bon mots, the following description aptly portrays how many of us feel about the river right now:

“The river itself portrays humanity precisely, with its tortuous windings, its accumulation of driftwood, its unsuspected depths, and its crystalline shallows, singing in the Summer sun.

Barriers may be built across its path, but they bring only power, as the conquering of an obstacle is always sure to do.

Sometimes when the rocks and stone-clad hills loom large ahead, and eternity itself would be needed to carve a passage, there is an easy way around.

The discovery of it makes the river sing with gladness and turns the murmurous deeps to living water, bright with ripples and foam.”

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Earth Quotes: honeyhoney’s ‘L.A. River’

Get to know the river, up close and personal, like this shot under the Sixth Street Bridge. (Courtesy FOLAR)

Over the weekend, the group honeyhoney played “L.A. River”  at the Coachella music festival. You can listen to it on ITunes, part of the Billy Jack album, or here.

The lyrics are as melodic as the song, itself. Like the boat part (Kayaker-activist George Wolfe inspired?); don’t like the body part, but sometimes I’ve had the same sensation on its waters …




Went down to the banks of the LA river
Had to hop a chain link fence
Concrete walls on the LA river
Water lapping up on the cement

Oh, but I love my new home
Listen to the big city sound
Watching that LA river roll down
By the trains past Chinatown

Dip my fingers in the warm black water
Raw red skin on my knees
Sail my boat down the LA river
Thought I saw a body in the weeds

Oh, but I love my new home
Listen to the big city sound
Watching that LA river roll down
By the trains past Chinatown

Oh, but I love my new home
Listen to the big city sound
Watching that LA river roll down
By the trains past Chinatown

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Earth quotes: Kathleen Dean Moore

Kathleen Dean Moore (courtesy photo Nye Beach Writers' Series)

The now-defunct Discover Magazine published this snippet in a 2003 article on returning salmon. Both Moore and her husband, Jonathan, shared the byline.

“Looking out over the gravel beach, the blue inlet, the whitewashed rocky islands, the floating loons and soaring gulls, I am beginning to understand that the stream the scientists are studying is not just a little creek. It’s a river of energy that moves across regions in great geographic cycles.

“Here, life and death are only different points on a continuum. The stream flows in a circle through time and space, turning death into life across coastal ecosystems, as it has for more than a million years. But such streams no longer flow in the places where most of us live.”

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Earth quotes: Norman Maclean

Norman Maclean penned the classic "A River Runs Through It." (Courtesy Confluence Press)

If it’s been a while since you read “A River Runs Through It,” or if you’ve never read the engrossing tale before, this fall would be a good time to pick up this thin volume. Throughout its pages, Maclean proves his worth, and it’s a mystery to me why he remains one of our most underrated American writers. The movie is good, but not nearly the equal of the book. Here’s the opening paragraph from the book, which won a Pulitzer in 1977:

“In our family there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others. He told us about Christ’s disciples being fisherman, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fisherman, and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman.”

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Earth Quotes: Kenneth Grahame

This quotation from Kenneth Grahame’s “The Wind in the Willows” was published in 1908.  Of course, it’s a children’s classic, but the quote about England’s River Thames  inhabits the end page for the city’s Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan.

“By it and with it and on it and in it…It’s brother and sister to me, and aunts, and company, and food and drink, and (naturally) washing. It’s my world, and I don’t want any other. What it hasn’t got is not worth having, and what it doesn’t know is not worth knowing.

Whether in winter or summer, spring, or autumn, it’s always got its fun and its excitements.

When the floods are on in February…and the brown water runs by my best bedroom window; or again when it all drops away and shows patches of mud…and the rushes and weed clog the channels…I can potter about dry shod over most of the bed of it and find fresh food to eat, and things careless people have dropped out of boats!”


See you on the river, Jim Burns


Earth quotes: Gary Synder

This poem by Gary Snyder is from his book “Mountains and Rivers without end.” To me, it epitomizes the feeling I get everytime I’m on the river, fishing or not. See you on the river, Jim Burns

Water words: The poet Gary Snyder. (courtesy University of Illinois)

Night Song of the Los Angeles Basin



pollen dust blows,

Swirl of light strokes rising

knot-tying light paths,

calligraphy of cars

Los Angeles basin and hill slopes

Checkered with street freeways. Floral loops

Of the freeway express and exchange.

Dragons of light in the dark

sweep going both ways

in the night city belly.

The passage of light end to end and rebound ,

— ride drivers all heading somewhere —

etch in their trances to night’s eye mind

calligraphy of cars.

Vole paths. Mouse trails worn in

on meadow grass;

Winding pocket gopher tunnels,

Marmot lookout rocks.

Houses with green-watered gardens

slip under the ghost of the dry chaparral,


shrine to the L.A. River.

The jinja that never was there

is there.

Where the river debouches

the place of the moment

of trembling and giving and gathering

so that lizards clap hands there

— just lizards

come pray, saying

“please give us health and long life.”

A hawk,

a mouse

Slash of calligraphy of freeways and cars

Into the pools of the channelized river

the Goddess in tall rain dress

tossess a handful of meal.

Gold bellies roil

mouth-bubbles, frenzy of feeding

the common ones, the bright-colored rare ones

show up, they tangle and tumble,

godlings ride by in Rolls Royce

wide-eyed in broker’s halls

lifted in hotels

being presented to, platters

of tidbits and wine,

snatch of fame,

churn and roil,

meal gone, the water subsides.

A mouse,

a hawk.

The calligraphy of lights on the night

freeways of Los Angeles

will long be remembered.



late-rising moon.

Earth Quotes: Annie Dillard

Many have compared Annie Dillard’s 1974 Pulitzer Prize winning Pilgrim at Tinker Creek to Walden, Henry David Thoreau’s seminal work on living independently.

Annie Dillard, who won a Pulitzer Prize for "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek," has penned 11 books. (Courtesy Phyllis Rose/Harper Collins Publishers)

“The pressure of growth among animals is a kind of terrible hunger. These billions must eat in order to fuel their surge to sexual maturity so that they may pump out more billions of eggs. And what are the fish on the bed going to eat, or hatched mantises in a Mason jar going to eat, but each other? There is a terrible innocence in the benumbed world of the lower animals, reducing life there to a universal chomp. Edwin Way Teale, in The Strange Lives of Familiar Insects—a book I couldn’t live without—describes several occasions of meals mouthed under the pressure of a hunger that knew no bounds.

“There is the dragonfly nymph, for instance, which stalks the bottom of the creek and the pond in search of live prey to snare with its hooked, unfolding lip. Dragonfly nymphs are insatiable and mighty. They clasp and devour whole minnows and fat tadpoles. “A dragonfly nymph,” says Teale, “has even been seen climbing up out of the water on a plant to attack a helpless dragonfly emerging, soft and rumpled, from its nymphal skin.” Is this where I draw the line?

“It is between mothers and their offspring that these feedings have truly macabre overtones. Look at lacewings. Lacewings are those fragile green creatures with large, transparent wings. The larvae eat enormous numbers of aphids, the adults mate in a fluttering rush of instinct, lay eggs, and die by the millions in the first cold snap of fall. Sometimes, when a female lays her fertile eggs on a green leaf atop a slender stalked thread, she is hungry. She pauses in her laying, turns around, and eats her eggs one by one, then lays some more, and eats them, too.”

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Earth Quotes: L.A. Councilperson Ed Reyes

At today’s special meeting of the Ad Hoc River Committee, its chair, Councilperson Ed Reyes, offered these choice words:

“Whole habitats are just dying. It’s no longer just the coral reefs. There are whole classes of wildlife, of fish. You know what’s amazing — depressing — but you can just see the veins of this pollution going into the ocean. They showed the East Coast and the West Coast, and L.A. was a major artery — our trash.

Councilperson Ed Reyes chairs the Ad Hoc River Committee (courtesy photo).

So I think the key here is to oscillate from these bigger picture issues to the core role of our departments of our city, and how we spend our monies. There’s connectivity there, dialogue…

OK, maybe the city’s not here to save the ocean, but if we take care of our own backyard and deal with these issues incrementally, it does have a positive effect. I want to keep pulling that back into the discussion, and to the core values of the city.”

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Earth Quotes: Ken Whitman

This quote from Ken Whitman, publisher of  Organic Connections Magazine, reveals our particular moment in history:

Ken Whitman, publisher of Organic Connections Magazine (courtesy photo).

“Human Thinking 1.0 (Western Edition) was overall a pretty nifty mental operating system. Testament to this is the fact that we’re still here after all these years. But of course there are bugs that we can’t continue to ignore. We seem to inevitably end up periodically in armed conflict and have made rather a mess of our economy, our environment and our health.

The biggest problem with the system is that, while we are all interconnected in a myriad of ways, Human Thinking 1.0 is not a networked system. It functions on the basis of what’s good for me or us and largely ignores the resultant effects created in other areas.

This brings us to the next evolution in cognition and reasoning: Human Thinking 2.0, which is currently in beta testing.”

You can read the entire editorial in the latest edition.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Earth Quotes: Thomas Berry

Today, I’m introducing a new aspect to the blog — like the title says, earth quotes. This first one is from the book “Befriending the Earth” by Thomas Berry, CP, with Thomas Clarke, SJ.

Author Thomas Berry (Courtesy the Thomas Berry Foundation).

“Not long ago, I was talking with several hundred high school students at one of the prestigious high schools in the city of New York. I said that my generation has been an autistic generation. I asked them what autism was. Imagine asking a group of high school students what autism is!

One student got up and explained very clearly: persons being so locked up in themselves that no one and nothing else can get in. It is an isolation process.

That, I think, is what has happened to the human community in our times. We are talking to ourselves. We are not talking to the river, we are not listening to the river. We have broken the great conversation. By breaking the conversation, we have shattered the universe. All these things that are happening now are consequences of this autism.”

If you’d like to share a quote, just e-mail it to me.

See you on the river, Jim Burns