©Hector Lee, 2010

“Life itself is a quotation”
–Jorge Luis Borges

My anatomy sketchbook from art class in the early 90s evolved into my first journal—where I sketch, paint, write, paste in photos, images, articles and other two-dimensional scraps. This particular book became a repository of quotes.

I just came to collect them. Perhaps it is my short attention span, I read children’s books, comic strips, graffiti, short stories and magazine articles; and quotes qualify on the brevity requisite. The quotes I collect mirror who I am.

One of the first quotes collected is actually Thomas Merton’s discernment prayer, given to me by a seminary classmate years ago. The prayer reflects my need to discern well.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
There fore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
–Thomas Merton © Abbey of Gethsemane, Trappist , KY

Another early entry is a poem by Khalil Gibran, given to me by my mother as a blessing to find my way in this world apart from her, despite her misgivings about my living in the big city.

¿Tus Hijos?
Tus hijos no son tuyos.
Son los hijos y las hijas del anhelo de la Vida por perpetuarse.
Llegan a través de ti, mas no son realmente tuyos.
Y aunque están contigo no te pertenecen.
Puedes darles tu amor, pero no tus pensamientos, porque tienen sus propios pensamientos.
Puedes albergar sus cuerpos, pero no sus almas, porque sus almas moran en la casa de mañana, que no puedes visitar ni siquiera en tus sueños.
Puedes, a lo sumo, parecerte a ellos;
Pero no trates de hacerlos semejantes a ti.
Porque la vida no retrocede ni se estanca en el ayer.
Eres el arco para que tus hijos, flechas vivientes, se lancen al espacio.
El Arquero ve la marca en lo infinito, y El es quien te doblega, con su poder, para que sus flechas partan veloces a la lejanía.
Que el doblegamiento en manos del Arquero sea tu alegría; porque El que ama a la flecha que vuela, también ama al arco que no viaja.
–Khalil Gibran
Translation: http://www.katsandogz.com/onchildren.html

Quotes are my sign posts to this thing called life, providing pithy wisdom, inspiration, or humor. The quotes reflect who I am and what I value: living fully and honestly, integrating my Catholicism into contemporary life, being grateful for the truths and blessings of life.

And did you get what you wanted from this life even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on earth.
–Raymond Carver.

In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
–George Orwell.
I yam what I am.

While God waits for his Temple to be built of love, men bring stones.
–Rabindranath Tagore.

You approaching me with the smell of fresh cut morning grass my nipples turn hard.
–Yuko Kawano

All the way to heaven is heaven.
–St. Catherine of Sienna

Just like the Kingdom of God, hell is within us.
–André Gidé

A friend is one to whom one can pour out all the contents of one’s heart chaff and grain together. Knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keeping what is worth keeping, and, with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.
–Arabian proverb.

Nature’s first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower,
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
–Robert Frost.

Earth is crammed with heaven and every common bush afire with God,
And only he who sees takes off his shoes,
The rest sit around it and pick blackberries.
–Elizabeth Barrett Browning

For there was that law of life,
So cruel and so just,
That said either one must change
Or pay more for remaining the same.
–Norman Mailer

It amuses me that the highest praise for my work comes for the imagination, while the truth is that there’s not a single line in all my work that does not a have a basis in Reality. The problem is that Latin American reality resembles the wildest imagination.
–Gabriel Garcia Marquez
We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of the dreams.
–Willie Wonka.

Every time I paint a portrait, I lose a friend.
–John singer Sergeant

Job well done.
If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?
–John Wooden

–St. Benedict

La Utopia
Allá está en el horizonte.
Me acerco dos pasos
Ella se aleja dos pasos.
Camino diez pasos
Y el horizonte se corre diez pasos más.
Por mucho que yo camine, nunca la alcanzaré.
¿para qué sirve la utopía?
Para eso sirve: para caminar.
–Eduardo Galeano.
Translation: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/show/33846

Not all who wander are lost.
–J. R. R. Tolkien

Many of the quotes speak to the human condition: evil, suffering, failure, and the wisdom and courage to confront them. And inextricably, redemption is connected to them.

Hollywood’s a place where they’ll pay you $1000 for a kiss and 50¢ for your soul.
–Marilyn Monroe.

De noche iremos, de noche, que para encontrar la fuente, solo la sed nos alumbra, solo la sed nos alumbra.
–Taize Prayer.

The way of love is not a subtle argument.
The door there is devastation.
Birds make great sky circles of their freedom.
How do they do it?
They fall, and falling they are given wings.

Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once with beauty and courage.
Perhaps everything that frightens us is in its deepest essence something helpless that wants our love.
–Rainer Maria Rilke.

The world breaks everyone, but afterward many are strong at the broken places.
–Ernest Hemingway

When I despair, I remember that all through history, the way of truth and love has always won. There have been murderers and tyrants, and for a time they seem invincible. But in the end they always fall. Think of it, always.
–Mohandas K. Gandhi

Another early quote was written with what is called a typewriter after I had read Sainte-Exupéry’s masterpiece:

Even Chinese fortune cookie slips find their way into the journal, as if the egg and sugar confections contained the secrets to life:

My former administrator at school would incorporate a quote into his weekly bulletin to inspire the teachers. I also receive quotes on education and teaching from Jerry Becker, a professor from Illinois, on occasion. And with Internet, access to quotes is never far away. My neurotic nature has now organized these and other quotes into a binder under headings. The binder is used as a resource when writing a card for an occasion: birthday, death, new home, illness, and marriage.
Perhaps the act of collecting quotes is an attempt to gather the wisdom contained in them in me. Perhaps quotes speak to a great faith in words—that words themselves address our deepest longings, provide uplift and company for our journey, answer our most profound questions or leave them unanswered.

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now see the answers, which cannot be give you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
–Rainer Maria Rilke.

©Hector Lee, 2010

Hector Viveros Lee 1998BAWP, has been teaching in public schools for 20+ years. He is an Instructional Reform Facilitator in San Francisco. He recently taught at the Young Writers’ Camp in Seoul, Korea. His books can be found at http://www.leeandlow.com/home/index.html.

8 Responses to “Sketchbook by Hector Lee”

  1. Betty Pazmino Says:

    Muchisimas gracias, Hector, por tus palabras de esperanza y de fe.

    1. Hector Says:

      Me complace que te gustaron. Espero que todo este bien contigo. ?Donde estas ahora? Yo soy el IRF en Marshall.

  2. Que el doblegamiento en manos del Arquero sea tu alegría; porque El que ama a la flecha que vuela, también ama al arco que no viaja.

    Thank you for passing these words along to me. I could not finish reading your piece because at this point I began to cry, just to remember that I am loved. This fumbling, blind, inarticulate, unskilled parent, in the Hands of the Archer, becomes just what my child needs. My friend, say a prayer for me, that it may be so. And thank you for sharing your art, your thoughts, and your words. They illuminate my life.

    1. Hector Says:

      Dear Michelle:

      I was looking at the photos of Gabriel and Sadie on the fridge and thinking what lucky children they are to have such good parents.

      I think parenting is the hardest vocation on earth and whatever troubles you I will pray that it bring you to a better place.

  3. Page Says:

    Hector–thank you! I love quotes too and was reminded of some of my favorites and given many new pearls of wisdom and wonder. By the way…I have your ceramic piece from Seoul–want it?

    1. Hector Says:

      Hi Page:

      How was Japan?

      I am glad you enjoyed the piece. Share with me any quotes that you love.

      I would like my ceramic piece–how can I get it?

  4. Adela Says:

    Gracias. The Merton prayer now sits beside me, reminding me to trust and not fear.

  5. Hector Says:

    The Merton prayer sustains me whenever I am discerning a decision. I am glad you enjoyed it.

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