What moves you?

I love the threads in which we all get together and pool parts of our experiences. And, at a time of the Gregorian year when many are slowing down and thinking through their lives, I think it’s time for another.

I’ve been reading Toni Morrison recently (for an piece I wrote for Bitch Magazine). I got to thinking about how reading Morrison isn’t so much a question of simple enjoyment or engagement for me so much as rearranging how my mind works, in little ways I will struggle and be unable to trace in the future.

What moves you? Is it a book, a place you like to contemplate the universe, a phrase, a person, a memory, an object, an idea?

26 comments for “What moves you?

  1. December 28, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    The ocean. It makes me feel so small but in a very good way. I also love the joy of my puppy because it reminds me that joy is possible on days when I can barely get out of bed to face the world (or can’t at all). She makes me cry sometimes.

  2. December 28, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    That’s a lovely question! I think about movement a lot on my research on social movements. I’ve been thinking about how we can extend the idea of ‘social movement’ as more verby than nouny. Like, what moves us to understand power and privilege and oppression differently, to do something in the face of oppression; and how does it happen collectively?

    I think, lately, I’ve been moved a lot by music made by women – specifically women’s songs that allude to, without bashing us over the head with, gender roles in parts of western culture. In particular, Kate Bush’s ‘This Woman’s Work’ (which is from the perspective of an expectant father) and PJ Harvey’s ‘Man Size’.

  3. Nahida
    December 28, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Really good books. Both the kind that are churning and twisting and stumbling with pain and make you want to sob and sob and sob (like The Kite Rider [and The Kite Runner, as well]) and the kind that mask it over with a soft, slow, reflective struggle in their tone so that you feel there’s some you need to break into and your heart is swollen (like The Beans Trees or My Louisiana Sky.) And the feeling of being cleansed when you’ve finished.

    On a similar point, really good stories. The ones that tell of such injustices you’re in flames–and then you feel weakened with admiration when you hear of the courage of those who overcame it.

    The nostalgia in sunsets and the romance of rogue planets.

    Waking up from a nap in the summer and feeling that the world is warm and quiet–and the muffled desperation that rises in your chest right then, because you’re certain you’ve just missed something.

    And other cheesy things.

  4. Emily
    December 28, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    I recently read this Margaret Atwood quote in Oryx and Crake: “After everything that’s happened, how could the world still be so beautiful? Because it is.” I love it.

  5. December 28, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    Would have to say what moves me is my spirituality. I feel connected to everything, that is what motivates me to work in feminism. I have connected my spirituality with feminism, so both are inseparable. I know what I believe in and I know who I am, what is important is working to further feminism in any way I can.

  6. December 28, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    I never could find a pattern to it. Beautiful and moving things spring out at me here and there. Seconds before I notice and start trying to catch and trap them, they move on.

  7. David
    December 28, 2010 at 9:21 pm


  8. tinfoil hattie
    December 28, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    Nature. Streams, mountains, trees, stillness. Just being one with nature. Being a small, small part of everything that “is.”

  9. AK
    December 28, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    Mine is also a place. I love going out into the desert and the mountains and the canyons. It is a very hostile, rough environment, yet so stunningly beautiful, and it makes me feel so tiny and insignificant yet so important and wonderful at the same time. I don’t feel like I can really think totally clearly anywhere else.

  10. December 28, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    Right now I’m reading Janet Frame’s novel Towards Another Summer. I’m always blown away by her writing – the way she portrays depression/anxiety is so sharp and real. It makes me feel validated and less alone.

  11. December 28, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    I am reading a very well-written biography of the poet, writer, bohemian, and actress Edna St. Vincent Millay. At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I’ve always felt a strange sense of kinship with her. Examining the details of interesting lives which have gone before me has always been fascinatingly moving.

  12. xtinA
    December 29, 2010 at 12:04 am

    It’s always been the woods for me, even small woodlands. My mother always warned me not to go into the woods (what was left of them) in our suburban neighborhood and I always disobeyed. I was lucky to find a 32 acre wetlands with trails in its interior by a neighborhood private college (in the city!) and I’m lucky to work at another college with a 200 acre campus, mostly undeveloped.

  13. December 29, 2010 at 12:58 am

    My sister.

  14. December 29, 2010 at 1:37 am

    Places from my past. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about taking a mini-sabbatical to my old hometown in Missouri just to write or be lost in my own thoughts. It’s not even inspiration that’s directly tied to the place, necessarily, but it’s the one place that I know was all mine before my “current” life. It’s not something I share with anyone but my mom, and I feel like it’s just such a personal place that no one else would really understand unless they were in my head, or also from there, which no one I know is.

  15. Kaija
    December 29, 2010 at 8:18 am

    Music, both listening and performing…whether it’s a favorite Tchaikovsky symphony or the opening overture to a beloved musical or a pop song that is evocative for me, good music will bring me to tears quicker than anything else. Sometimes I get a good shiver of “wow” from good writing as well, but it’s mostly music that gets through to the core of me.

  16. December 29, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Two biggies. Watching my children grow into kind, intelligent, funny and beautiful young ladies, and watching both of their personalities develop. I love when one of them suddenly uncovers a truth of the world that they had never even considered before and has that ‘Aha!’ moment.

    The other one is music. I listen to a lot of music. I play music. I try to write my own, but mostly I play songs that I only wish I had wrote. I love hearing a song and feeling like that person is speaking exactly what I am feeling at that moment.

  17. December 29, 2010 at 9:55 am

    I want to say music or books or some other art form, but really it’s becoming completely absorbed in what I’m doing, even if it’s the simplest thing like winding down at the end of the day and watching a good movie.

  18. PrettyAmiable
    December 29, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Reading or listening to other people’s stories. It’s very easy to get caught up in your own, and listening to others talk about their experiences is typically pretty motivating to me.

    Also, I’ve always been a city-girl, but I love the little bits of nature that find their ways into cities. It’s hard to be more specific. My bus stop this spring had a planter that always attracted butterflies.

  19. Tony
    December 29, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Crime stories move me. They make me wish I could have been there, could have saved the victims.

  20. December 29, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Stones, believe it or not. Rough stones with fire in them, like rainbow moonstones or laboradorite or sunstone, that I have to search out with a small flashlight in my hand, finding the flashes of color. Opal rough, be it fire opal, Honduran, Ethiopian, Lightning Ridge, Andamooka, boulder. I search for the fires where the glassy parts are revealed and on the rough skins, because sometimes flakes of fire show there.

    The Delaware Water Gap, where the stone is layered, rucked up and down, and split by the river.

    Moving water: rivers, streams, creeks, oceans. Watching for fish, animals, and birds. Listening to the wind as it passes over.

    Canyons. The layers of vari-colored stone and earth as they descend to the bottom of the canyon, showing where the water once was and where it is now, revealing what stone layers there are and where fire scoured the land eons ago.

    Birds. Sparrows in their groups, arguing over seed or sex or perches, perfect in their movements. Starlings, the idiot comedians of birds, who fall over their own feet but fly perfectly in their immense flocks, turning on themselves in mid-sky without a problem, shaping living ribbons that twist and turn. Vultures, with their huge wings, hanging in the air as if they stood on a stable floor.

  21. Lo
    December 29, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    Lorrie Moore’s incredible collection of short stories, Birds of America. I was so emotionally wrapped up in the characters that I found myself feeling their feelings; empathizing to the point of actual emotional topsy-turvy. It was both shocking and amazing to realize her talent’s effect on me. No other book has done this to me, ever.

  22. December 30, 2010 at 1:54 am

    Lo, have you read her latest novel? Incredible.

  23. Tenar
    December 31, 2010 at 1:08 pm
  24. anjel
    January 2, 2011 at 5:47 am

    My kids of course!

  25. Ju
    January 8, 2011 at 2:20 am

    I’m often and easily moved, but I think one of the overarching themes is genuineness. It is hard not to be moved by the world and nature and that majesty and power and beauty, harder still not to be moved by the stars and endless sky above, and hard not to be moved by the passion with which people move through the world, often so beautiful and inspiring, thoughtful and challenging. I love having my breath taken away by something that just makes me stop and appreciate it…

    I am moved most often by this idea that anything is possible. It always gives me hope.

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