John McPhee quotes

  • If by some fiat I had to restrict all this writing to one sentence, this is the one I would choose: The summit of Mt. Everest is marine limestone.
    -- John McPhee

    #Motivational #Writing #Marine

  • If you free yourself from the conventional reaction to a quantity like a million years, you free yourself a bit from the boundaries of human time. And then in a way you do not live at all, but in another way you live forever.
    -- John McPhee

    #Years #Forever #Way

  • I used to sit in class and listen to the terms come floating down the room like paper airplanes.
    -- John McPhee

    #Airplane #Class #Rooms

  • When the climbers in 1953 planted their flags on the highest mountain, they set them in snow over the skeletons of creatures that had lived in the warm clear ocean that India, moving north, blanked out. Possibly as much as twenty thousand feet below the seafloor, the skeletal remains had turned into rock. This one fact is a treatise in itself on the movements of the surface of the earth. If by some fiat I had to restrict all this writing to one sentence, this is the one I would choose: The summit of Mt. Everest is marine limestone.
    -- John McPhee

    #Ocean #Moving #Writing

  • Rocks are records of events that took place at the time they formed. They are books. They have a different vocabulary, a different alphabet, but you learn how to read them.
    -- John McPhee

    #Book #Vocabulary #Rocks

  • In making war with nature, there was risk of loss in winning.
    -- John McPhee

    #War #Loss #Winning

  • On the geological time scale, a human lifetime is reduced to a brevity that is too inhibiting to think about deep time. ... Geologists ... see the unbelievable swiftness with which one evolving species on the Earth has learned to reach into the dirt of some tropical island and fling 747s across the sky ... Seeing a race unaware of its own instantaneousness in time, they can reel off all the species that have come and gone, with emphasis on those that have specialized themselves to death.
    -- John McPhee

    #Thinking #Islands #Race

  • Taking things from one source is plagiarism; taking things from several sources is research.
    -- John McPhee

    #Research #Plagiarism #Source

  • A writer has to have some kind of compulsive drive to do his work. If you don't have it, you'd better find another kind of work, because it's the only compulsion that will drive you through the psychological nightmares of writing.
    -- John McPhee

    #Writing #Nightmare #Kind

  • Writing is a suspension of life in order to re-create life
    -- John McPhee

    #Writing #Order #Suspension

  • With their four-dimensional minds, and in their interdisciplinary ultra verbal way, geologists can wiggle out of almost anything.
    -- John McPhee

    #Mind #Four #Way

  • On a certain scale, it does look like I do a lot. But that’s my day, all day long, sitting there wondering when I’m going to be able to get started. And the routine of doing this six days a week puts a little drop in a bucket each day, and that’s the key. Because if you put a drop in a bucket every day, after three hundred and sixty-five days, the bucket’s going to have some water in it.
    -- John McPhee

    #Keys #Long #Water

  • Travel by canoe is not a necessity, and will nevermore be the most efficient way to get from one region to another, or even from one lake to another anywhere. A canoe trip has become simply a rite of oneness with certain terrain, a diversion off the field, an art performed not because it is a necessity but because there is value in the art itself.
    -- John McPhee

    #Art #Lakes #Oneness

  • I can't stand a sentence until it sounds right.
    -- John McPhee

    #Writing #Sound #Sentences

  • Catch and release fishing may be cruelty masquerading as political correctness
    -- John McPhee

    #Sea #Fishing #Rivers

  • The enthusiasm geologists show for adding new words to their conversation is, if anything, exceeded by their affection for the old. They are not about to drop 'granite.' They say 'granodiorite' when they are in church and 'granite' the rest of the week.
    -- John McPhee

    #Church #Enthusiasm #Affection

  • Almost all Americans would recognize Anchorage, because Anchorage is that part of any city where the city has burst its seams and extruded Colonel Sanders.
    -- John McPhee

    #Cities #Colonels

  • A quarter-horse jockey learns to think of a twenty-second race as if it were occurring across twenty minutes--in distinct parts, spaced in his consciousness. Each nuance of the ride comes to him as he builds his race. If you can do the opposite with deep time, living in it and thinking in it until the large numbers settle into place, you can sense how swiftly the initial earth packed itself together, how swiftly continents have assembled and come apart, how far and rapidly continents travel, how quickly mountains rise and how quickly they disintegrate and disappear.
    -- John McPhee

    #Horse #Thinking #Opposites

  • The doctor listens in with a stethoscope and hears sounds of a warpath Indian drum.
    -- John McPhee

    #Doctors #Sound #Stethoscope

  • Nonfiction-wha t the hell, that just says, this is nongrapefruit we're having this morning.
    -- John McPhee

    #Morning #Nonfiction #Hell

  • He (Dave Brower) is an emotionalist in an age of dangerous reason.
    -- John McPhee

    #Age #Reason #Dave

  • He liked to go from A to B without inventing letters between.
    -- John McPhee

    #Letters #Action #Inventing