19 Quotations from Authors on Contentment and Place


April 17, 2016 by Paula Reed Nancarrow

As I mentioned last week, I am getting ready for a big move. It seems a good time to focus on contentment and place, and yet I’m really not in any position to focus on anything but very practical details. So this week I am letting others do the reflection for me. Here, then, are nineteen quotations from authors on contentment and place. 


Contentment has learned how to find out what she needs to know. Last year she went on a major housecleaning spree. First she stood on her head until all the extra facts fell out. Then she discarded about half her house. Now she knows where every thing comes from-who dyed the yarn dark green and who wove the rug and who built the loom, who made the willow chair, who planted the apricot trees. She made the turquoise mugs herself with clay she found in the hills beyond her house.

When Contentment is sad, she takes a mud bath or goes to the mountains until her lungs are clear. When she walks through an unfamiliar neighborhood, she always makes friends with the local cats.― J. Ruth Gendler, The Book of Qualities

From The Book of Qualities

Illustration (and Personification) From J. Ruth Gendler


He doesn’t yearn for a better, different life than the one he has – because he knows he’s got a home in this one.― Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly


“People always think that happiness is a faraway thing,” thought Francie, “something complicated and hard to get. Yet, what little things can make it up; a place of shelter when it rains – a cup of strong hot coffee when you’re blue; for a man, a cigarette for contentment; a book to read when you’re alone – just to be with someone you love. Those things make happiness.” ― Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn


It seemed a place where heroes could fitly feast after victory. Where weary harvesters could line up in scores along the table and keep their Harvest Home with mirth and song, or where two or three friends of simple tastes could sit about as they pleased and eat and smoke and talk in comfort and contentment.― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows



London is satisfied, Paris is resigned, but New York is always hopeful. Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it. ― Dorothy Parker


We all want to go there something awful, but to stand there takes some grace.― Rich Mullins


I don’t need to go to heaven or hell. I have been both places and always wanted more. I will settle for somewhere in between, so eternity never becomes dull and every miracle is something I never take for granted. ― Shannon L. Alder


If the book is good, is about something that you know, and is truly written, and reading it over you see that this is so, you can let the boys yip and the noise will have that pleasant sound coyotes make on a very cold night when they are out in the snow and you are in your own cabin that you have built or paid for with your work.― Ernest Hemingway


One learns first of all in beach living the art of shedding; how little one can get along with, not how much. Here I live in a bare sea-shell of a cottage. No heat, no telephone, no plumbing to speak of, no hot water, a two-burner oil stove, no gadgets to go wrong. No rugs. There were some, but I rolled them up the first day; it is easier to sweep the sand off a bare floor. But I find I don’t bustle about with unnecessary sweeping and cleaning here. I am no longer aware of the dust. I have shed my Puritan conscience about absolue tidiness and cleanliness. Is it possible that, too, is a material burden? No curtain. I do not need them for privacy; the pines around my house are enough protection. I want the windows open all the time, and I don’t want to worry about rain. I begin to shed my Martha-like anxiety about many things.― Anne Morrow Lindberg, Gift from the Sea

gift from the sea


Yes, there is a Nirvanah; it is leading your sheep to a green pasture, and in putting your child to sleep, and in writing the last line of your poem ― Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam


Most beautiful of all was the tarnished gold of the elms, with a little brown in it, a little bronze, a little blue, even– a blue like amethyst, which made them melt into the azure haze with a kind of happiness, a harmony of mood that filled the air with content.― Willa Cather, Shadows on the Rock


Just this once, in the very heart of the busiest of cities, everyone was perfectly content not to move and hardly to breathe. And for those few minutes, while the song lasted, Times Square was still as a meadow at evening, with the sun streaming in on the people there and the wind moving among them as if they were only tall blades of grass. ― George Selden, The Cricket in Times Square

Illustrations by Garth Williams

Illustration by Garth Williams


I love everything that makes up a milieu, the rolling of the carriages and the noise of the workmen in Paris, the cries of a thousand birds in the country, the movement of the ships on the waters. I love also absolute, profound silence, and, in short, I love everything that is around me, no matter where I am. ― George Sand


A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor – such is my idea of happiness.― Leo Tolstoy


The two women sat by the fire, tilting their glasses and drinking in small peaceful sips. The lamplight shone upon the tidy room and the polished table, lighting topaz in the dandelion wine, spilling pools of crimson through the flanks of the bottle of plum gin. It shone on the contented drinkers, and threw their large, close-at-hand shadows upon the wall. When Mrs Leak smoothed her apron the shadow solemnified the gesture as though she were moulding an universe. Laura’s nose and chin were defined as sharply as the peaks on a holly leaf.― Sylvia Townsend Warner, Lolly Willowes



We learn from our gardens to deal with the most urgent question of the time: How much is enough?― Wendell Berry


The apex of my civic pride and personal contentment was reached on the bright September morning when I entered the public school.― Mary Antin


To us, our house was not unsentient matter — it had a heart, and a soul, and eyes to see us with; and approvals and solicitudes and deep sympathies; it was of us, and we were in its confidence, and lived in its grace and in the peace of its benediction.― Mark Twain


“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” ― Dorothy, from L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz. Illustration by William Wallace Denslow

Illustration by William Wallace Denslow

Does this list content you? Is there a favorite quotation on contentment and place that is missing? Feel free to add it in the comments.

17 thoughts on “19 Quotations from Authors on Contentment and Place

    • Yes, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my favorite books. It is interesting how many of the quotations on contentment and place come from books intended for the young. Perhaps it is because they understand something – or have just discovered something = we’ve forgotten.


  1. jan says:

    A great assortment – the Gibran is my favorite. Thanks!


    • You’re most welcome, Jan. Yes, I like the Gibran quotation too. He was a devout Maronite Catholic, I’m told, but many religions influenced him. I think the Dalai Lama would appreciate his idea of Nirvana.


  2. Terry Tyler says:

    What a lovely collection. One to keep :)


  3. I especially liked these, the first one in particular. Good luck with your move!


  4. Inspiring! I love the word contentment. We don’t hear/contemplate it it enough, IMO. :)


  5. I absolutely love this. 💕 Such a beautiful collection. Thanks for sharing.


  6. elainemansfield says:

    Thanks for these quotes, Paula. I’ll return to them again. I enjoyed the J. Ruth Gendler quotes and her imaginative characterization of contentment. You’re doing the housecleaning part as you sort and move–and the theme of not needing stuff. Shannon Alder quote is wonderful and suits me, but also Tolstoy, Berry, and Twain. Contentment inhabits my house and my forest. The agitation is all mine.

    I’m impressed you’re finding a way to keep writing through a move.


  7. stuckinscared says:

    Great collection, Paula. I especially like #10, and the last one. I hope the move went well, and that you are as settled as can be in the unpacking stage. I wish you lots of ‘contentment’ in your new home :)


    • Thank you, Kimmie. You’re one of the folks who follow me on Facebook and so I know you’re aware that a few other things have kept me from responding as well. That’s just the way it is sometimes, but I have missed my online community.


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