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The River is Famous to the Fish

Naomi Shihab Nye

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence, which knew it would inherit the earth before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth, more famous than the dress shoe, which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men who smile while crossing streets, sticky children in grocery lines.

famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous, or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular, but because it never forgot what it could do.

—Naomi Shihab Nye


I’m a student and teacher of people-first growth. Having spent the major part of the last two decades building weird businesses that tried to be good for humans, I'm now working privately on a few experimental projects and cultivating this little digital space of mine.

If you're new here, I'm working on my second book, People-First Growth (slowly, slowly said the sloth), and I’m sharing what I learn in my newsletter. If you geek out on digital gardening, I share mine publicly on Roam. You can say hi on Twitter or by email.

You can also read my first book, Gather the People, originally released in 2015 and updated in 2020 (what a year for a book release). It's a human approach to marketing for people who would rather make what they love than persuade people to buy it. If that's you, I hope it helps.