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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


Nice to meet you! I'm a writer, reader, and aspiring hermit. I love books and food and plants and theater and I'm fascinated by the beauty and terror of being alive on this planet.

In my past life, I was a founder at various times and a CEO at various times, and I now make a living as co-founder and chief of staff at a web3 startup. I do some coaching and consulting on organizational alignment & leadership occasionally (if that's something you need, you can email me; I have loads of empathy for anyone trying to make a business work).

I invented a celebratory day called Post Day that happens from time to time. Anyone can celebrate! I write letters to books I have loved. I also talk to my books on Twitter, and sometimes they talk back.

I have a mailing list, where I share the occasional update about new things I'm making/trying. If you're interested in digital gardening, I share what I'm reading in my public Roam. I am on Twitter sometimes, or you can email me.

If you like reading about thoughtful business topics, you can read my first book, Gather the People, originally released in 2015 and updated in 2020. It was the book I needed as a bootstrapping business owner with the heart of an artist, and if that's you, I hope it helps.

Last updated: July 26, 2022