Inspiration and wisdom from divine felines

275 Inspiring Quotes by Toni Morrison

  • Last updated Jul 27 2021

Welcome to our collection of quotes by Toni Morrison.

Wikipedia Summary for Toni Morrison

Chloe Anthony Wofford Morrison (born Chloe Ardelia Wofford; February 18, 1931 – August 5, 2019), known as Toni Morrison, was an American novelist, essayist, book editor, and college professor. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970. The critically acclaimed Song of Solomon (1977) brought her national attention and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 1988, Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved (1987); she gained worldwide recognition when she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993.

Born and raised in Lorain, Ohio, Morrison graduated from Howard University in 1953 with a B.\n\nA. in English. In 1955, she earned a master's degree in American Literature from Cornell University. In 1957 she returned to Howard University, was married, and had two children before divorcing in 1964. In the late 1960s, she became the first black female editor in fiction at Random House in New York City. In the 1970s and 1980s, she developed her own reputation as an author, and her perhaps most celebrated work, Beloved, was made into a 1998 film. Her works are praised for addressing the harsh consequences of racism in the United States.

In 1996, the National Endowment for the Humanities selected her for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government's highest honor for achievement in the humanities. The very same year, she was honored with the National Book Foundation's Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. On May 29, 2012, President Barack Obama presented Morrison with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2016, she received the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction. In 2020, Morrison was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

black dragonfly perched on green grass in close up photography during daytime

It was a fine cry -- loud and long -- but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow.

--Toni Morrison

four coffee cups on floor

Let your face speak what's in your heart.

--Toni Morrison

Longer Version:

Let your face speak what's in your heart. When my kids walk in the room my face says I'm glad to see them.


flowers beside yellow wall

Good editors are really the third eye. Cool. Dispassionate. They don't love you or your work.

--Toni Morrison

purple and white clouds during night time

The peacock jumped onto the hood of the Buick and once more spread its tail, sending the flashy Buick into oblivion.

--Toni Morrison


green plants with white background

Funny how you lose sight of some things and memory others.

--Toni Morrison

yellow flower shallow photography

I began to realize that this idea of the lighter the better and the darker the worse was really -- had an impact on sororities, on friendships, on all sorts of things, and it was stunning to me.

--Toni Morrison

pug lying on pet bed

Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge.

--Toni Morrison

silhouette photography of person in gray sailing boat in the middle of body of water

Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.

--Toni Morrison

purple and blue light illustration

The righteous look every Negro learned to recognize along with his ma'am's tit. Like a flag hoisted, this righteousness telegraphed and announced the faggot, the whip, the fist, the lie, long before it went public.

--Toni Morrison

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We're all surrounded by what I call faux language, fake language of commerce, of news media.

--Toni Morrison

multicolored heart LED light on wall

It's gonna hurt, now," said Amy. "anything dead coming back to life hurts.

--Toni Morrison

silhouette of woman during sunset

But her brain was not interested in the future. Loaded with the past and hungry for more, it left her no room to imagine, let alone plan for, the next day.

--Toni Morrison



body of water

Anything I have ever learned of any consequence, I have learned from Black people. I have never been bored by any Black person, ever.

--Toni Morrison

silhouette photography of wavy ocean

Knowing that she would hate him long and well filled her with pleasant anticipation, like when you know you are going to fall in love with someone and you wait for the happy signs.

--Toni Morrison

pink umbrella

As you enter positions of trust and power, dream a little before you think.

--Toni Morrison


man riding horse

The function of freedom is to free someone else.

--Toni Morrison




black and white bird on seashore

The best hiding place was love. Thus the conversion from pristine sadism to fabricated hatred, to fraudulent love.

--Toni Morrison


black and white photo of woman looking upward

I dream a dream that dreams back at me.

--Toni Morrison



silhouette of a person during sunset

Our debates, for the most part, are examples unworthy of a playground: name-calling, verbal slaps, gossip, giggles, all while the swings and slides of governance remain empty.

--Toni Morrison


green pine trees near mountain under blue sky during daytime

She heard it as though it were what language was made for.

--Toni Morrison




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Art invites us to know beauty and to solicit it, summon it, from even the most tragic of circumstances.

--Toni Morrison

pink umbrella

You need a whole community to raise a child. I have raised two children, alone.

--Toni Morrison

sunset

You are your best thing.

--Toni Morrison





three boys running on field

People say to write about what you know. I'm here to tell you, no one wants to read that, cos you don't know anything. So write about something you don't know. And don't be scared, ever.

--Toni Morrison

panoramic photography of mountains

Pain. I seem to have an affection, a kind of sweettooth for it. Bolts of lightning, little rivulets of thunder. And I the eye of the storm.

--Toni Morrison

purple flowers under sunny sky

Evil is just sort of ultimately boring. The good thing is just complicated. It's more provocative to me and more stimulating to me.

--Toni Morrison

woman lying on pool

They were, in fact and at last, free. And the lives of these old black women were synthesized in their eyes -- a puree of tragedy and humor, wickedness and serenity, truth and fantasy.

--Toni Morrison


brown brick wall photography

If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it.

--Toni Morrison


All paradises, all utopias are designed by who is not there, by the people who are not allowed in.

--Toni Morrison

blue and white striped textile

Violet learned then what she had forgotten until this moment: that laughter is serious. More complicated, more serious than tears.

--Toni Morrison



woman in black sports bra and black leggings

What I think the political correctness debate is really about is the power to be able to define. The definers want the power to name. And the defined are now taking that power away from them.

--Toni Morrison

blue and white abstract painting

The thrill that came with each blow was wonderfully familiar. Unable to stop and unwilling to, Frank kept going even though the big man was unconscious. The women stopped clawing each other and pulled at Frank's collar.

--Toni Morrison

green and blue chevron textile

Like any artist without an art form, she became dangerous.

--Toni Morrison

snow covered mountain under blue sky during daytime

Black literature is taught as sociology, as tolerance, not as a serious, rigorous art form.

--Toni Morrison



landscape photography of trees

Don't beg anybody for anything, especially love.

--Toni Morrison

brown sand under blue sky during daytime

Misery don't call ahead. That's why you have to stay awake -- otherwise it just walks on in your door.

--Toni Morrison

three person looking stars and milky way

We live in a world where justice equals vengeance. Where private profit drives public policy.

--Toni Morrison




woman in brown long sleeve shirt and blue denim jeans

At some point in life, the world's beauty becomes enough.

--Toni Morrison

Arizona landscape

They were not holding hands, but their shadows were.

--Toni Morrison

brown textile

Let me tell you something. A man ain't a goddamn ax. Chopping, hacking, busting every goddamn minute of the day. Things get to him. Things he can't chop down because they're inside.

--Toni Morrison

photo of clear sky full of stars

Me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow.

--Toni Morrison


sunset

I don't know everything, I just do everything.

--Toni Morrison

time lapse photography of fire

Your life is already artful-waiting, just waiting, for you to make it art.

--Toni Morrison


green grass field

There is really nothing more to say -- except why. But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how.

--Toni Morrison



forest trees photograph

You looking good." "Devil's confusion. He lets me look good long as I feel bad.

--Toni Morrison


brown labrador puppy

All important things are hard.

--Toni Morrison

starry night over butte

In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.

--Toni Morrison

toddlers standing outdoors

The vitality of language lies in its ability to limn the actual, imagined and possible lives of its speakers, readers, writers.

--Toni Morrison


landscape photo of waters, mountains, and black clouds

Race is the least reliable information you can have about someone. It's real information, but it tells you next to nothing.

--Toni Morrison


Longer Version:

Every now and then she looked around for tangible evidence of his having ever been there. Where were the butterflies? the blueberries? the whistling reed? She could find nothing, for he had left nothing but his stunning absence. An absence so decorative, so ornate, it was difficult for her to understand how she had ever endured, without falling dead or being consumed, his magnificent presence.


person in blue denim jeans and brown leather boots

Black women were armed, black women were dangerous and the less money they had the deadlier the weapon they chose.

--Toni Morrison

blue and white abstract painting

Everybody gets everything handed to them. The rich inherit it. I don't mean just inheritance of money. I mean what people take for granted among the middle and upper classes, which is nepotism, the old-boy network.

--Toni Morrison

blue and white abstract painting

Rainwater held on to pine needles for dear life and Beloved could not take her eyes off Sethe.

--Toni Morrison

blue rose in close up photography

He licked his lips. ‘Well, if you want my opinion...‘
‘I don't, ‘ She said. ‘I have my own.'

--Toni Morrison






brown and gray brick wall

You marvel at the economy and this choice of words. How many ways can you describe the sky and the moon? After Sylvia Plath, what can you say?

--Toni Morrison

cluster of stars in the sky

If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, you must be the one to write it.

--Toni Morrison









black pug standing tiled floor

If they put an iron circle around your neck I will bite it away.

--Toni Morrison




four men sitting beside table

Didn't everything on God's earth have or acquire defense?

--Toni Morrison

worm's eye view photography of pink cheery blossom tree

How come it can't fly no better than a chicken?' Milkman asked.

--Toni Morrison



None

The concept of physical beauty as a virtue is one of the dumbest, most pernicious and destructive ideas of the Western world, and we should have nothing to do with it.

--Toni Morrison

cluster of stars in the sky

A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves a special kind of double.

--Toni Morrison


purple and black light illustration

For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.

--Toni Morrison

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To be given dominion over another is a hard thing; to wrest dominion over another is a wrong thing; to give dominion of yourself to another is a wicked thing.

--Toni Morrison


gray concrete surface

An editor is like a priest or a psychiatrist; if you get the wrong one then you are better off alone.

--Toni Morrison

forest trees photograph

My world did not shrink because I was a black female writer. It just got bigger.

--Toni Morrison

Bright orange to dark red gradient

Here Stands A Man.
Wishful thinking, perhaps, but he could have sworn the sweet bay was pleased to agree. Its olive-green leaves went wild in the glow of a fat cherry-red sun.

--Toni Morrison

None

Unpersecuted, unjailed, unharrassed writers are trouble for the ignorant bully, the sly racist, and the predators feeding off the world's resources.

--Toni Morrison




blue and white striped textile

The language must be careful and must appear effortless. It must not sweat. It must suggest and be provocative at the same time.

--Toni Morrison




sunset

All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.

--Toni Morrison


silhouette of mountain under starry night

I didn't fall in love, I rose in it.

--Toni Morrison

gray cactus plant on white pot

I don't think a female running a house is a problem, a broken family. It's perceived as one because of the notion that a head is a man.

--Toni Morrison

photography of lake near tree

I always know the ending; that's where I start.

--Toni Morrison

person standing on rock formation during daytime

Both of these remappings encourage and repel the relocation of large numbers of peoples.

--Toni Morrison

None

And she had nothing to fall back on; not maleness, not whiteness, not ladyhood, not anything. And out of profound desolation of her reality, she may very well have invented herself.

--Toni Morrison


None

I'm always annoyed about why black people have to bear the brunt of everybody else's contempt. If we are not totally understanding and smiling, suddenly we're demons.

--Toni Morrison

green trees near lake under cloudy sky during daytime

Grown don't mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown. In my heart it don't mean a thing.

--Toni Morrison


man riding on white horse on the hill

Nowadays silence is looked on as odd and most of my race has forgotten the beauty of meaning much by saying little. Now tongues work all day by themselves with no help from the mind.

--Toni Morrison


black textile on white background

Racism will disappear when it's no longer profitable, and no longer psychologically useful. And when that happens, it'll be gone. But at the moment, people make a lot of money off of it, pro and con.

--Toni Morrison

green leaf in close up photography

Amy dragged her eyes over Sethe's face as though she would never give out so confidential a piece of information as that to a perfect stranger.

--Toni Morrison


man in blue jacket and blue pants carrying black and red backpack standing on snow covered

Carefully they replaced the soil and covered the entire grave with uprooted grass.
Neither one had spoken a word.

--Toni Morrison

pink petaled flowers under trees at daytime

We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.

--Toni Morrison

brown wooden surface

I know what every colored woman in this country is doing... Dying. Just like me. But the difference is they dying like a stump. Me, I'm going down like one of those redwoods. I sure did live in this world.

--Toni Morrison



blue and white painted wall

I can't explain inspiration. A writer is either compelled to write or not. And if I waited for inspiration I wouldn't really be a writer.

--Toni Morrison


purple and blue light illustration

We had dropped our seeds in our own little plot of black dirt just as Pecola's father had dropped his seeds in his own plot of black dirt. Our Innocence and faith were no more productive than his lust or despair.

--Toni Morrison

black floor lamp at the corner

I always looked upon the acts of racist exclusion, or insult, as pitiable, for the other person. I never absorbed that. I always thought that there was something deficient about such people.

--Toni Morrison


shallow focus photography of hummingbird sucking nectar in flower

I like marriage. The idea.

--Toni Morrison

low angle photography of purple sky

I don't think anybody cares about unwed mothers unless they're black or poor. The question is not morality, the question is money. That's what we're upset about.

--Toni Morrison



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Slave life; freed life -- everyday was a test and a trial. Nothing could be counted on in a world where even you were a solution you were a problem.

--Toni Morrison

None

She had not lived by the sea all those years, listened to the wharfman's songs all that time, to spend her life in the soundless cave of Elihue's mind.

--Toni Morrison



blue painted concrete wall during daytime

I merged those two words, black and feminist, because I was surrounded by black women who were very tough and and who always assumed they had to work and rear children and manage homes.

--Toni Morrison




body of water under clear blue sky painting

Struggling through the work is extremely important--more important to me than publishing it.

--Toni Morrison

green and brown mountains under blue sky during daytime

Her passions were narrow but deep.

--Toni Morrison



black and white photo of a black

Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind. It is a learned application without reason or motive except that it is God.

--Toni Morrison

brown textile

Nelson Mandela is, for me, the single statesman in the world. The single statesman, in that literal sense, who is not solving all his problems with guns. It's truly unbelievable.

--Toni Morrison

selective focus photography of woman taking selfie

God take what He would," she said. And He did, and He did, and He did and then gave her Halle who gave her freedom when it didn't mean a thing.

--Toni Morrison

closeup photo of bird beside purple petal flowers

You know, the kind who know Jesus by His first name, but out of politeness never use it even to His face.

--Toni Morrison


green leafed vegetable on brown wooden surface

One of my kids was born in 1968. There were going to be political difficulties, but they were never going to have that level of hatred and contempt that my brothers and my sister and myself were exposed to.

--Toni Morrison

lion on green grass during golden hour

It was my father who could do no wrong. So I didn't think of it as, oh, look, my father's a violent man.

--Toni Morrison

close-up photo of two men shaking hands near beach at sunset

Birth, life, and death -- each took place on the hidden side of a leaf.

--Toni Morrison

green and gray humming bird screenshot

What's fair ain't necessarily right.

--Toni Morrison

black textile in close up photography

We read about how Ajax and Achilles will die for each other, but very little about the friendship of women.

--Toni Morrison


None

It's been mentioned or suggested that Paradise will not be well studied, because it's about this unimportant intellectual topic, which is religion.

--Toni Morrison

brown and grey trees and rock formation painting

If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.

--Toni Morrison



black textile in close up photography

I'm interested in the way in which the past affects the present and I think that if we understand a good deal more about history, we automatically understand a great more about contemporary life.

--Toni Morrison

man in blue jacket and blue pants carrying black and red backpack standing on snow covered

Like Guitar in Son of Solomon, and Son in Tar Baby, he believed that harmony could never exist between the races.

--Toni Morrison

bokeh photography

Those white things have taken all I had or dreamed," she said, "and broke my heartstrings too. There is no bad luck in the world but whitefolks.

--Toni Morrison


cluster of stars in the sky

Obama is creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom ... He is the man for this time.

--Toni Morrison

forest with tall and green trees during daytime

If you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.

--Toni Morrison

bird at pier

Something that is loved is never lost.

--Toni Morrison


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In time the whole family perked up like Sesame Street puppets, hoping that cheer, if worked at hard enough, could sugar the living and quiet the dead.

--Toni Morrison

yellow flower field near bare trees during daytime

I'm not entangled in shaping my work according to other people's views of how I should have done it.

--Toni Morrison

black and blue starry night

Whatever happens, whether you get rich or stay poor, ruin your health or live to old age, you always end up back where you started: hungry for the one thing everybody loses -- young loving.

--Toni Morrison

None

If you can only be tall because someone else is on their knees, then you have serious problem. And white people have a very, very serious problem.

--Toni Morrison

person holding brown leaf

She is not so afraid at night because she is the color of it.

--Toni Morrison


red and white led lighted heart decor

Beginning 'Beloved' with numerals rather than spelled out numbers, it was my intention to give the house an identity separate from the street or even the city.

--Toni Morrison

red surface

Not knowing it was hard; knowing it was harder.

--Toni Morrison

man in gray sweater carrying woman in black jacket

A dream is just a nightmare with lipstick.

--Toni Morrison

man holding brown violin

In times of dread, artists must never choose to remain silent.

--Toni Morrison


None

She is a friend of mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It's good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.

--Toni Morrison

sunset with rainbow

The human body is robust. It can gather strength when it's in mortal danger.

--Toni Morrison

river in the middle of green and yellow mountains

Our ancestors are an ever widening circle of hope.

--Toni Morrison




woman wearing black top standing near yellow wall

The hopelessness that comes from knowing too little and feeling too much (so brittle, so dry he is in danger of the reverse: feeling nothing and knowing everything).

--Toni Morrison

silhouette photo of mountain during night time

I would solve a lot of literary problems just thinking about a character in the subway, where you can't do anything anyway.

--Toni Morrison

None

I sold my elegant blackness to all those childhood ghosts and now they pay me for it.

--Toni Morrison

yellow sunflower in bloom plantation

What difference do it make if the thing you scared of is real or not?

--Toni Morrison


black wooden louver door window

The screams of a hurt woman were indistinguishable from everyday traffic.

--Toni Morrison


silhouette of mountain during golden hour

Language can never 'pin down' slavery, genocide, war. Nor should it yearn for the arrogance to be able to do so. Its force, its felicity, is in its reach toward the ineffable.

--Toni Morrison

brown rocky mountain under gray sky

Make a difference about something other than yourselves.

--Toni Morrison

brown sand beach during daytime

So you protected yourself and loved small.

--Toni Morrison

blue painted wall with white paint

He fell for an eighteen-year old girl with one of those deepdown spooky loves that made him so sad and happy he shot her just to keep the feeling going.

--Toni Morrison


snow covered mountain during daytime

Writing is really a way of thinking -- not just feeling but thinking about things that are disparate, unresolved, mysterious, problematic or just sweet.

--Toni Morrison

yellow flower field near bare trees during daytime

I have only to break into the tightness of a strawberry, and I see summer -- its dust and lowering skies.

--Toni Morrison

people on beach during daytime

I'm a writer in the world. I translate the confusion that I might feel, the dread that I know I feel, moving towards some other place, moving away from puny language, from all that dread into some other kind of language.

--Toni Morrison




flat lay photography of several hanging ornaments

You wanna fly, you got to give up the sh*t that weighs you down.

--Toni Morrison

silhouette photo of mountain during night time

No matter what all your teeth and wet fingers anticipated, there was no accounting for the way that simple joy could shake you.

--Toni Morrison

silhouette photo of mountain during night time

There is no civilization that did not begin with art, Whether it was drawing a line in the sand, painting a cave or dancing.

--Toni Morrison



None

Home is memory, home is your history, home is where you work. Some people want to abandon it and become truly local. But the questions are all there.

--Toni Morrison

None

Maybe it hadn't been a community, but it had been a place. Now there weren't any places left, just separate houses with separate televisions and separate televisions and less and less dropping by.

--Toni Morrison


woman standing on sunflower field

Lay my head on the railroad line. Train come along; pacify my mind.

--Toni Morrison

calm ocean

I don't believe any real artists have ever been non-political. They may have been insensitive to this particular plight or insensitive to that, but they were political, because that's what an artist is-a politician.

--Toni Morrison

silhouette of grass under moonlight

He wants to put his story next to hers.

--Toni Morrison

pug lying on pet bed

My first-born. All I can remember of her is how she loved the burned bottom of bread. Can you beat that? Eight children and that's all I remember.

--Toni Morrison

green ceramic mug on wooden desk

Would it be all right? Would it be all right to go ahead and feel? Go ahead and count on something?

--Toni Morrison

white and gray floral bed sheet

The seeds of destruction lie in the definition of "chosen-ness" and can easily blossom into bigotry. It's not inevitable but it needs constant care to avoid.

--Toni Morrison


red textile in close up photography

A blessing she was reckless enough to take for granted, lean on, as though Sweet Home was one... A bigger fool never lived.

--Toni Morrison

pen on brown board

The habit of getting up early, which I had formed when the children were young, now became my choice. I am not very bright or very witty or very inventive after the sun goes down.

--Toni Morrison


long exposure photography of lights

I don't work. I keep telling people I'm unemployed. And I don't wash dishes, and I don't wash clothes, and I don't clean my house. Somebody else does that.

--Toni Morrison


silhouette of woman hugging mna under starry night sky

Access to knowledge is the superb, the supreme act of truly great civilizations. Of all the institutions that purport to do this, free libraries stand virtually alone in accomplishing this mission.

--Toni Morrison







toddlers standing outdoors

No gasp at a miracle that is truly miraculous because the magic lies in the fact that you knew it was there for you all along.

--Toni Morrison

green leafed plants on forest

If you're going to hold someone down you're going to have to hold on by the other end of the chain. You are confined by your own repression.

--Toni Morrison





aerial photography of mountain range covered with snow under white and blue sky at daytime

When a child walks in the room, your child or anybody else's child, do your eyes light up? That's what they're looking for.

--Toni Morrison


black mountain under blue sky during night time

Black boys became criminalized. I was in constant dread for their lives, because they were targets everywhere. They still are.

--Toni Morrison

white and blue ice in water

Language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. Language alone is meditation.

--Toni Morrison

person holding flowers

I get angry about things, then go on and work.

--Toni Morrison


leafless tree

Books ARE a form of political action. Books are knowledge. Books are reflection. Books change your mind.

--Toni Morrison

man running on seashore

Everywhere, everywhere, children are the scorned people of the earth.

--Toni Morrison

low-angle photo of white daisy

The pieces I am, she gather them and gave them back to me in all the right order.

--Toni Morrison



None

The unflattering reviews are painful for short periods of time; the badly written ones are deeply, deeply insulting. That reviewer took no time to really read the book.

--Toni Morrison

white and blue ice on water

When am I happy and when am I sad and what is the difference? What do I need to know to stay alive? What is true in the world?

--Toni Morrison

silhouette of tall trees

When I went into the publishing industry, many women talked about the difficulty they had in persuading their families to let them go to college. They educated the boys, and the girls had to struggle.

--Toni Morrison

white wall paint with black line

There is no such thing as race. None. There is just a human race -- scientifically, anthropologically. Racism is a construct, a social construct... it has a social function, racism.

--Toni Morrison

We wish you a perfect day!