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  • Courageous Connections

Staying Alive

“We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

This quote from The Dead Poet’s Society has always resonated with me. But when I read the last line about poetry, beauty, romance, and love, I envision these as something different than the author intended. He speaks as though we experience this majesty of living in isolation, on a mountaintop, in brief moments of exquisite, solitary awareness. But poetry, beauty, romance, and love are the language of minds and hearts speaking one to another.

My dog, Sophie, required painful shoulder surgery. For four months, I kept her quiet, nursed her, loved her, and allowed her to heal. Burned in my heart and memory are the frightened liquid eyes and quick puppy kisses swiped across my mouth. To my mind, only a fool discounts love, no matter what its form. Romantic love is only one type of love we experience. Child love, puppy love, blue sky love, friend love, bird song love, family love, nature love, horse love…the simple love of a hand freely held out in understanding during a time of pain or fear.

When Kathy’s horse, Tres, was injured, she spent hours teaching him tricks to pass the days of confinement – not because it mattered whether he did tricks, but because she loves him and wanted him to have the easiest time possible. Tres works as a therapy horse and when those who need his calm spirit lean against his warm shoulder, he offers the quiet love and connection that has been given to him in unstinted measure. How blessed are we, that love takes endless forms?

When we love, it is a vast, quiet web that stretches across existence. An understanding word, a gentle touch, a nod of acceptance. Who escapes injury in this world? No one I know. When we are very fortunate, we have moments within life when pain is washed away with compassion and connection. The kiss of a dog, the snort and snuffle of a cared for horse, the straightened shoulders of a person who has been supported when life has overwhelmed them.

We call the essence of life by a thousand names – including poetry, beauty, romance, love. These are the connections that make life worth living. These are what we stay alive for.

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