This is one of my favorite pictures, and it always reminds me of one of my favorite quotes. I sent the quote to Justine last week because she’s living something really hard, and yet she is still grateful, still risks her heart by keeping it open to love. It’s the human experience to continually be cycling through joy and pain and back again, to live the good news and the bad. There are reminders of it everywhere, of both what is hard and “the tender gravity of kindness.” In my Facebook feed, in my student’s writing, on NPR as it plays on the radio in my kitchen in the still dark of early morning, in emails from friends asking for support and in the way I try to answer with something that will help even though I really have no idea what to say, in the way we all keep trying, keep going in the face of all the hard things, how we still manage to notice the gorgeous sunset and enjoy the warm slice of pie or Adele’s golden voice — life is tender and terrible, beautiful and brutal. Keep your heart open. Don’t give up.
Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could. ~Louise Erdrich