Anne Herbert, in an essay titled “Handy Tips on How to Behave at the Death of the World” writes, “Falling in love has always been a bit too much to apply to one person. Falling in love is appropriate for now, to love all these things which are about to leave. The rocks are watching, and the squirrels and the stars and the tired people in the street. If you love them, let them know, with grace and non-invasive extravagance. Care about the beings you care about in gorgeous and surprising ways. Color outside the lines. Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty. This is your last chance.”
As you first read this essay (you could do so in latest issue of The Sun Magazine), you assume she’s talking about the planet. After all, the climate is shifting in rapid, probably unchangeable ways at this point in history, storms are bigger and come more regularly, ice is melting, islands and species are disappearing, all of this arguably largely due to human activity. But then, when you read it again, you also get the sense that she’s talking about the people, how we tend to treat another another, how isms have hijacked so much of social interaction, how consumerism has dislocated our self of purpose and meaning. Reading it a third time she’s definitely talking about how we humans tend to treat animals and plants – like something to have dominion over, rather than something to relate to with grace and empathy. But however you read the essay, whatever stands out, you just know that she’s pointing out something important, something to keep close to your bones, something to put into practice using your entire being. Something to remember before it’s too late to forget.
Be reminded that pebbles, raindrops, grassy meadows, old log cabins high in the backcountry, sidewalks that act as homes for those who have nowhere else to go, that latte at your favorite cafe downtown, a wave to your neighbor each morning on the way to work, robins, ally cats, orange dahlias in various stages of bloom, cattle in feedlots, a lone American Bison standing watch next to a sign for Custer State Park, red rocked canyons, long legged spiders, the person next to you on the subway who looks like they haven’t had a shower in weeks, high winds, old books, the guy who writes daily letters to his son from a prison cell down the road, small children who wake up singing, snow gently falling on glassy water in spring – be reminded that all of this is yours to love, and all of this calls you to use your life as an elegy that isn’t yet fully needed but may be someday, so that’s all the more reason to use this chance, this life that is yours, to actively fall in love with the world, continuously letting the world know how you feel, as Ann Herbert might suggest, with grace and non-invasive extravagance.