May 31, 2016

We who Love Lead Dangerous Lives.

greta garbo vintage couple love

The chilling risk my bruised heart could not resist:

He said it when I least expected it.

The key sat in my car ignition, ready as I prepared to depart. Wind swirled around us in wild gusts. Snow-capped mountains loomed above us, and pine-encircled lake waters yawned at our feet. It had been another perfect weekend: hiking, laughter, cuddling, kissing. The moment was picturesque, yes, but still, I didn’t see it coming.

I love you.

If I doubted my hearing, his gaze said it just as loudly. I ducked in quickly for another kiss, stalling.

Did I feel it too?

That wasn’t really the question. I’d known the answer earlier that week, when it came to me in the oddest of ways. A friend had shared a picture on social media—an image of the wildfires raging in Canada, and I’d reacted viscerally. I didn’t even know why, at first. I felt physically ill and told myself I’d spent too long at the computer. I lay down and began thinking of the man I’d been dating, the one who consistently brought a smile to my face.

I focused then, however, on the differences between us, the things that surely meant we couldn’t be together. Terrible, unforgivable things, like the fact that his car was always a mess, or his tendency to leave the toilet seat up.

In short order, I realized what I was doing.

You see, he is a wildland firefighter. I am a recent transplant to the West Coast from New England. Wildfires are alien to me, and perhaps the most terrifying force of nature I’ve ever considered. The idea that someone I love would walk toward such a thing while everyone else ran away—that chilled me.

And it made me own up to another chilling fact: I love him.

In my life, love and loss have been intricately connected. I am twice-divorced, and though time and the benefit of hindsight have shown me what I might have done differently in each of those relationships, they don’t eliminate one simple truth.

To love, under any circumstance, is to be vulnerable to loss.

There are no guarantees in life. Most of us neither enter nor exit this world in pairs. If the divorce rate is any indication, our best attempts at creating certainty in the realm of romance fail more often than not. People fall out of love as assuredly as they fall into it. Even if we succeed in the whole ’til-death-do-us-part business, in the end it is death that has the final say.


As I pondered it recently, I began to feel just the opposite.

There is a sweetness in vulnerability, a daring in opening one’s heart even though it’s been battered time and time again. What would life be if we tucked ourselves safely away from all risk and connection? Could we truly call it living in the absence of those passionate kisses, quiet sunrises, tender touches and shared laughter?

I felt my answer in that windswept moment not too long ago.

I love you.

I whispered it in his ear, allowed the stirring in my soul.

We who love lead dangerous lives. It’s as simple as that. Life on this planet is inherently fragile, but just as the majesty of those mountains and lakes inspires people to build their homes and hedge their bets against fire, so the bruised heart cannot resist the allure of a kindred spirit.

It recognizes its own and it warms and strengthens, beating in tandem with a sound that might be saying, Yes, yes—for you, and for me, I’ll risk it once again.


Author: K.C. Wilder

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Image: Wikimedia Commons 

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