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The road to High Head Castle, first built in the Middle Ages and then destroyed by fire in 1947.

The thing is
to love life
to love it even when you have no
stomach for it, when everything you’ve held
dear crumbles like burnt paper in your hands
and your throat is filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you so heavily
it’s like heat, tropical, moist
thickening the air so it’s heavy like water
more fit for gills than lungs.
When grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief.
How long can a body withstand this? you think,
and yet you hold life like a face between your palms,
a plain face, with no charming smile
or twinkle in her eye,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

–Ellen Bass

I read this poem every day when I was in Cumbria. It has an incantatory power for me, an extraordinary coupling of life’s deep pain with that “plain face” of hope. Thank you to my friend Linda for passing it along to me.

Remains of High Head Castle, Cumbria