Tag Archives: Love

Beautiful and Dangerous

Upon receiving a job offer in Germany, I began my ongoing labour of learning the German language. Unlike learning Mandarin when living in Singapore, learning German seemed possible and, based on what I learned during my interview, necessary to integrate into German society. As a Westerner in Asia, I was almost always on the outside. It would be nice to feel differently in Germany.

After multiple free trials for language-learning programs and software before deciding on a subscription, I signed up to receive a free German word via email each day. After two years, I know most of the words before they arrive in my inbox but I find the sample sentences helpful. Exposure to proper grammar and complex thought is always welcome.

Recently, der Blitz, lightening, was my German word of the day. The sample sentence read: Das Aufleuchten von Blitzen kann schön sein, ist aber sehr gefährlich. Flashes of lightening can be beautiful but are very dangerous.

I liked the combination of beautiful and dangerous, and thought immediately of my favourite ways to be in nature – mountains to climb, ski, and hike; paths through the forest to cycle; the ocean to feel myself weightless. Beautiful and dangerous.

To fall in love is beautiful, and it is worth noting that the phrase contains the word “fall”. Falling can be dangerous. And maybe this is why so many people chase this feeling. People make all kinds of risky choices because the feelings that come from them are beautiful, and perhaps it is the beauty mixed with danger that creates allure. We call these people “thrill seekers” and it is precisely this they are after. To chase a dream is beautiful. The journey itself might be as dangerous as the outcome, whether or not that dream is realized.

I would say that danger alone does not constitute a reason to shy away from what is beautiful. The question is simply the extent to which one can safely go before finding oneself in too deep, up too high, or too far off the path. The question is how to manage the risk.

In the mountains, we travel together, with maps, with gear, with knowledge. Cyclists carry tools and extra tubes. Children learn to always swim with a buddy. Many people have Plan B in mind in case Plan A doesn’t work out, though some might say that having a Plan B means we haven’t totally committed to Plan A. I read once that if the answer isn’t 100% yes, it’s no. Can the answer be 100% yes after we’ve let the tiny voice have its say, or does the existence of the tiny voice mean “no”? In the case of relationships, do we build walls to keep parts of ourselves safe? Where is this line between beautiful and dangerous?

Das Aufleuchten von Blitzen kann schön sein, ist aber sehr gefährlich. Flashes of lightening can be beautiful but are very dangerous.

Here, there is no line. The beauty and the danger exist together, and living lies in navigating between them. If the line were clear, obvious, demarcated, there would be no journey to living at all.

Schalkau, Germany – September 2021


The first person to call me a treasure lied to me.

The second had just met me but somehow saw me.

The third loved me.

It’s a funny thing, love, and you know it,
don’t you, you know it because it makes people do
crazy things
they wouldn’t otherwise do,
or so they say.
But it’s not magic, you know, as much as we might like to
it’s hormones, not magic
and that makes it even more infuriating because you know exactly,
how it works and
and why it still gets to you is beyond you. But
well, it’s gotten to everyone at sometime or another.

Or not.

And it’s funny because what swells the heart now is not love,
but a dream of what could be
what isn’t
what might
what isn’t a dream but sometimes a
dare you think –

Easier to skip it.
Easier to skip it and move on and
“one way ticket ’round the world”
like you said
because if you don’t want any part of it that’s
fine that’s
fine. That was clear from the start.

It’s a mantra, a meaning, a purpose
and it doesn’t even exist,
not yet, not today, not with you, but it’s a
it’s the
it’s like they asked, “what do you want most?”
and “what are you afraid of?”
and you smiled and hedged and then
answered the second question to answer the first.
They asked the questions and
you knew the answers more deeply than
you’ll ever admit
to anyone but yourself
because you’d be naked without the armour
and you’ve been there before.

A sudden wave of clarity and you’ve slept better since.

A sudden wave of clarity and it’s easier to laugh and to think,
well, at least it happened
at least there was a minute
at least you got lost for a while.

The paper is still there, after all, and it’s a shame,
really, a shame
because that could have been, well, a dream.
They (who?) say that when you know, you know,
but all I’ve ever known is that that’s what they say.
And you?
Because it’s not fair to you either, is it?

The English language really could use more variation on

After all you’re no longer –
you’re not –
flip the pages on the calendar –
more pages than you’d thought.
I’m glad I found you.

And you?
You know the neurochemistry and you know
that look and sometimes –
but you can’t go there
won’t go there
and in the end don’t want
to go there because
if you did,
you’d be there already. That’s just
the way you are, you said,
and when you know,
you know.

Schatz is the German word for “treasure” and it’s used as a term of endearment. I like this word very much and I’ve been familiar with it for a long time, though it came as a shock when I encountered it again after many years away. There are certain things we’d simply rather not remember, associations we’d rather not have.

The English language doesn’t tend to use “treasure” in this way. In English, pirates, children, and some playful adults search for buried treasure, but it’s rarely something you’d call somebody. I certainly never have. The fact that I can count three occasions in which this word was used says something about it. Not common. Reason enough to remember.

I have a funny relationship with this word, simply because I have had three very different experiences with it. I would assume that everyone prefers some terms of endearment over others, and that we all have such words that we’d rather not use or rather not hear. Our experiences in friendships, romantic relationships, and long-term partnerships shape how we approach new people and the ways we interact with them. These experiences shape the choices and decisions we make, and what we will or will not accept in others. One thing I have learned about myself is that I know who I am and I am not looking for anyone else to affirm that. In some ways, this makes me much more vulnerable because I’ve already lost what I had to lose, so I am more open than I might otherwise be. In other ways, I can feel the walls I’ve wrapped around myself because I’d really rather not go through such loss again. There’s a constant balance in shades of gray, and if I’m honest, I’d rather not balance. The language of interaction matters, and language is not only words.

I’ve been called a treasure three times.

Perhaps I was a different person each time.

Perhaps all of those versions of myself are somehow contained in this self.

And perhaps, just perhaps, there is another word.

Weimar, Germany – February 2022


I’m supposed to be a writer, which means I’m supposed to have words.

I’m supposed to be a writer. I have no words, so instead I’m repeating myself.

But this isn’t about me, actually.

It’s about you.

Crossword puzzles. Cups of coffee. Taking in the world from the balcony. Stories of the past whenever we were willing to listen. Those young men have a lot to learn when it comes to cutting bagels.

You kept up a running commentary about the state of the world as we drove to your mechanic and related the ethnic and neighbourhood shifts of Montreal. You read the Gazette every day and you’d seen the world change. You had opinions and you made me laugh.

I’m smiling to think of the quips that often came under your breath when you didn’t know anyone was listening, or maybe you did and maybe that was the point. I’m smiling at the expressions that took up your whole face when you’d share a conspiratorial glance and a grin. 

I saw you happiest that one summer at the lake and I’ve missed it ever since. When you smiled, it was impossible not to smile back.

I’m not at my most eloquent and I wish I could be. Maybe the rest of the words are caught up in the waves of feelings that we all rode together, some frequent companions and some too fleeting to even be consciously known.

We were there, and you knew we were there, and we knew that you knew. 

We were all there and you are right here.

I miss you. I love you.

May your memory be a blessing.