I’ve heard elephants think we’re cute but I doubt it. Instead, it’s humans who are easily charmed. A species delighted by yellowing leaves and the decency of dogs. We’re tender mammals mostly. Trying to keep each other afloat. Scooting earthworms off the sidewalk. Scooping out hearts like oysters from the shell. A kink in evolutions engine maybe how we marvel at meteors. How my mother can’t eat daffodils but still rescues them from frost. Even I know a sunset doesn’t save us but will swerve to the side of the 405 to see the sky squish pink beneath night’s dark thumb. Is it defect or advantage – this impulse to cradle what is soft and small and never truly ours? This instinct beyond sex or survival – a genetic code that interprets mountains as something holy. The moon as wonder. That spots a shaky fawn in the dew slick dawn and roots for it to live.
As I contemplate ‘joy’ and what in my work, and in my life bring me meaning and joy, I have been thinking about this poem – which to me, so delicately and poignantly describes the uniqueness of the human experience. It reminds me of where we draw our humanity and humanism and shines light on how we experience beauty, joy, whimsy, and love.
Maneesh Batra, MD, MPH