The heart carries more than we know. It demonstrates its strength by beating day in, day out, its tide of blood keeping our bodies in running order. But there is other work: feeling and processing what the body, mind and soul intimately experience. I have imagined there is a kind of twin heart–an invisible one that resides within the dense muscular one–feeling its way through each moment, acknowledging external information and giving us clues and directives. This heart-within-a-heart also emotes what is felt, whether we speak of it or not.
How do our hearts know sympatico? Joy or grief? Empathy? Compassion? It is a vast receptacle of human experience and at times, I think, a sort of oracle. If this were not so, we wouldn’t say with certainty: She has a cold heart or He has no heart for this or My heart is going to break or My heart is dancing. Our lives are mosaics of moments that we often miss. Not so the heart. It captures and is captured by the vagaries of this existence; it opens us to the possibilities of more than what can be seen. It speaks to us even as it does its pedestrian work.
Why do we forget to care for our hearts well in return–the one that leaps for joy or moans deep within and the one that circulates volumes of blood? It takes discipline and even inspiration to become well, to be whole. For this, we can seek refuge, find a holy place of renewal.
I have found since the pronouncement of heart disease I must be even more diligent about replenishment. I watch the world news and sit with heartache that swells and lingers too often. I see faces yearning for relief, eyes welling up with unspeakable loss, devastation beyond imagining: Japan is now ever-present in my thoughts. And my work with mentally ill and addicted persons stays with me long beyond the work hours, at times keeping me company in the depths of night. I am sometimes too full of this weeping world, and I seek a place to lay it all down. To rest. So tonight I offer a poem that speaks of my need of nature and solitude, both a balm to my heart. There are many ways that take us back to the heart’s power and soul’s vision. May you each find your own holy place.
Carry me into blue-backed hills,
into the circle of no desire.
Let bitterness fall like
jeweled ice in the heat of day;
grief disperse in the cry
of mother winds;
salt of tears dry as filigree upon
the mossy rocks.
Pull me into shadows that
will not deceive these unbound feet.
Let dreaming escape into the breath of trees
and the blood wounds of the world become
flowers scattered among tracks of elk, raven,
Lead me into places where earth is undisturbed
and the scents of the living survive.
Let me lay down my heart among wolves at watch,
and my spine curve against roots that nourish
bark, leaf, blossom, limb.
Free me of the seizure of time
so I may hear the sun singing,
see the luminescence of air, then sail
along a horizon clean of violence.
Let river light flow from my fingers
and my prayers drift beyond the western rim.
Carry me into the resonant center of each
star and wild golden eye.
Here is the elegance of stone, trillium,
spider, fern, of raindrops encircling
my throat, of bold spring heat
which leaves no mark on transparent leaves
or the skin in which I live.
Let me return whole
to walk again through the
world’s treachery and unspeakable thieveries,
and offer mercy, hope, love
as God has so easily given.
Copyright © 2011 by Cynthia Guenther Richardson