In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.
~ Khalil Gibran
From the Riverbed of Hearts it isn’t far to Heart Hill.
I’ve lingered here, and made the trek a few times now, though any way you look at it, I’m just not a Heartian.
The Heartians are green and soft, and rain droplets perch for long, pregnant moments on them before making their pudgy descent to the ground, which is itself soft and green.
I repeat, sadly, reluctantly: I’m not a Heartian (not yet!).
But I’m delighted to have come into contact with the Land of Hearts – I gave it its name while ambling around a stunning retreat compound I’d only just arrived at a few days earlier.
It had just rained and I’d been sitting with my increasingly uncomfortable self since before dawn. I was instructed to walk extra slow and with mindfulness, to be aware of the foot as it rose, moved forward, and fell. First the right foot, and then the left foot, over and over like this.
I was trying to fix my gaze on the ground a little bit ahead of me so as to keep my balance, to follow the minutia of my movements with the attention of an enlightened being.
I failed; I was distracted by everything from the exotic leaves nearby that reminded me of art nouveau paintings, to the itchiness of my skin, dampened by the humidity and swollen with mosquito love.
Also, just hours earlier, I had what felt like an epiphany, but the bad kind, about how I really didn’t know why I was here – not only here on the retreat, but here here – and in fact, I didn’t really know the reason for anything I’d ever done my whole life.
Now, I not only had to live with this morbid feeling that was planting poison in my stomach, but I had to do this so-called mindfully, as I noticed my breath rise and fall and tended to my legs as they went through the agonizingly slow motions of meditative walking.
How do I choose the lucky recipient of my attention? My thoughts were spinning. Will it be my shallow breath, my rough, travel-worn heels, this incipient feeling of doom? How can I be mindful of everything at once?
In the midst of all this, something made me look over to my right. What I saw took my breath away.
Jutting out from a tree branch rooted in a thick, ragged stump was a big green heart, almost dancing in the air, a quiet greeting to a land far beyond my own.
I looked around to see if anyone else was bearing witness. I couldn’t see anyone. It was like the whole retreat disappeared the very instant I laid eyes on what I immediately started calling The Land of Hearts. Like this encounter was destiny.
A pathway unfolded. I’d never seen anything so inviting, so naturally, I took it.
I felt like I was walking on Earth’s last, richest and most precious of moments, because as Robert Frost knew, nothing gold can stay; such was the dewy feast below my feet, leaves of all kinds strewn upon the sandy ground.
At the end of the aisle I found the tiny, flowing Riverbed of Hearts.