I Do Not Keep My Heart In My Body
Image by Andy Goldsworthy
From the farm field you can see the Catskill mountains where I was raised, their irregular stone scrawl a signature I would recognize even if it was signed in sand on the shores of a land far from here. Here, where I have been walking every morning since I quit smoking. Since I quit starving myself to death. Since I decided if my body was going to kill me, I’d stop making its job easier. The field is a patchwork of smaller fields, the faded grid resurfacing again when the snow falls, and hung in the right-hand corner of the farthest quadrant is a pond. I sit at its shore with the geese and watch the sun break free from the mountains, stain umber the river just visible through the leafless trees, before continuing my perambulations. And one morning the geese leave, cleaning the sky with their determined Vs, the last pollen, the last sweetbitter smells of autumn mildew stolen away on the downy barbs of their retreating wings.
I come here in blizzards. In starlight. In prayer. In grief. In solitude. I come here in spring and, once, early May, I feel a pinprick of heat in the center of my chest before turning to spot, watching me from the distant tree line, the blush of a fox, his fur like blood surfacing from the internal pulse of the forest.
In a journal from the end of college I write, “How could I ever have an intimacy with a lover like I do with the field?”
When I meet B I briefly think he is a field. He is a landscape of geese and foxes and forget-me-nots. He is stone carved by glacial heft. Mountains built from ancient seashells. We are together a long time. When we finally disarticulate, come apart like words from languages with different conceptions of time, there is nothing left of that original fiction. He is no field, no ruffle of wind through a stand of aspens. He is a person not a place.
When B sits across from me, days after the miscarriage, and tells me he does not love me - that he doesn’t want to watch me get sicker and potentially die - that he no longer wants to marry me - my heart does not break. My heart does not break because I do not keep my heart in my body.
I keep my heart in bigger bodies than my own. My heart is in that field outside Tivoli, stippled with clover stars and Queen Anne’s lace cosmos. My heart is in the fox watching his sleek reflection in the pond surface. My heart is in the migrating geese. A bird, a plant that pines heliotropic, turns and travels towards sun.
Reading Harry Potter growing up I was always upset by the idea of the horcrux: an object or being that carries a splinter of your soul. I disagreed that putting your soul in objects was the ultimate sign of evil. Now I can see it’s a simplistic Christian aversion to matter. The soul must be whole. Individual. Immaculate. The heart must stay inside the chest. But as a survivor of violence, a navigator of incurable physical illness, I know that it is important to stow your love somewhere else sometimes. Your soul and your heart are not weakened or corrupted when they are split and offloaded into other beings and places. I would argue that they are actually strengthened.
When I have been in emergency rooms and ambulances I have walked through my own heart like a portal to the land where it is has been planted. When I sat in a cold shower in Oklahoma miscarrying, I was glad my heart was twined with willow roots, hung as a lace of frost across the stone fontanel of Overlook Mountain.
When doctors told me how my body would decay, I was glad my heart was not in the office with me. Years earlier I had placed a part of her in the shores of the Battenkill river. I placed her in the bodies of friends who have since then passed away. And those friends have been fed back to the earth. What happens to a heart when it is translated through bodies, through materials, through different lifetimes?
Perhaps, grown from the soil of my friends, the seasons of my far off-fields, my heart sprouts again as a sunflower. A spear of witch-grass shivering under the velvet tongue of a deer.
The heart was not made to be kept or protected. It was made to be planted.
I love you all. No more words today. No updates.