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A Thousand Hearts


Despite the fact that my eyes look in two separate directions, or perhaps because of it, I am always searching the fabric of the seen for the unseen. I look to the corners of reality to see what might be hidden there. My gaze seeks to penetrate the ordinary in hopes of glimpsing something of the extraordinary. And often, the extraordinary is found right there, right inside the ordinary, waiting to be noticed.

A tulip opening its petals, a lightning storm, a newborn sparrow emerging from an egg, these things beg my attention. I’m usually the one outside in the rain, peering into brooding skies for rainbows. I stand at the edge of a sidewalk marveling over the ants carrying grains of sand toward their temporal home. I seek out friendly characters among the clouds. There’s so much to be seen and my eyes are trained to take in all that’s visible, and lots that not.

Still, I never saw this coming.

I am driving down the sagebrush-lined red dirt road that leads to our adobe in Taos and my heart explodes in a thousand pieces. One minute, it’s just a heart, a solid piece of machinery in my chest that runs on automatic pilot. The next minute it’s a kaleidoscope of cascading jewels: red ruby lullabies, jade-embroidered silk, sapphire velvet skies, golden amber sunsets, diamond-shaped grins, gentle, rolling ocean waves made of aquamarine, sweeping me out to sea. It is a floating haven, a molten treasure box, cozy slippers, a hearth, a home.

I turn to Silas who is riding beside me as I steer our 4runner into the driveway. “I don’t know if this little guy is gonna live. But I do know one thing. I will always always have a mouse next to my heart. I never want to leave this feeling.” He smiles at me, always so calm. Deep brown eyes capable of drinking in all that I am, all the color, all the intensity. I put my hand to my chest to feel the sixteen day-old little lump of grey fur and whiskers that’s sleeping next to my heart. He’s no more than half the size of my thumb, yet I can feel his tiny ribcage moving in and out, a little twitch of pink feet as he dreams his mouse dreams.

I switch off the ignition in our driveway and lean towards Silas while pulling at the edge of my red striped sports bra enough so that the lump can be seen. He’s on his back, tail and four paws in the air, sound asleep. We both gaze down at the little being who now considers my bra his personal hammock. “You know that scene in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas?” I ask, my eyes never leaving the whisper of a nose smaller than a pinhead. “That scene where The Grinch hears the Whos of Whoville singing on Christmas morning instead of crying over all gifts and goodies he’s stolen? The Grinch’s heart grew three times that day, remember? Well, that’s how I feel. This is unbelievable. This feeling. It’s like…”

Words failed me then, as they do now. I once read a novel that stated, “some things are too beautiful to be borne, unless one is eternal.” Given that I’m a mortal, there was nothing to do but let my heart break wide open. And that’s exactly what it did. So filled with love, with bliss, it burst into a thousand pieces, and each piece became a new heart, expanding to contain a portion of delight, woven with sweetness and fringed with belonging. Like hot soup on a cold night, story time with cookies and milk, footed pajamas.

Watching him breath, two tiny white teeth like grains of salt barely visible under a pink rubbery mouth that doesn’t quite close, I recall the lines of a poet: “At one glance I love you with a thousand hearts.”

In a moment, I knew what the poet meant. I now had a thousand hearts, and each one belonged to a mouse.

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