From the Heart
There is something uncanny about lying horizontally with one of those crisp uncomfortable white paper shirts around your naked form, and listening to the guttural clunky sound of your heart working, its valves opening and closing in repetition so that the life-sustaining blood can travel where it needs to. The technician said that it reminded her of an old washing machine chugging along…. I looked up at a little monitor and saw an image that resembled anatomical depictions of the human heart that I’ve seen before, and I watched this mysterious form vibrate in and out, in and out. The human organism is something to marvel at… and we do not give it enough credit.
From this heart I want to speak to that which is precious and dear … my little dog Peaches whose huge round dark eyes seek me out for reassurance and also send me unconditional love, my daughters who have been perhaps the primary teachers of my life, as they reminded me that love is all that really matters, love and listening and being present, my city of San Francisco which offered me a safe and beautiful and textured landscape to grow up in — its hills, golden light, its foreign voices, and brilliant blue bay … Also dear to me the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill, brilliant green survivors in our urban world, the thousands of books I surround myself with that represent worlds I can enter at will, my cats whose beauty and subtlety go beyond any words I can conjure (cats are like that!), and the vibrant and brave colors in my mother’s abstract paintings, my grandmother’s piano that reminds me of being a little girl sitting on a piano bench and hungering to play music, the moments in early morning when I sit in meditation on the couch with a dog on one side and a cat on the other. I could go on, and the fact that I could go on and on tells me I have a remarkably rich life. Yes,, I have continuing pain in my knee and my hip, and yes, I don’t sleep very soundly anymore, and yes, I get fatigued sooner than I would like, and worry more than I should … but the fact is that I still inhabit this life of a comfortable solitary lady in a cozy old San Francisco house, a lady who at the age of 70 finally completed the narrative of her lonely and exquisite life. There are gifts all around us; for those of us fortunate enough to have shelter and a few good friends, there’s an abundance of opportunities for gratitude. If we were to forget about these gifts, we wouldn’t have the strength of spirit to live with the harsh inequities of today’s world. The truth is: the darkness and the light are always doing their dance around us…
After I left the doctor’s office this morning I noticed a lightness and bounce in my step. After images were rendered and a grueling trek on the treadmill was completed, I was told that my heart appeared to be a sturdy and healthy organ, and I was able to breathe in and out and feel thankful. If it weren’t for that heroic organ doing its job, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy my cured salmon and glass of rose at lunch, nor the smile on my dog’s face when I came in the front door…. There’s something transformative about learning what is real: that you are for the time being robust and well, that there are likely more days to relish your time on this earth. And in that moment of seeing what is before you, you let go of the fearful stories, the fight or flight instincts, and you simply breathe … and smile to those around you.
In spite of all that feels overwhelming and impossible, we are blessed to inhabit these human bodies with their beating hearts.