Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Heart Rocks/Heart Stones
In honor of Valentine's Day, I thought I'd share a piece I've been working on for quite some time now. Besides the moon, I also have an obsession with hearts. I see them everywhere! Today especially, being Valentine's Day and all; in my pancake, in a box of chocolates, in Valentine's Day carnations. But more specifically to my obsession with hearts, I have an obsession with heart rocks. My mom started collecting them years ago when she and her friend were kayaking and she found a heart rock the size of a bowling ball. I've found that once you find one, all of a sudden you see them everywhere! My favorite thing about heart rocks is that they're all different. Some are jagged, some are fat, some just barely classify as a heart. One day when I was with my friend, I got to thinking that they all had different personalities, too...
Heart rocks or heart stones. Only at the title and I'm already stuck. "Heart stones" is more...poetic on the tongue. The sharpness of the "s" and the "t". The repetition of the "tuh" in heart stones. "Heart rocks" is...ordinary. "Stone" cuts through water; rings out like a cymbal on a tile floor. But, crisp while "stone" may sound, it is dark, like from a fairy tale by The Brothers Grimm. The title should be welcoming, encouraging. The word "stone" associates with too many negative terms.
“Heart rocks” is smoother; no rough edges or sharp corners. While “stone” cuts through water, “rock” meanders along the edge. “Stone” limits the items associated with its strict syllables, while the long “aw” in “rock” welcomes any shape or size, similar to the toys from the Island of Misfit Toys. “Rocks” is ancient, a reminder that beauty remains even amidst some of the darkest ages. Like humans, each heart rock carries independence. They have unique personalities because they all belong to a different person.
There is the pancake heart, belonging to the fat man. Big, flamboyant, always smiling. Just a happy-go-lucky type, like a Golden Retriever. Some say his tongue hangs out the window as he drives Old Yellow, singing Jason Aldean with his authentic Southern accent. The grammar school kids crowd to the front begging him to do that funny shaky thing with his voice just “one more time!” Taped to his dashboard are the pictures the kids have drawn him, with bowling ball hands and big, orange-slice grins. Just a guy who loves life and everything and everyone in it. So his heart keeps getting larger as he makes more room for the people and places and things that he loves.
The puzzle heart is that of the divorced man, trying to reassemble the broken pieces. He sits cross-legged on the floor of his little apartment, the moving boxes still stacked high to the ceiling. None of the furniture has arrived yet, and that single lawn chair looms over him as a heavy reminder of how alone he is. It is one of the set of four him and his ex bought with their first house, before Joe even peeked his teeny head out. Chance would have it they only conceived two children, and their oldest was always tenacious when it came to who sat where; he himself sat in the same chair for nearly five years. When he picked up Joe for his T-Ball game, he wasn’t surprised to see the remaining three rocket lawn chairs on the side of the road with a “FREE” sign taped to their blue, pin-striped backrests. At least no one new will take his seat physically, even though someone will undoubtedly take it emotionally. His children are so young, after all. Still, he can’t bring himself to unpack everything (to open those boxes would make it all seem too permanent) except for one that sits on the floor in front of him. In his hands is a 4x8 framed photograph of his children. It captures a typical family Sunday from last fall; he and his wife had taken the children apple picking, and in it Joe lifts Lexie to pick an apple off the lowest branch. He moves around the photograph, trying to find the perfect place for them on his windowsill. He then attempts to place the photograph of him and the kids on the ferry they took to Portland last summer. Gradually he is finding their new positions, making a new puzzle, forming his new life. Picking pieces off the floor and trying to put himself back together; finding where the pieces fit.
The almost-heart dances in the young teenage girl. Thinks she's in love. Maybe she is, maybe she's not. Playing games of, “He loves me, he loves me not.” Just trying to figure out this crazy word called LOVE. That new boy seems so...perfect. Maybe he could be the one?? Hugging him feels so natural, holding his hand feels so...right. And he shows her off to his friends in her T-shirt and jeans, holds her hand for all to see. Notes in her locker and a slow dance in the street, no music; all the clichés from every Nicholas Sparks novel and Taylor Swift song. And when he tells her she’s beautiful, she believes it. Because the last guy only ever texted it; he looks her in the eye and says it. But she is unsure. “Is this love?” she asks herself. “Is it possible to be in love at this age? To feel this...happy? Does a Romeo really exist?” Thus she remains a "kind-of" heart, not exactly in focus but on the right track.
The nearly-perfect heart rests in the old married couple. They say the “right person” is out there waiting for you, that you are “destined” to be together from the start. Five years older than she is, he served his country while she finished high school. While she was in Canada keeping a book of quotes, he was over in Puerto Rico doing the same. Destiny. In college they met when he went back for his Masters degree, and shy man though he appeared, she saw through the taciturn diffidence to the sweet and brilliant marshmallow underneath. Four kids later, the honeymoon phase died down inevitably, but they still had their annual one-night excursion to the Cape. And while at times they may have feasted on fried bologna and mashed potatoes for dinner, they made due with what they had. But then he lost his job, and with that he lost all he thought he could contribute to the family, and began to pull away. Like a cramp they worked through it, until they were the last ones remaining on the dance floor for the “Who’s been married longest?” contest. When he sets the table so her engagement with Jane Austen need not be disturbed; when he returns from the market with two unexpected bags of Utz potato chips. “Oh mon dieu! You shouldn’t have!” she gushes, never too old to get butterflies. So after years of chipping away at it, their nearly-perfect heart is defined.
The doodle heart flutters in another teenage girl. When she draws it in her notebook, when she signs a card, someone’s yearbook...she’s always drawing hearts. The lines cross so it looks like a bleeding heart flower. She starts from the left and draws the half, then crosses over so there is a dividing line between the two halves and then draws the right half, finishing with a little tail. Her friends make fun of her for her hearts. “You always see hearts!” they tease. Clouds, leaves, boulders, shells, mustard on her sandwich...hearts. Because she just wants to hit the target and find that one boy, hoping in doing so she may succeed in placing her heart amongst the billions of other hearts in this world. She wants the heart of her old grandparents, the unpretentious Southern “thang” of the bus driver, to repair her divorced father’s broken puzzle, to shed her “almost heart”. Her doodle heart splits in half because she constantly feels torn in two. She wants to please everybody; she hates making decisions. Mom’s world vs. Dad’s world. And the tail represents her longing to stay in the past: to relive the 2010 track season, to go back to when her family fit in a perfect box. It is the anchor that ties her down as she tries to sail away and voyage new seas and explore fresh lands. But then, where the tail hangs down, there leaves a gap, which allows her take in the sugar but also drain out the acid. Which is why my heart is not a rock or a stone, but a doodle. Because my heart is constantly changing and being changed and forced through tight alleys and taken on a roller coaster and inflating and deflating. And you can’t set that in stone.
Here's hoping you all will find your heart someday, whether it be a doodle, stone, rock, or a heart-shaped pancake.
From my heart to yours,