An Infliction of the Heart

I have read far too many romance novels.

I’m in the middle of watching “Becoming Jane” and it’s literally killing me. I feel my heart ache, and in the midst of a million different thoughts and emotions, that one keeps repeating:

I have read far too many romance novels.

It all started with Pride and Prejudice… or perhaps even as far back as Little Women. I read that book about ten times in only a couple years. And by the time Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre entered my life, I was lost. Lost to a world… which I am afraid may not exist. Caught up in clandestine, windswept moments that perhaps are not truly of this world.

However, in my life I have felt the tightening of moments – I have felt the air become taut and my heart cease to beat, lost in a moment where all that mattered was his breath against my ear and his fingertips grazing my palm. So in this way, I understand that the romance novel can be real. I have experienced passion that would in fact put the romance novel to shame, and yet…

The book always ends. The chapters close before we can truly feel the pain, the heartbreak. Life is indeed not a book, and therefore the pain is almost unbearable… for nothing has truly prepared us for it.

And what good are the romance novel moments… I take that back. The romance novel moments are everything… but then again, do I only feel this way because

I have read far too many romance novels?

Then again, there are people who have never touched a romance novel, and are completely swept up in the concept of love, as well. And LOVE – love, well that is an entirely different thing in itself. If love is the embodiment of the romance novel, then no wonder our hearts get broken when it doesn’t end on page three hundred with a cute little epilogue by the fire with the children on our laps and the kittens by the hearth.

Then again, if love is more practical than that, perhaps it is not something I want.

People stop their entire lives for love – or whatever concept of love they have developed. People drop out of school, abandon dreams, turn against their families, alter their souls… just to be in love. Simply TO BE with the person they love, and who hopefully… God willing… loves them back.

I cannot judge them. I am not allowed to point my finger at them, since I have done such things myself. I have stayed in unhealthy, even abusive, situations, because of love – because the romance novel trapped me in stolen embraces and windswept moments. A young boy traveled down a stream with me, and held my hand in the stolen secrets of the night, and I was lost to him. For over four years, I begged for that romance novel to end on page three hundred, and when it never did… when instead I received the repetitive devastation of the heart… well, I hardly knew how to handle it.

I didn’t read a romance novel for years.

Yet here I am, watching a stupid movie about Jane Austen, and everything is coming back to me. All the feelings, all the dreams. It was the romance novel that awakened me – it was the stupid romance novel that gave me reasons to live. And yes, it was the stupid romance novel that led to my broken, broken heart…

I am reminded again of my father’s words – “return to reality.” And yet, this trip these past few months has truly shown me that reality can mean a million different things – and that, yes, we are certainly in control of what our reality is and becomes.

In that case, I propose that the romance novel can indeed be real.

More recently, I have considered the idea that perhaps I am not meant to marry, or even to join my life with someone else. Perhaps my energies would be more aptly utilized in other realms… with writing, or charity, or counseling, or teaching.

However, tonight I am reminded of how catastrophically important the romance novel has always been to me.

I am scared to feel the power of the romance novel again. There, I have admitted it. I am terrified of feeling my heart awaken once more. When I feel it stir, even if only from the lines of a poem or the quote of a novel, I become paralyzed with fear. I do anything to temper the flames, and maintain indifference. People have previously criticized me for loving too much, caring too much, throwing myself too recklessly into the sunshine…

I am still reckless, but no longer with my heart.

So what is important? What truly matters in this life? Writing this has brought me no closer to the answers to such questions. Rather, I still feel a tight constriction in my chest, a labour to my breath. Tonight I have been reminded of thoughts and feelings I have had since I was very young… qualities of myself that have led me to be the person I am today. These are the same qualities that have inspired me to put a pen to paper, my eye to the lens, my presence on the stage… it is the very inspiration inside me. And yet is this desperate quest for Beauty and Authenticity which most of the time leaves me burdened, begging for something more from this life. It is as though I am begging for the flowers to open, and share with the world what I see beneath their petals.

And yet, the flowers will not listen, and even if they did, the world would not look.
Again, I have read far too many romance novels.

John O’Donohue: in memoriam

“To enter into the gentleness of your own soul changes the tone and quality of your life… you learn to see how wonderfully precious this one life is. You begin to see through the enchanting veils of illusion that you had taken for reality. You no longer squander yourself on things and situations that deplete your essence” ( 78 )

I couldn’t sleep last night, thinking about John O’Donohue. It is unlike me to care so excessively about the loss of someone I’ve never met, and of a sort of “celebrity”-like status. However, I can feel the loss of his presence on this earth, and it saddens me on a very selfish level that I was never able to meet him, to shake his hand, to tell him how profoundly he has affected me.

I know that it’s a beautiful thing that he has returned to the earth that he has always cherished so dearly, but as I said, selfishly I was looking forward to many years of him bestowing his wisdom to the world, and to me. I also anticipated joining him for one of his week-long retreats in Ireland, and it is hard for me to wrap my mind around the idea that this can now never happen.

As a (small) tribute to him, I want to take the time to type up a few excerpts from my favorite of his books, Beauty: The Invisible Embrace. This is a publication which has absolutely changed my life. I mentioned it briefly in my earlier post, saying it is a book of which I have been unable to read past the first 100 pages; its effect on me is that profound and brilliant. I hope you take the time to read some of this, even if only because I took the laborious (:P) effort of typing it out. Ignore the fact that I type 75+ wpm, and humor me. 😛

“The human soul is hungry for beauty; we seek it everywhere – in landscape, music, art, clothes, furniture, gardening, companionship, love, religion, and in ourselves. When we experience the Beautiful, there is a sense of homecoming. Some of our most wonderful memories are of beautiful places where we felt immediately at home. We feel most alive in the presence of the Beautiful for it meets the needs of the soul… In the experience of beauty we awaken and surrender in the same act… Without any of the usual calculation, we can slip into the Beautiful with the same ease as we slip into the seamless embrace of water; something ancient within us already trusts that this embrace will hold us.” (2)

If you notice, this passage can be located on page TWO of his book, and it is just a small glimpse into the genius that is his piece of art. I remember the day I found this book – I was with my Aunt Gin, and we were in Tatnuck Bookseller in Worcester, MA (now out of business) and I wandered over to the Spiritual section. The title caught my eye, and as soon as I opened the book and read a passage, I thought I was dreaming. I turned to another page, found myself transported again, and could barely believe my heart. Here were words that perfectly reflected the secret thoughts and dreams of my Soul. Here was a man who was unafraid to write about the great Truths and Beauty of this world. And after that glimpse, I was never the same. For a while, I would read a page or two a day, but after a bit even that became too intense for me. Now, I usually read a couple pages a month, and that is enough to carry me through, to transport and inspire me.

“Beauty is mostly forgotten and made to seem naive and romantic. (3) Sadly, whether from resentment, fear or blindness, beauty is often refused, repudiated or cut down to the size of our timid perceptions.” (4)

This following passage calls forth ideas that I am currently considering for a book of my own:

“There are secret sources of courage inside every human heart; yet courage needs to be awakened in us. The encounter with the Beautiful can bring such awakening. Courage is a spark taht can become the flame of hope, lighting new and exciting pathways in what seemed to be dead, dark landscapes.” (6)

“When we awaken to the call of beauty, we become aware of new ways of being in the world. We were created to be creators. At its deepest heart, creativity is meant to serve and evoke beauty… The wonder of the Beautiful is its ability to surprise us. With swift, sheer grace, it is like a divine breath that blows the heart open.” (7)

“Our deepest self-knowledge unfolds as we are embraced by Beauty.” (8)

A section of his book that really started to unfold secret parts of my heart was a section called ‘In Difficult Times to Keep Something Beautiful in Your Heart’. It begins like this:

“There are times when life seems little more than a matter of struggle and endurance, when difficulty and disappointment form a crust around the heart. Because it can be deeply hurt, the heart hardens. There are corners in every heart which are utterly devoid of illusion, places where we know and remember the nature of devastation. Yet though the music of the heart may grow faint, there is in each of us an unprotected place that beauty can always reach out and touch.” (16-17)

Honestly, this is taking a lot out of me to even glance back at the passages in his book which I have marked up and starred- words that have completely altered my paradigms and encouraged my soul to breathe again. I wonder if without the seeds of hope and beauty Mr. O’Donohue has planted in my heart with his words, if I would ever be where I am now – on this incredible journey. Dreaming dreams long forgotten.

John O’Donohue writes about how a single thought can alter a person’s entire life-world, and that concept has always held so true with me. He writes that “a person can dwell inside a thought. Sometimes a thought is the most intimate and sacred temple, a place where the silence of the earth is wed to the fire of heaven.” (43)

“It is everywhere, and everything has beauty; it is merely a matter of discovering it.” (49)

Oh gosh, I will stop this now. Partly because I don’t want to go on too long, and lose your attention, and partly because I may burst. I guess all I’m trying to convey is the profound effect this man and his words have had on me, and how he will continue to inspire me on my own journey to touch the world and people with my thoughts and words. We have lost a great man, but the world beyond has reclaimed something pure and beautiful, which always belonged to another dimension. I will attempt to gracefully accept that, but damn it!

Damn it.

“True poetic beauty emerges when the poet is absolutely faithful to the uniqueness of her own voice… the depth of that exposure seems to call beauty.” (81)

the sound of water

I fell in love with the sound of water. As a little girl, with my bright blue summer dress and pigtails in my hair, tripping over myself, collapsing into the homemade sandbox by the garden. I was in Vermont, at our summer camp, with its tin roof that made hollow melodies when it rained, its brown paint, and its innate ability to blend into the woods and become part of the forest. I was no more than five, no less than ancient, and my grandma would take my hand and lead me down the dirt road away from the camp. There, a little stream trickled through the trees. I could stand there for hours, tossing pebbles into the water, watching them ripple, hearing them ker-plunk.

There is a steep path of steps leading from our camp down to the water’s edge. When I was very young, the steps were made from pieces of logs and trees, cracked and housing hordes of tiny bug families. It would take my little five-year-old feet what seemed an eternity to reach all the way down to that water, but I would insistently take this journey at least a few times a day. One step at a time, little feet reaching down to the next ledge, sometimes slipping, sometimes falling, always terrified. And it was always worth the effort. Our handmade dock would be swaying and pitching in the water, and it would take me a good minute to become brave enough to step from solid earth to swaying pieces of wood. Then I would lay myself down upon that dock and touch my fingers to the water, fingertips dancing beneath the surface, feelings its coolness, its promise. After a while, I would search deeper, overturning rocks and unearthing crayfish. Every now and then I would be brave enough to touch one, and then squeal with fear and delight.

The water held secrets, and it held pieces of my soul. I still listen to the way it caresses the shoreline, gently lapping against the earth’s edge. On stormier days, the water’s embrace is harsher, more insistent. Yet always it holds pieces of grace, and something close to forgiveness.

The water is rhythmic and reminds me of all the things my soul has been trying to tell me for years. I am far from my five-year-old self, and yet I sense her still here, drawn to the water’s edge. I still descend those steps to the water; I am no longer afraid of the journey, and yet the distance to the dock seems just as far. For even when I reach it, I am still so far away. There is no end to the descent, as there was when I was little Karabelle. For when the little girl arrived, she breathed a sigh, flopped down onto her belly, and giggled with her fingers in the lake.

Now I stare at my feet and see how far away they are from my head, and my fingers tingle, but never touch the water.

I am slowly relearning the strength it takes to bend my knees and reach the ground; to allow myself that surrender to the land around me. The sound of the water is no less palpable, less strong, than it has ever been. From a hundred feet above shore, I can still feel its pull upon my heart, as though tugging upon the cobwebs and releasing forgotten dreams. The river is ancient, and therefore stirs up ancient awareness in me.

Aware of my infinite possibilities, I search for that place where the air meets the water, and hope bubbles up in the form of joy. Eventually, fingertips will once again break the boundary, and I will know what it means to be immersed within the world

Years later, I would walk that dirt road and realize the stream had dried up. To this day, I stand in the same spot I stood as a child, and imagine the water still flowing, wondering how something so alive could fade so easily away. There are other streams nearby, larger streams, prettier streams – but this stream had been mine while Grandma held my hand and passed me pebbles.

a friendship filled with daisies

I think of you with the same fragrance
as saffron-tinted sunshine
and forgotten daisy dreams.

When breathing has lost its benefits
and my path has been covered
with petals

I think of you.

Recalling the way
our minds collide
(the gentle way) you confide
in me

How your voice becomes a breeze
as you delve -delicately-
into the sections of your soul

time has slowly

yet as your ethereal eyes meet mine
you place these pieces to my palm
and I am allowed a glimpse at

your hidden beauty.

You are lovely; of this the world is well aware;
I want to scoff at them
for thinking they have ever even glimpsed you.

for tucked inside the folds of your heart
are pieces of well-worn art
-which untrained eyes will never see-


I am honored that you share
your hidden canvases
with me.