After 12/7/2011, this blog will no longer be updated, although content will remain. Please visit my new blog at Hidden Latitudes.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Two billion beats

Every creature on earth has approximately two billion heartbeats to spend a lifetime. You can spend them slowly, like a tortoise, and live to be two-hundred years old, or you can spend them fast, like a hummingbird, and live to be two years old.

So much is held in a heart and a lifetime. So much held in the heart in a day, an hour, a moment. We are utterly open with no one, in the end -- not mother and father, not wife or husband, not lover, not child, not friend. We open windows to each but we live alone in the house of the heart. Perhaps we must. Perhaps we could not bear to be so naked, for fear of a constantly harrowed heart. When young we think they will come one person who will save us and sustain us always; when we are older we know this is the dream of a child, that all hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by a force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall. You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as you possibly can and down it comes in a distant, felled by a woman's second glance, a child's apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words "I have something to tell you," a cat with a broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, and the brush of your mother’s papery ancient hand in the thicket of your hair, the memory of her father's voice early in the morning echoing from the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children. — Brian Doyle, from the essay Joyas Valadorus, in The Best American Essays 2005 (The Best American Series)

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