Thanks to the fabulous Erin Coughlin Hollowell, I have recently been following Jeffrey Davis’ Quest 2015. The basic premise is that smart, imaginative people send out prompts throughout the month of December asking other smart, imaginative people to respond as they set their intentions for 2015. It’s a very cool thing.
But, as much as I hate to admit it, I’ve been a C- student. I love getting the questions and reading everyone else’s responses. I lurk around the edges. I’m just reluctant to spill too many of my own frailties and uncertainties into the lap of the world. So I’ve mostly been living in my head and cheering from the sidelines.
Yesterday’s prompt, though, is stuck in my craw. The question was posed by the incredible fiction writer, Pam Houston, and this is how it went: Sit quietly and ask yourself, what in the last day or week or month has made your heart leap up? Not what should, or might or always had, but what did. Make that list. Be honest, even if it surprises you. Keep the list with you this month. Add to it when it happens. Train yourself to notice. Then ask your self today, how can I arrange my life to get more of those heart leaps in it?
Those questions have continued to knock around my head. The truth is, my heart leaps constantly. Sometimes several times an hour. It leaps when the phone number for one of the girls’ schools pops up on my phone. It leaps when my husband is 15 minutes late, and I can’t reach him. It leaps when my mother leaves a message saying “call me back.” My heart leaps when my dog chases a ball onto the sidewalk too near the street.
And my heart leaps when I hear that a grand jury has acquitted yet another police officer and that the global ice sheet is at the lowest level in recorded history and that the United States is torturing people in overseas dungeons and that coal companies are dynamiting the tops off mountains and that bees are falling dead out of trees like rain and that the government is spying on basically every human being on the entire planet.
My heart leaps every time my text bell goes off or I see the word “breaking news” scroll across a screen.
So in other words, I am in a constant state of “leap,” and—in fact—the primary adjective my family uses to describe me is “jumpy.” I can imagine a full-blown catastrophe in half the time that it takes to type the word “catastrophe.”
But I don’t think that is what Pam was talking about, and frankly, that’s not how I want to live. Plus it drives everyone I love crazy.
I am yearning for the other type of heart leap, the leap of beauty and awe rather than the leap of anxiety and fear. It’s funny how close fear and awe live in the body. And that’s appropriate really, isn’t it? Awe cracks us open to that which is bigger than us, to the unknown, to the mystery. And we’d better admit there is something fearsome in the mystery or we’ll have other things to worry about.
But in my daily worries, I’m skipping past the awe and running straight for the fear. I fear the call from the school because I love those girls so fiercely that even a wisp of a thought that something might be wrong brings me to my knees. And there is such animal joy in watching that beautiful dog of mine run at full-tilt, I hate the fact that I shatter that moment by imagining her in the street, the screech of breaks, the thud of impact.
And isn’t the grinding fear of climate change just the underside of loving the earth and her inhabitants so frigging hard? But, in 2015, I want to feel the love before the terror sets in. The French artist, Hubert Dupra, has for years been working with insects to create sculptures. Here, he provided caddis worms with gold leaf and jewels in a small terrarium, and the larvae build their cases from the environment. Eventually, a caddisfly emerged.
Everything about that makes my heart leap. Yes, the beauty is breathtaking, but also the imagination, the biological impulse, the collaboration between insect and human artist.
What a world we live in! I owe it the respect of a little awe before I push the panic button.