This post was first published on 5/30/20 in The Courier—a newspaper in central Illinois. I write a weekly column for the paper, called Wild Heart. The nature of the column was inspired by a radio show that I used to produce and host in Asheville, NC. Also called Wild Heart, it was a weekly talk show interviewing people who live with an element of passion. Last year I moved back to my hometown to be near my elderly parents for awhile. And so, in the spirit of “bloom where you are planted,” I found a way to offer a bit of wild-heartedness.
Today’s Wild Heart column is the 13th one since I began offering conversations with folks in our community. It is a delight to share their stories. However, over the past week, I felt the nudge to do something a little different this time.
As a lover of metaphor, what came to mind was the 13 moon cycles that occur within the 12-months of our calendar year. It’s a tenuous link, but for me, somehow it works. And so, I thought… perhaps every 13th column I’ll offer my own conversation. This could be a nice pattern.
What is it about finding patterns that can be so satisfying—patterns in nature, behavior, science. Is it to feel some semblance of order or control… in a world that is very much out of our control, even in the best of times?
The desire to have things make sense, slotted into logical categories can put us at ease. We can breathe a little easier with the knowing that all’s right in the world—until something comes along to upset the pattern.
The other morning while walking at Kickapoo Park I marveled at the abundance of honeysuckle throughout the trail and paused to have a closer look at the blooms. At first, it seemed that every fourth bloom along a stem was white, with three yellow ones in between. I’d not noticed this before and thought I had discovered a pattern.
I can easily fall into amazement with nature, and so was already heading into the wonderment of how this happens when I realized that this was not actually the case. Just like the chaotic growth of its stems, honeysuckle blooms are also very random in their order of color. I smiled and bowed to its wild nature, grateful for its randomness.
Life would be boring if it was chock full of orderly patterns. I for one, need room for surprise, delight, and discovery. The natural world seems to offer a good dose of both, order and chaos. Thankfully, honeysuckle blooms in random chaos. And the moon waxes and wanes in an orderly pattern. It’s probably good to have it that way around.
I could venture to say that, I too, have elements of both chaos and order in my life. It feels good when my files and paperwork are in order, yet chaos usually precedes that. And I love it when a day flows in graceful synchronicity. When there’s an unknown at hand, I may need to remind myself to trust in the mystery and know that all will unfold in divine order. Yet, it can feel messy in the process.
Indeed, chaos is a natural part of creativity. Life is incessantly creative. And at the same time there is a natural and reliable order to life. Sometimes, in a misguided or impatient quest for order we can get in the way of nature’s wisdom.
Our 12-month Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1582. Before then, most of the world measured the date by the cycles of the full moon. Although, I’m not versed in all the reasons why Pope Gregory instilled this change, seems to me we already had a pretty good and natural way to keep track of our days.
I certainly have plenty of experience getting in the way of divine order. Yet, my quest is to honor the wildness of life. There’s a line from one of my poems: I surrender to the radical pulse of love. To me, this is the essence of what it means to live with a wild heart—to live in oneness from that deep place within, allowing the pulsing desires of life to express freely.
‘Wild’ is one of my favorite words, with ‘radical’ also high on the list. I think they’ve both been largely misconstrued. I feel like a word activist, rallying for the freedom of their true expression. How did the natural meaning of wild and the deep rooted meaning of radical come to be associated with crazy and out-of-control?
Given that Wild Heart is the name of this column, it seems fitting to share the story of how the word ‘wild’ captured my attention so fiercely. It began with a piercing message.
Many years ago, in the midst of a dark night of the soul, I was snuggled up on the couch with an afghan made by my mother, a cup of hot tea, and beloved cat at my side. All good measures to warm the chilling angst that prevailed at that time.
I reached for my journal and wrote a few pages in attempt to relieve my anxiety. However, on this day, spilling words onto paper was not working. I paused to acknowledge my cat vying for attention, his calm purr urging me back to center.
I was then inspired to ask my heart what it had to say. And so I shifted the pen to my left non-dominate hand—a practice that’s known to release the control of thought and encourage the freedom of feelings. It can be clumsy, yet what comes out is often revealing. This was no exception.
The words came fast and furious. “I am wild and you are trying to tame me!”
Everything stopped, including my swirling thoughts. They didn’t stand a chance. The velocity of these words shattered them away to stillness, leaving me naked in the vulnerability of my deepest authority. This message launched a personal exploration into the meaning of wild and the ways in which I tamed my heart.
I started with the wildness of nature, exploring the four elements—earth, fire, water and air. All of them engage in life with a freedom of expression, from quiet stillness to boisterous eruption. I felt particularly connected with the language of water.
For a number of years I lived near Lake Michigan and went for daily walks along the shoreline. I enjoyed all the seasons, meeting the mystery of the lake with its ever-changing nature—from gentle lapping, churning waves, to cliffs of ice.
Typically, water is considered wild when the waves are large and bold, whipped up by a storm. Yet, I began to see all of it as wild, even the gentle. Ultimately, wild, to me is the nature of the divine in the fullness of its expressions.
We can try to tame the waves, straighten the river, and manage the coastline, or meet the wildness in its true nature, honoring the radical pulse of love that defines all things.
And so, it is my ever-quest to live with a wild heart, responding to what is called for in the moment, whether it be calm or fierce, quiet or elaborate. And to indeed honor the chaos and the order, as best I humbly can.
And in the spirit of patterns, I will meet you again next week, sharing through conversation the wild-hearted story of another. Meanwhile… be wild.
This and other stories from my Wild Heart column can be found at www.lincolncourier.com.