Even in my seventh decade I still struggle with feeling conflicted…between responsibility and carefreeness – where’s the balance? Is there? Isn’t being a parent the most important work? On New Years day 2020, I hiked in upper Buttermilk Falls State park, a carefree day, not seeing psychotherapy clients (my part-time job). No plans. No one to be responsible for. My two daughters are doing well, having responsibility for their own children: my three granddaughters.
I wander off the beaten path that I’ve walked hundreds of times since my youth. It’s my hometown. I never tire of waterfalls, the music of flowing water. I lost my best friend, Gaylee to cancer 6 months ago, my hiking partner who began a heart-rock garden in a nature preserve in our hometown, Ithaca, NY., about 7 years ago. Since, I’ve collected many heart rocks from various parks, locally and internationally. New Year’s Day I spot a fat one – 3” thick and maybe 6” wide, perfectly heart-shaped. I write GAYLEE on it with the edge of another stone, letters of white. The earlier snow has melted…but not my missing her. I take a photo and send to my family and her partner, Jim. It’s no longer work to cry like it used to be growing up in a society still saying “I’m sorry” when tears arise.
I walk to see a taller rapid white waterfall and as usual I must take a photo of the two of us. (Less work to be lonely.) I cross over a stream I had never paid attention to before and saw a partially flat rock sticking out from the bank to the water. I pull it out, seeing a resemblance, an abstract heart-shape, completely flat. Instantly, I knew I wanted it as part of my flower garden pathway. I positioned it in the stream so dirt (mother earth) was washed off.
It wasn’t difficult to lift. Carrying in the crack of my left elbow, and in the fold of my right hand. Every 100 yards or so I must give my arms a rest, so lean it against a tree as I take in the bare beauty of oak leaves thick under my rubber boots. The sky is soft gray (Gaylee’s last name is Gray) which color I used to dislike, so non-descript, I now wear: my fuzzy gray coat and her gray-checked bathrobe, fondly. Probably, nine times I’ve lowered my heart-rock to Mother Earth in order to rest my arms, when a man walking by asks if I want some help.
I reply, “No thank you; it’s good exercise.” Little does he know; my heart feels pride in this work.