In his essay, Joyas Volardores, Brian Doyle begins with a very close look at a hummingbird, a creature whose heart makes up a good bit of its tiny body. They are remarkable creatures. We, too, are creatures whose hearts makes up a good bit of us, and Doyle ends his essay with a look at how our hearts, no matter how we protect ourselves and wall them off, are imminently fragile, with facades that can be shattered in an instant.
So much held in a heart in a lifetime. So much held in a 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 there will come one person who will savor 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 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 an instant, 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, the brush of your mother’s papery ancient hand in the thicket of your hair, the memory of your father’s voice early in the morning echoing from the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children.
Today, consider the hummingbird. Let it fill us with wonder and appreciation for all of creation, but especially our own hearts, and let it remind us of how tender and fragile each of is really, truth be told.