Goose Wake

The Yahara is a sliver of river connecting the two large lakes in the heart of Madison. It’s a strip of wildlife through backyards and commercial zones. A precious, quiet, floating space through the east side of the city. As I approached a short bridge over the river by car today, I wondered if the water underneath was frozen. Sometimes it freezes, usually near the locks, but not always. It’s early for a freeze, but it’s been cold so far this year.

As I passed over the river’s bridge, I glanced toward the water. My eyes were met by a flash of motion visible through a small gap in the concrete banister along the bridge. A lone goose trailed by a rippling, V-shaped wake disturbing the mirror-still water. Unexpected, marvelous, regal, alone. That goose sparked an unexpected pin-prick leap in my heart.

Timely, I suppose, because I have been struggling with the fourth Quest2015 prompt, pressed upon us by author Pam Houston:


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?

I think of myself as an exuberant and joyful person. I’d even say that I began to cultivate a curious and zany sense of creativity and expression and seeing just as soon as I realized I was allowed to make my life messy. I spent my days in high school wanting to LIVE OUT LOUD (albeit quietly). To see and sense the beauties, the ephemera, the overlooked, the mundane features of this world with awe…and give them a home and meaning in my heart.

So when I couldn’t readily, easily think of any heart leaps in the last month, I got sad. I quickly realized how dull and fuzzy my emotional vision had become. Drained, pale, unconnected. Uninspired (or grasping at inspiration). How long ago, exactly, did I stop feeling the fullness of the heart leap potential in this world? How long were my arteries clogged with anxiety? My aortas flooded with heaviness? My atria blocked?

It was time to pull out the emotional Drano. Clean out the pipes, refresh the senses and get back to my real work. Clear-hearted to see the joy and exquisite ‘beingness’ of everything. Last night I fell asleep to a movie trailer of heart leaps, scratchy-slow black and white footage, flickering through my head.

The hawk perched on the post of the woven wire fence along the highway. Daydreams of how much dog fur I would have to collect in order to knit a sweater (just daydreams. I don’t knit, but I live with the fur.) The feisty ducks in the pasture who will not let me get close enough to photograph them, but swim in a short tub of water and occasionally perch as if they are their true chicken sistren (it’s a real word, I looked it up). The way the dog, upon turning around to head home on our morning walks, picks up the end of the leash in her mouth and swings it around for me to grab and tug-of-war with. The Big Dipper over the barn. The bright red blood inside the neck of the chicken just ravaged by a hawk. Opening the mailbox to find colorful, fat correspondence from Miss P in Portland. One green egg on the floor of the coop (there used to be four a day, but the Ameraucana’s stopped laying altogether between molt and these short days). Opening the morning blinds to see the first frost, the first snow. A cow parade just out the kitchen window. A snow-crunchy two hour walk along my favorite new trail, accompanied by a mostly-frozen river and a galloping black dog. The way the ice forms and the water moves on that river. The Journey, by Mary Oliver, appearing in my inbox. My reflection staring back at me in the mirror, smiling crows feet kissing the edges of my eyes, the small curl of a subtle smile on my face (not fear or self-disappointment). The smile cry*.

[Dammit. I swore I wasn’t going to write a list. But that sure as hell looks like a list to me.]

I had dug so deeply into myself. To nest and self-protect and brood and try to fix the problems around me. I stopped seeing, feeling, experiencing the exquisite magic all around me. I stopped being completely present. I stopped being here now. My mind was running through notes of the past to find the errors to avoid repeating them. Searching for patterns to lend clues to what was going on. I knew all that magic was there. I. just. couldn’t. fully. feel. it.


This prompt, more than any other, is a call to action. Real action. Not just pen-to-paper action. A turning point. A decision, a transition, an active compass redirection to 100% joy-and-awe seeking and nothing else.

Blamo! There you have it.

Life had been a bit, well, crappy, for a while there.


Did I do something to change it?


Do I have the power to make it better (the best!) from here out?


Is it time for me to lift the veil and bring back my super magic-vision goggles to help me stay present and view the magic in the pedestrian details, the #heartleaps of everyday life? Is it time to truly be here now, with all the joy and introspection and noticing and occasional ouch that comes with it?


The goose wake was a true #heartleap. Unexpected and joyful. In part because I started looking for that magic again. I was so glad to know the feeling of that pin-prick of joy , like acupuncture for my heart.

– – –

*Smile Crying. I could spend hours writing about the smile cry. However, right now I am tired, and would be best served by going to bed. So in the mean time, you will have to wait. But here’s a little bit of an introduction, thanks to the amazing writing and honest thoughts of fellow Quester Ginny Taylor at Women of Wonder. You can read the rest of Heart Leaps, but here’s your introduction:

I hate when I cry. My face gets all blotchy, nose gets snotty, eyes bloodshot. It’s not a pretty sight. I generally curse my tears, consider them a sign of weakness, of a heart too soft, too tender.

But what would my life be like without these harbingers of holiness, these wet heart leaps that signal tiny and great miracles, past memories, and anticipations of times to come?

These tears tell me to pay attention, to be surprised at all that is, and then they remind me to be grateful.

A tree with countless lights and infinitely more memories. A husband who listens while holding me close, and whose heart beats miraculously just inches beneath my cheek. Children grown beyond their school day braces and short hair cuts, one of whom who will becoming a mother herself in six weeks.

Tears, heart leaps, gratitude.  These all swirl together for me until I can’t separate one from the other. Silver, gold, white threads binding themselves together into a puddle of grace and love.  I don’t know how to arrange my life for more of this to happen. But I can begin to reframe my thinking about my seasons of melancholy with their accompanying tears, perhaps giving them more credit than I have in years past. Instead of looking away, perhaps I’ll follow to their tug and notice the gratitude instead.

And in other topics that hit close to the heart-home… Quester Wendy Willis, on her blog by the same name, writes elegantly about heart leaps as heart panics, anxiety. Her words are an inspiring balm.

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.

[From In Love & Awe]

And then there is fellow Quester Brenna Layne, on her blog by the same name, who shares sweet words and a charming photo series in her introduction to the Quest2015. No preview here, you must click through to see her joyful sharing.



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