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The Dismemberment Journals Part VI: The Broken-Open Places

We are not taught how to have broken hearts. And this is a human catastrophe. The heart needs to be broken open just as much it needs to feel full and expanding. It needs to feel the unmistakable sensation of halting, breath-sucking awe and the necessary momentary place of certain-death doubt, just as much as it needs to feel joyous delight and ecstasy. It needs to be given the opportunity to choose to open, to choose to say Yes. The muscle of the heart, the miraculous organ itself, does this every second of every day of our lives though its insistence to beat and pump remains a mystery to us. Without fail, it contracts and it expands. Every contraction an isolated gesture that might be its last. As soon as it stops mysteriously choosing to contract once more, this one time, then this, we die to this life.

In my place of heartbreak, in this morning, in this field, how much of me is available for this moment? Can I take the broken hearted places, the torn to pieces places, the ones that would like to stay hidden here, closed off, the ones that say ‘no no, not me, not me in this moment....I’m too raw. This is my time to heal and healing looks like hiding...’, can I take these very pieces into this field on this morning, nudging them gently out before any others for the healing that is simply this world’s own heart beating; the robins' singing, the breeze making love with my skin like adept fingers, the sun in its early morning way greeting me face to face. Brilliant Beauty here to love me even in this place of my own uncertain footing. Can I stand fully present in this early morning, sun-drenched, dew covered meadow and declare that it may not feel good to feel this way, but surely it feels good - vitally alive - to feel, and vitally alive is good. And therefore this is good. Can I love this place too with the fullness of my gratitude and awe.

I am so grateful for my four-legged companion on this journey, the elkhound. He only comes more alive. Day after day, the very same places, the same patches of grass, the same particular prairie dog holes, the same stretch of creek, are places of greater and greater mystery for him. I practice being him. What do I know about this place? And what will I never know? And what is my dance in this field? Along this creek? Under this tree? Where is the place I make love and where am I made love to - claimed when I least expect it - taken, brilliantly, down to my bones?

The elkhound and I are making our way across the open meadow just before the marsh area, alive with nesting blackbirds this time of year. Just as he crests a small hill, not two feet in front of him, ten feet from me, a magnificent red tail rises out of the grasses. Giant in her wingspan, five feet across, this great beauty lumbers and labors to get herself off the ground, her furry, taloned legs stirring up dust for a few yards before she gains enough momentum to rise up and cruise gracefully, languidly down the meadow, despite the blackbirds who dive bomb her as she flies over their territory. I go over to her launching spot to find a beautiful rabbit, hind legs splayed out behind him. Steam rising out of the spot where, only moments before, his head has been. Torn flesh, blood, bile, guts all falling neatly out of his neck cavity. Surgical precision has beheaded this creature. A Beautiful Death. I reach down and touch his supple body, still warm, soft, alive. Still vibrantly alive yet utterly irrevocably dead. No turning back. Pay attention here Christiane, you can learn something about yourself and what is possible from this moment. Tufts of fur everywhere. Thanks to the ceaseless olfactory curiosity of the elkhound, the tufts make their way to his wet nose, where they get stuck like pom-poms on a ski cap. I fall to the ground laughing. Then I’m sobbing. Then I’m laughing and he’s standing over me looking at me as if to say, “What?! What?! What’s so funny?!?” He kisses me on my right cheek and rabbit fur sticks to me. Warm and soft. It just works like that.