There are heart makers and heart breakers.
I met a wonderful heart maker in Guatemala a wee while ago in 2003. I was staying at a yoga camp beside Lake Atitlan, this huge globe of a lake: calm in the morning, temperamental in the afternoon. And though I forget the exact moment that Ugly and first I met, the memory of her still oscillates around in my chest. In fact, I think there is an Ugly nubdule in me, so that I only need to think of her name and something in me softens…
“Where there is love. There is life.” Ghandi
When we met, Ugly didn’t tell me her name.
Nor did she pick up a piece of paper and write it down for me.
Unfortunately such was the state that she was in; it was the first name that I could think of. Ugly; a carcass in motion. She had a large abscess growing out of her backside that looked like her womb had erupted outside her. I wondered if she had given birth to a litter, though I never saw any puppies around.
They say you can’t choose your family, well I’m not sure we can choose our friends either. The connections that touch us; these happen without any need for interference. So Ugly and I became friends. Occasionally I would give her some bowls of milk, to build up her strength a little. But I didn’t want to overfeed her as I would be leaving soon. Instead mostly we hung out. Ugly got some gentle rubs, tickles and strokes and soon wherever I went, Ugly went.
“The further you are challenged and threatened, the more your warrior heart will emerge.”
At one point a local on the island suggested that we put some aloe vera pulp onto Ugly’s wound. (Aloes can help heal everything from spots, sunburn and yes abscesses on canines butts and are also generous: relocate one stem from from one pot to another and soon another plant will emerge). So every day we would rip a stem from the ground and apply some aloe onto this grotesque abscess. Ugly never resisted.
After a few days, the bulbous growth started to recede. And as it did, something else emerged: Ugly started to claim her life back. Then one day the dogs that used to snarl at her, accepted her as part of the pack. My heart still swells remembering the way she played with them.
Love: not to be sniffed at…
Camila Batmanghelidjh the founder of the UK based charity, Kids Company which works with young people marginalised by society, says that when a person feels loved by someone, they feel like their life means something. And when someone feels like their life is worth something, they are more likely to go and create an expression of that life that is meaningful to them.
One of my last memories of Ugly was taking a walk one day to this cliff where you could leap off into the lake. After jumping and collecting our ear drums somewhere near the bottom of that bottomless lake Atitlan, a group of us were chatting. As I floated on the water something caught my eye and my heart boomed: it was Ugly. This weak, bony, animal making her way down steep, craggy rocks. Her eyes caught mine as if to say: here I am.
Just like you.
So love, hi there… You’re not easy to write about, or even really embrace. Deep, unconditional, all accepting, oh phwrrroah so hard to actually, really give it to one another. Despite the fact that it is probably what we all need to learn to give the most. Reverse, quick style, to those days at school and instead of Pythagoras’s Theorem, we get hey kids: how do you love another? How do we become heart makers, instead of heart breakers? Because words and actions so easily befuddle and hurt and frustrate. Linking to moments long gone, of which we are barely conscious. And so our hearts open and close and harden and then in sweet moments; soften uncontrollably.
Happy Valentines all,