“In the deserts of the heart, let the healing fountains start.”-W. H. Auden
The day began with alarming news. A lifelong friend, a fellow author, had been moved from Santa Fe’s hospital to a “Medical Resort” in Albuquerque. She was recovering from surgery that removed a cyst on her spine. Her health was already precarious because of Parkinson’s Disease, and now this. I talked to her husband, conveyed to him my love and healing wishes, but I felt powerless to really help the situation.
Feeling disheartened, I phoned my friend Kay (not her real name) and invited her to hike Monte Sol (Sun Mountain) with me. She motored over to my house, and in 15 minutes we were on the path. We found heart-shaped rocks to place in what I’ve come to call our “memory tree.”
We worked our way up the narrow twists and turns to the summit, slightly less than a mile but an 800-foot ascent. The narrow trail up Monte Sol is a series of ever sharper switchbacks. At the top, one must climb boulders, scale gravely areas and step ever more carefully.
Two-thirds of the way up there is a lookout spot – some sofa-like boulders that provide a convenient rest spot. Kay, who’d just come from two weeks at sea level, decided that she would wait there while I went to the top. She needed some time at our 7,000-foot altitude to fully acclimatize. So she rested; I went onward and upward.
As she contemplated the sweeping vistas below – Santa Fe nestled in a high mountain
plateau – I hiked swiftly to the top. There, I visited what I’ve come to call “the memory tree.” She’s an old, weathered, dead piñon. Actually, she has a name: “Melanie.” I’ve used this tree for years as a repository. In its branches, I place heart shaped rocks, dedicated to folks who are ill or who’ve passed away. Sometimes I find them on the trail; other times I bring them from home. I placed a heart in one of Melanie’s branches for my ill friend and dedicated a silent meditation for her recovery.
Occasionally I find hearts already in the tree. Anonymous others have discovered Melanie, placed their stone hearts and no doubt made petitions. It is a gentle way of helping when there’s nothing else we can do.
I said goodbye to Melanie the tree and sent get well wishes to my ill friend. Hurrying, but careful not to skid, I made my way down Monte Sol. Kay, waiting at the rest stop, had been meditating. We completed the downhill trail together.
Always one to come up with good ideas, Kay suggested we go out to lunch to celebrate
the day.We did, and it was delicious. Organic eggs whipped into an omelet, served on hearty bread.
Since then, I’ve heard that my hospitalized friend is doing better. Her recovery might take months, but she’s in the best possible place. Perhaps the hike I took and the heart I placed may have helped her. I am finding that we are connected in mysterious ways. As an adopted one, today proved to me that in many ways, “friends are the new family.”