April 21, 2021
Lisa Kramme, Spiritual Director
Around Easter of 2018 I started seeing hearts. I walked most days. Catching my attention were leaves on the sidewalk, tar that filled cracks in the pavement, clouds and even anthills that had the distinctive shape of a heart. I’d take a picture, post it on social media and use “#heartsinthewild” as a caption.
Noticing is more important than seeing
After a while, instead of simply seeing hearts, I started noticing them. There’s a difference, I think, between seeing and noticing. Seeing can happen. Forgetting what is seen can happen, too. But noticing—I think noticing makes some type of impression on me. This impression can lead to savoring a moment, a thought, an inspiration.
During the summer of 2018 I spent time in Oregon with my son and my sister. They had seen my posts about hearts in the wild and were noticing, too, and quick to point them out. A smoothly rounded stone on the beach. A hole in the leaf of a plant in a neighborhood hardware store.
Later that summer and into fall, hearts in the wild showed up in the bark of a tree, my kitchen sink, as a paper scrap on carpet and even in a grilled cheese sandwich.
They also showed up in texts, emails and direct messages on social media as other people started sending me pictures of hearts in the wild they saw on walks, dinner plates and in rock formations.
Those photos always made me smile. The fact that people reached out at all before the pandemic meant they took time out of a day– likely already filled with activity. They paused and noticed something heart-shaped, took a photograph, and then sent it to me, usually with a short note. After the pandemic made its way to the United States, the messages from friends and family with a heart in the wild were welcome reminders of care and connection in times when I hungered for both.
A heart story
One day I was in a meeting online. I was new to the group and felt a bit like an outsider. Do you remember the song on Sesame Street with the lyrics, “One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn’t belong…”? It was that kind of feeling, and not long after I noticed how I was experiencing the interactions in this meeting, a colleague texted me. She’s not a colleague I get to see very often, so I was curious about what her message may be, and since online meetings allow space for glancing down to check a text, I did just that.
She’d sent a picture of a heart in the wild that formed when snow melted at the base of a chimney. Here’s the striking thing—the person who sent this text was someone I associated with years earlier when I felt like I was an outsider in a group of people new to me. This colleague was one who helped include me then. I remember it was an important time of reflection for me on hospitality and belonging.
Later this colleague and I talked on the phone so I could thank her and tell her the story of the significance of the timing of her text. She said she wasn’t even sure she had my phone number. The picture sat on her phone until she had a moment to see if she had my number. She did! So, she sent it. It seemed to be a message sent in God’s timing.
Noticing hearts is like noticing God
This noticing of hearts in the wild reminds me of how spiritual directors and others in the church will sometimes ask, “Where has God shown up lately?” One could make the case that God shows up all the time and everywhere, so another way to ask that question is, “Where have you noticed God lately?”
If I’m honest, that is usually a different answer than “all the time and everywhere.” It can even seem strange to field a question about noticing God if that’s not a question or a topic one hears often in conversation.
I can’t say the topic of where I’ve noticed God was something I talked about much prior to the last 15 years or so. But I didn’t start noticing hearts in the wild either until 2018. Now that I have, noticing hearts in the wild is just something that happens.
How to notice hearts in the wild
If you’re drawn to the practice of noticing hearts in the wild, it’s pretty simple to take up. Wherever you find yourself, take time to see with the intention of noticing. Once you notice something heart-shaped, pause. Take a picture, smile, or point it out to someone else. After you’ve noticed the heart, allow it to continue to make an impression on you as it will. Maybe that impression feels like joy or sounds like a story.
And notice God
If you’re drawn to the practice of noticing God, the steps are similar. Wherever you find yourself, take time to open yourself up and set an intention for noticing.
To open yourself up,
- take several deep breaths,
- slow the pace of your movement if you’re walking,
- put your feet flat on the floor if you’re sitting,
- let go of thoughts if your mind is racing.
Once you notice something that seems like God’s doing, pause. Draw a picture, write a paragraph or two, smile, or share it with someone else. After you’ve noticed God’s presence, allow it to continue to make an impression on you as it will. Maybe that impression feels like peace or sounds like a story.
And perhaps the practice of noticing hearts in the wild or noticing God will lead to all sorts of new surprises and stories in the years to come.
Lisa Kramme, Certified Spiritual Director