There were three hearts at the bottom of the lake. Three is a magic number, as the song goes. It’s true. Three wishes, three things that Dorothy must bring to the wizard, the BIG three—Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and the dreaded threat uttered by every parent ever: “I’m going to count to three…” In comedy it’s a rhythm that sets up a pattern begging to be annihilated in some spectacular and hilarious way. The power of threes.
I thought about that phrase as I looked at these hearts. We often go wading along the shoreline stippled with blueberry bushes and fragrant honeysuckle. The lake is shallow near our waterfront and sandy, though parts of it have collected great deposits of big and small rocks. I took geology in college and for a brief few weeks was kind of smitten with the aesthetics of the science, which is to say I loved looking at the variety of rocks with their veins of quartz or granite piped through them. I loved knowing how these bits of organic materials became transformed. Basically, I was a little too into the “story” of rocks, which did not help me when it came time for exams because by then the science of the course had taken over and I was lost and bored and thoroughly uninterested in plate tectonics or Bowen’s Reaction Sequence.
We noticed the edge of the first heart jutting out in the sand because of the red hue clearly visible underneath the lightly rippling water. It was a brick, the most unnatural kind of “rock” not native to lakes or anywhere else in nature for that matter. Maybe it was a corner piece to someone’s outdoor barbeque or stone walk way. How funny, we remarked, how odd to find it perfectly formed like that, we said and turned around to walk back towards the stone steps that lead into the lake from the grassy lawn of our waterfront area.
For the last two Fridays I had come to the lake and perched on those steps, the water licking at my toes while I furiously journaled as overly-sensitive writer types prone to too much introspection and self-reflection do. Lately I had felt twisted up in someone else’s net. Lately I had been feeling that my own suck factor was hitting a boiling point. Lately there had been too much of the past stacked across my arms for me to carry. I wasn’t sleuthing out clarity; I was spinning my threads as fast as they would come like Arachne at her loom in a prayer that had become persistent over the last several months: Let me know I matter, that I’m seen, that it’s all leading somewhere, that it counts, that I count, let me know. Over and over with little variation.
I wrote until I felt like I had come to the end. No resolutions, no keen insights, no ground quaking shifts. There was just the pen released from paper and the sense that it was all enough for now. I stored my journal and slipped into the water.
The second heart was further past the steps where the rocks are much bigger. I wasn’t searching for it. How could I be? I looked down and there was something about the hump and curve of the edges that made my hand reach into the water almost involuntarily. It was heavier than the brick. We both looked at each other and laughed. Wow, we remarked and What are the odds? Indeed. I leaned down to peer through the water at the other smaller stones crowded close to the shoreline. There is a lot of quartz in the lake and I always seem to be able to pocket a few pieces; there’s pretty nuggets of schist; and plenty of granite. My fingers brushed over one that was bright white. I scooped it up and opened my hand to see it too was heart-shaped. Neither of us said anything. I silently palmed it.
It’s a magic number.