I am the keeper of a wild heart. It sits right under my breastbone like a hummingbird, never still and always ready to flee. I inherited it from my father along with his carmel-colored skin and impossibly deep eyes.
We live a life with one foot in the modern world and one foot in the natural. Some people see it as a blessing—the ability to move between two places. Some see it as a tease—a mere glimpse into a life so symbiotic that you’ll spend countless hours lost in daydreams trying to find it again.
A place where people dance in the sun for days on end and children run barefoot through fields of mallow. Where the trees that are felled are so sacred they are never allowed to touch the earth. Where the smell of burning sage is never far away. And where every time a buffalo dies, a piece of you dies with it.
Why would anyone attempt to eradicate something so beautiful? Where people walk through landscapes instead of alongside them.
Why would anyone attempt to eradicate something so beautiful?
It’s hard to be in two places at once. I’ve spent decades observing my father as he stumbles through his tethered life-too wild to live within the confines society places on him, too tamed to return to the hills of sweetgrass that raised him.
Some people say he’s drinking himself to death, but if you knew him like I do, then you’d realize that he’s actually dying of a wild heart trapped in a shroud of guilt. The crushing feeling that finds you in your darkest hours, when the world that surrounds you tells you there’s a right way to do things and your soul is telling you to do another.
The world that surrounds you tells you there’s a right way to do things and your soul is telling you to do another.
I know the feeling well. I spent the first part of my life in a state of organized chaos trying to suppress the guilt I carried from the constant urge to run away to untouched corners of wilderness. To dance in the rain. To bathe in cold streams and watch the constellations move through the sky.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from the sitting vigil as my father loses himself, it’s that a wild heart will yearn for freedom so long as it still beats. You can’t tame it. You can’t drown it in a bottle, and you certainly can’t hope it will end well if you confine it to a world in which it doesn’t belong.
A wild heart will yearn for freedom so long as it still beats.
So I let mine go.
It wandered through the streets of Saigon and the narrow paths of the Himalayas. It watched the sunrise over Kusadasi and walked alone through the redwood forests of northern California. It woke up above 20,000 feet gasping for air, and it hid in the Sierras so long it left my cheeks wind chapped and leathered.
It found peace in the arms of lost lovers and calm in the storms of violence. It saw the truth in the wise eyes of elders and sought comfort in the weathered hands of working women. It discovered a fondness for the human spirit, no matter the origin, and ignited a curiosity of the unknown that I can only hope will never be abolished.
When it was done wandering, I let it go home to the fields of sagebrush and valleys of cottonwoods. To the snow-swept mountains and wandering rivers. To the ways of a people that live in synergy with the world instead of resistance. When it’s ready to go back out into the world, I’ll let it.
I am my father’s daughter, the keeper of a wild heart that will not be broken.