The way is shut. It was made by the Dead and the Dead keep it, till the time comes. The way is shut.
J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings

So went the phrase ’round and ’round my mind in January of 2013.

But it wasn’t the hall of the Dead that Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas found themselves in, trying to raise an army that would help turn the tide against Sauron and his armies that I was thinking of.

It was my metaphoric heart, wounded and frightened, that screamed this line every time I tried to push myself past the hurt. No need to go into the cause – suffice to say, it was not a pleasant experience. It left me jumpy, terrified of my own shadow, distrustful of even my nearest and dearest.

Still, I wanted to be past that pain, beyond it, free of it. I purged the bulk of it into one novel – while a great step forward, it was only the first step in a long journey. I wanted to skip the journey and speed up time so that I could just be me and whole again. Of course, it takes time for such wounds to heal properly. In January of 2013, I wanted to be healed, right then.

I had begun revising and editing my third novel that same month- although a mystery, it was, at its core, also a story of that self-same metaphoric heart. I began with re-writing the ending, which at the time, was a Debbie Downer. I mean, it was sad and angry and hurt. It worked, it was a great ending, but it just didn’t work for the characters. So I re-wrote it with a much more upbeat and optimistic tone.

And this is where the heart imagery really began to show itself.

I kept finding places in Novel #3 to insert a new scene or flesh out an old one, or replace one altogether. I called the act cracking open the story. The image that came to mind was of the cracking open of the chest, as if for open heart surgery. Gruesome image, yes, but how else do you begin to repair an injured or broken heart? Looking back on it, that’s exactly what I was doing – prepping to repair and heal my heart.

At around the same time, I had also begun taking care of some horses, where I met an equine I came to call Best Bud Mare. Horses have, on more than one occasion, saved my soul. I would even go so far as to say that they have saved my life. Not in a dramatic fashion, the way Trigger or Silver or even The Black Stallion would, but in quiet and calming ways. They allowed me to just be, without demanding anything of me, which is what I so desperately needed. One even offered a shoulder for me to cry on when I was feeling overwhelmed with hurt and grief. I had never felt so loved than in that moment.

When I met Best Bud Mare and her equine companions, I was starting to come out of that space. I wasn’t ready to deal with people except in the most minimal of ways. I rarely left my house, except to see the horses. I remember I was wearing a crystal charm in the shape of a heart. One day, over the summer, the charm disappeared. I had literally lost my heart. I have no idea where or when. I noticed only that it had fallen off my necklace.

Converging on my third novel and my care-taking of horses, another passion, theater beckoned in the form of a question: “When are you going back to acting?”

To which I flippantly replied, “When I’m ready to put my heart back on my sleeve.”

And, after a couple of years and three plays, I am returning to the stage by deliberate choice and am currently in a local production of an Agatha Christie play. I also have my eye on another production, Shakespeare’s The Tempest as the powerful and humble sorcerer Prospero.

My heart is singing, my blood is racing and I have goosebumps every time I interact with my fellow actors on the stage as we rehearse.

I have followed my heart.

Follow yours and see where it leads.

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