the heart hunt

It was Thanksgiving 2012 and Travis, my mother-in-law and I were in the kitchen slicing mushrooms, mixing up green bean casserole and peeling potatoes when we came across this:

Heart potato

A heart potato.

My mother-in-law started telling us how my sister-in-law, Nikki, loves natural objects shaped as hearts, so we took a picture and sent it her way. After that, Nikki got me looking for hearts and whenever I come across them while walking down the street, driving in my car, or in photos people share, I always think of her. I even think of her when the heart is un-natural, such as in the shape of a cookie. I’ve come to love hearts, not just for my sister-in-law, but for myself. It’s a game I like to play.

A while ago, Nikki sent Travis and me a wooden plate where we could collect rock hearts we find on trips and trails. Her family loves to find and keep them, each with memories attached. I love this idea, and I try to find them every time we’re hiking. What I’ve found, however, is often times the hearts I see are much too big for my pockets, so I take pictures. I’m starting to see them a lot more often now, not only in rocks, but in cactuses, shadows and other unexpected places.

Since it’s valentine’s weekend, I want to share a few with you and their stories.

Way back in September 2013, Travis and I were on our way home from our wedding weekend in Utah. We’d spent a few days hiking around the orange arches in Moab, then drove back to Albuquerque. At some point, clouds began to gather and we ended up in a rainstorm. But before that happened, some of those clouds cast this shadow:

Heart shadow

Travis noticed it first, and said it looked like a heart with an arrow going through it. It’s the biggest heart I’ve captured these last few years, and it’s so fitting we saw it right after our wedding.

During our honeymoon in Portugal a couple months later, we loved walking down the cobblestone roads in Cascais. It was a beautiful city with beaches, ocean views and quaint little restaurants. On one of those walks, we came across some broken cobblestone, perfectly shaped as a heart.

Heart cobblestone

On that same trip, I tried desserts at every bakery I could, and wouldn’t you know that one my favorite purchases was a simple black-and-white heart cookie.

Heart cookie

Heart cookie

Now we’ll skip ahead to last summer when Travis was in Utah for a week for work. He was able to watch an air show with his mom and snapped a photo of the smoke one of the planes left behind while twisting and turning through the sky. I loved this so much.

Heart clouds

In July of last year, my parents came to visit and we took them on a day-trip drive through the Jemez Mountains and Los Alamos. We did a short hike to a waterfall, and a long walk around White Rock Canyon Rim where I told everyone to be on the lookout for heart rocks. Well, look who found one:

White Rock Canyon Rim rock

A little more than a month later during our first wedding anniversary weekend, Travis and I hiked La Luz, which is our favorite trail in Albuquerque. We were on the trail for 16 miles that day and it was hard, but fun, and we came across this:

La Luz Heart

A week or so after that, Travis and I made our way to Montana to see Glacier National Park. It was one of the most amazing and beautiful places I’ve seen, and during that trip, we came across a couple more lovely hearts. I couldn’t believe the one we saw in the water. It was absolutely perfect.

Glacier National Monument Heart

Glacier National Monument Heart

Then in November, we spent an early Thanksgiving with Travis’ parents in Arizona and during that weekend, we went to the Desert Botanic gardens where they have cactus after cactus after cactus. Lucky for us, my mother-in-law spotted this prickly gem:

Heart cactus

Most recently, I had a friend from Utah who was in Albuquerque for work and I took him to the Sandia Crest so he could see the view. We went on a short hike on the top of the mountain and found a couple more hearts in the middle of the trees and snow.

Crest Heart

Crest Heart

The last two hearts were especially meaningful to me because I try to see my dad everywhere. I had to wonder if he’d remembered that day last July when he and my mom went heart rock hunting for me. Maybe he left a sign for me last weekend in the snow that also kind of looks like Mickey Mouse. I have to believe my dad is looking out for me and that he’s somewhere his spirit can see us. If I don’t believe that, I have nothing.

Love is everywhere. I know that. Sometimes it’s small enough to fit in our pockets and sometimes it’s too big for us to handle. Usually it’s in places that aren’t tangible, like when it’s more of a feeling than anything else. Sometimes it’s a shadow or a rainbow or a song – all things we can never physically feel, but we can see or hear. Sometimes it’s in things we can touch, like our friends, our family and even food, rocks, cactuses and clouds. Even when it’s far away – like in a shooting star my mom saw the other day – it can still feel close because we can see it and feel it make its way inside us. Perhaps that’s the most magical thing about love. It has countless forms and it’s in infinite places. It’s common ground, and it brings us together.

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