Read of the Week: A valley cut in the shape of his heart

After a turbulent year, Kiran Sidhu moved from London to rural Wales. Inspired by a famer neighbor named Wilf, she learns to tune into her surroundings. She writes about her resulting change of heart in an essay in The Guardian.

“His knowledge of the valley astounded me and I was envious of how committed he was to this one piece of land; as if it was the be all and end all of him,” Sidhu writes in ‘How my farmer friend Wilf gave me a new perspective.’ “I wondered how it must feel to be him – so anchored in life – when I felt so rudderless. He told me the valley was cut in the shape of his heart. His words stayed with me as I carried on with my walk. I thought of the amorphous shape of my own heart and wondered what form it would need to take for it to stop hurting.”

The valley was cut in the shape of his heart — I love this idea. Is the valley really the shape of a four-chambered heart? Or does Wilf have something more metaphorical in mind?

Knowing the valley’s rhythms, Wilf anticipates the day the cuckoo will arrive in the valley on a migration from Africa; its arrival starts to re-form Sidhu’s heart.

“Hearing the cuckoo marked the first day that I stopped listening to podcasts that usually accompanied me when I was out walking,” she writes. “They started to feel intrusive; why would I listen to someone talking, when I could be listening to the beat of my own heart? Or the rustle of leaves? Or the birds? The podcasts became emblematic of a world that never shuts-up – yet had very little to say.”

Recently, I find myself facing the same choice: turn on the device, or listen to my own heart? Or the nearby stream? Or my baby breathing? I’m not one for podcasts, but I am rather addicted to NPR news and audio books. Every calm minute, I find myself reaching for my phone.

I’m a brand new parent, focusing most of my attention and energy these days on two-week-old Paul. This essay appeals to me in this season because my life currently has a small circumference. Our house, our deck (+ potted garden), the 1.5 mile path around Beebe Lake. But so much still fits into these circles. In fact, I find myself turning off the radio news, books on Audible, and social media to focus on the birds, the sound of the wind, the flow of my own thoughts, and the sights, sounds, smells and sensations of the smallest and largest circumference: my son.

As a new parent sequestered in my house, I have moments when I’m afraid I’m losing touch with the world. Sidhu’s essay helps me to remember that by tuning in to my immediate surroundings, however small, I actually gain — an intimate knowledge of a place that’s now cut in the shape of my heart.