Nature sends the sweetest Valentines. She gives us heart-shaped gifts in the form of clouds, seashells, and adorable puppy spots. A universal symbol of love, hearts found in nature are positively sigh-inducing.
My son was very young when he proudly gave me a rock shaped like a heart. I imagine his face beaming at its discovery while playing outside, his tiny hand quickly stuffing it in his pocket for safe-keeping. He found supplies to decorate it, outlining the rock’s shape with red poster paint and carefully painting, in blue, the word love.
It’s a gift I’ve never forgotten, and so began my beloved collection of heart rocks. For more than twenty years, nature has freely offered them. Family and friends find them on their travels and present them to me knowing I will cherish them more than any souvenir.
When my husband and I go hiking, we frequently stop to pick up a rock that catches our eye, gleaming at the bottom of a creek bed or hiding in forested nooks and rocky crannies. We carefully examine it and hold it out for the other to approve. Only those with a certain je ne sais quoi make the cut. The others are given a parting squeeze and tossed back with a wish.
My heart rock collection fills a large tray in our bedroom. There are more than a hundred, some the size of my palm, others as small as a dime. Their colors are a soothing palette of nature. They came from beaches and deserts, rivers and mountains, playgrounds and parking lots. I wonder the story of each one. How old is it? Where has it been? How did nature manage to tumble and turn it until it was shaped like love?
Photographers have captured amazing images of hearts in nature from all over the world ~ a heart-shaped beach in Brazil, a heart-shaped boulder in Joshua Tree National Park, a heart-shaped island in Croatia, even a heart-shaped crater on the surface of Mars.
While such phenomenon would be a thrill to see, I’m just as happy to spy a flock of birds flying in a heart pattern or a perfect heart-shaped leaf trailing from a houseplant.
Those who open their eyes in appreciation of nature are freely bestowed her gifts. William Wordsworth wrote this lovely sentiment about her undying affection, “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.” §
Note: A version of this story was published on my blog and in my local newspaper last February. Happy Valentine’s Day!