“You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say.”

― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

The night brings dreams of loss and heartbreak. Tossing and turning, it is good to get up from the sad dreams. I awaken to another rainy morning. The dog sleeps in as usual. It seems that rainy days are the loneliest days.


My heart has grown exponentially in the past fifteen years. From the love I had for friends and family in Sylva, great healing occurred from injuries of the past. Today, I missed them all. I missed my life, my wife, my friends, stores, roads. Grief distorts our vision, doesn’t it? As I sat to drink my coffee and begin morning devotion, I just wanted the hurt to stop. We are encouraged to


be present to hurt and loss, but it is darn hard isn’t it? Especially in a world where we can easily anesthetize or avoid pain by becoming busy.


The one thing I have learned in my life is that if we avoid the pain and grief, it doesn’t go away, it just gets bigger…or more annoying. Really don’t want that to happen either. In other words, it’s better to bite the bullet and endure. Better to slog through the grief than sit down in it and drown. Even though we might be tired, we must find a way to move through grief because there is a new place waiting.


When I saw the quote from The Alchemist (one of my favorite books), I knew that my heart is trying to tell me something today. I’ve spent all morning listening and trying to discern what it is besides “I hurt”. Of course, part of it could be being brave enough to admit that hurt to another. We want to put on a stoic face and act like we are tough and nothing bothers us. Yet, in my life, I have been one to be more oversensitive than most. That causes a host of other challenges.

Morning Sky by JRobin Whitley ©2015

As I wrote to a friend this morning, I wondered if that is part of the dilemma of being an artist. In order to be an artist, we must be sensitized to the world around us. In order to write, sing, or paint something that moves another, we must feel the depths of life; whether it be joy or sorrow.


I’m watching a wonderful Netflix series about a singer from Cuba, Celia. It is a Spanish series, so one must use the subtitles unless very fluent in Spanish. I am learning Spanish, so I wanted to practice listening to native speakers in order to train my ear. This series speaks to the musician and artist in me in a language known as creative passion.


Tomorrow I turn 57. How I got this old this fast is hard to believe. I know that 57 is not technically “old” (unless a person is under 20). However, it means I’m further down the path of the second half of my life. The part where we walk to the end of life on this earth. I’m okay with that believe it or not. There are many joys I have at this age that I could never have imagined. I’m learning to be at peace with myself.


The Shepherd’s String Band from Sylva.

One of the things that hasn’t changed however is my heart and my passion to create. I mention the series, Celia, because when I watch it, my heart is young again. My heart remembers the dreams of music and singing my own heart out. The actress who plays the young Celia perfectly captures the desire and passion of a young singer wanting to merely sing.

Though my body is 57, my heart still wants to sing. Part of me wants to be brave enough to enter some competition…but I know that is only my youthful heart identifying with the actress in the movie. I’m done with competing with others. I only want to be better at being creative.


As I move a year closer to 60, what does my heart have to say? Truthfully, I’m not lonely here. I like the solitude. Solitude is giving me the space to write stories, poetry, letters, songs. There is space to experiment with paint. I am dancing in Zumba class as much as I can. Here in this place on top of a mountain, I am free to create. That freedom to create is healing the loss of my marriage, my hometown, and my Sylvan family. Does it mean they are forgotten or replaced? Never. Only that my life is better for having lived there. My heart is bigger because I was loved by those people in that time and place.


Now, I am here. My heart wants to grow as big here in Beech Mountain as it can. I may be turning 57 tomorrow, but I still want to sing, dance, pray, teach, and draw my passion for life. All of my years I’ve heard the question, “What is your passion? Music?” People assumed that because I was a musician that music was my passion. Yet, I knew that was not really my passion. Neither could I say that writing or painting was my passion. Finally, I realized (only while living in Sylva) that creativity is my passion. In the edge of the woods here, my heart speaks of another passion – life and nature.


Nature is life of course; life in all its wild and unpredictable manifestations. Live. I want to be good at living and loving all of creation. In order to do that and be that, it means that life will hurt. Loss happens. Whether it is a loss because it is merely time for an aged body to die or because of tragedy, the loss hurts. It is okay to hurt because it means we are alive. That doesn’t mean we have to stay in the midst of a hurtful place or situation. Only that hurt tells us something important about ourselves. Hurt shows us the places that matter to us.

As I listen to my heart this morning, here’s what I hear. People matter to me. Whether they are close friends or immigrants, I believe in the blessing that each person brings to the world. I may be aging, but dreams still matter to me too. Yes, for me, dreams of the night are symbolic and give messages. But I am not too old to dream of being creative for the rest of my life. Just because I am in a different place doesn’t mean that I have lost friendships, only the place and time. My ways of communicating and visiting with friends change, but the true friendships only grow deeper. My heart loves them more and dreams of new ways to live this glorious life. And even with all the pain and gore, life is still glorious ain’t it? I rejoice for a heart that dreams!




17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
    and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams.

Acts 2:17 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)




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