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[not following the prompt]

The ocean had retracted leaving pools and exposed rock. The secret of the rock is that it is alive, covered in closed-shelled mussels, anemones, starfish, and urchins.

When I close my eyes, I see inside a vast field that shimmers like the ocean where the sun glittered on the surface. Walking over the hills down to the water, it spread out before us shining. There in this field, everything is tender and quivering. This is the field of my heart. So often closed as tightly as a mussel, as prickly as an urchin. I want to live as open as an anemone, that slowly closes when tapped with a finger, but that rests open, its mouth open to the world to receive what floats by.

Baby, I say reaching forward my hand into this space, baby, and I know it is myself I am comforting as the animal of my body is soothed. The tickle of sorrow sends fluttering waves through it. Happiness is the bounce of a trampoline on the taut skin of the heart.

Out on the farther rocks where the ocean meets the tidal pools, the waves are slapping and rushing into the shallow waters and there are women with large black nets collected urchin. Stepping on the mussels next to the waves, they carry knives in hand. Finding the purple spiked sphere, they pop it off of the rock with the tip of the knife and place it in the bag.

I am curious and ask them what they are doing and they show me the urchin, its dazzling shade of purple, and its shameless spikes. Crack it open and eat it, they say. We open it with the knife and inside there is only softness. The shell is only a quarter-inch thick and the rest of the creature is soft and helpless. They show us how to scoop up its gonads and eat it in a single spoonful, the delicacy of uni.

The human heart can grow a shell, purple and spiky, but remains soft inside, just under the surface. For the softness can only take so much. When the heart meets with the unanswerable, the soft skin of its radiant responsive surface takes it in. What is a heart to do? The heart tries to hold the uncomprehensible waves of sorrow and rage. The heart tries to hold what can be known only in obliteration. it wriggles and squirms. It shivers and snaps. The skin tears and the water rushes through, and the taut skin of its feeling drum collapses. We turn away when the feeling threatens our obliteration. The heart too has a need, the heart too has a limit. We depend on human kindness as the sea, too, depends on us.

The coral reefs are dying, the edges are bleached, the habitat they create is extinguished. The oceans of trash piles. the birds choked by stomachs of plastic. The seafloors scraped into monochromatic uniformity.

Stepping out into the tidal pools of the body, to find the morsel of soft heart skin hidden in the folds of shell. The pieces are there, toward the waves, small spiky glimmers of radiant heart flesh that feels with the world. It can be coaxed back to life, slowly at its own pace. I want nothing more than to wade out at low tide and scoop with gentle hands the scraps of heart flesh buried there and know that there is nothing more to do with life than to let the heart be.

Not to use it, or touch it, or enjoy it, or consume it, but to let the tender heart flesh express itself as tenderly and openly as the anemone. Just there, on the rocks, open to the waves that slam and caress it. It takes them in and is transformed. It is here that life becomes more than a dream. That the coral reefs may never recover. That the heart poisoned too takes no less than all the time it needs to heal. That we must take care of every action to protect the human heart that is no less vulnerable than the sea and it’s billions of species. And with its loss, we lose the oceans. That we have only this one heart to save.

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