A heart of stone

Posted on February 14, 2010


I started out to make a Valentine, using this image from the archives.  I collect heart-shaped stones and other odd bits of rock: Petoskeys, other fossils, mimetoliths of all kinds.  They’re more interesting to look at underwater.  Thus the jar, where new acquisitions spend a little time being admired.  See the rosy heart? 

Making a post is like making a quilt.  I gather up bits and pieces and try to put them together in a pleasing design.  As I pondered my rosy heart of stone, a fragment of song popped into my head and refused to go away.  Now I had two problems: writing a Valentine post and getting rid of the earworm.  The ever-helpful Google led me to  many heart-of-stone songs, none of them the one with the annoying refrain. 

In my experience the best way to exorcise minor obsessions is to turn around and pursue them.  I began to warble out loud the only phrase from the wretched song that I could remember.  My voice does not lend itself to loud warbling.  The dogs fled, the cat complained.  I Googled on. 

And that led to a link to a documentary called Heart of Stone about, of all things, Weequahic High School in Newark New Jersey.  I know something about Weequahic, including how to pronounce it.  My mother-out-law was a student there in the school’s salad days.  I think she graduated in 1941 or so, and on the evidence, the place was doing a heckuva job back then.  I read the story with interest. 

Over time, like many urban schools, Weequahic fell on hard times.  The neighborhood, and the school, became gang-ridden nightmares.  Then in 2001 a principal named Ron Stone arrived.  He was as stubborn as an earworm and as persistent as Miss Sadie and the Cowboy in pursuit of mischief.  Things were looking up.  Education was being served.  Alumni from all over the country were pitching in to help.   (All of this sounds familiar to old Detroiters.  My dad went to Cass Tech in its salad days.)

In November, 2007, Ron Stone died of a heart attack.  His successors continued his Weequahic legacy.  I wish them well.  We cannot afford to let any of our children be swept away in despair and misery.  We cannot turn our backs on them.  We cannot afford hearts of stone.

This brings me to one last story, this one much closer to home.  CK, a retired attorney who has a condo in Elk Rapids and a passion for skiing used to take less affluent friends and their children on ski weekends.  He helped some of those children attain university educations.  One of them grew up to become a surgeon.  When CK had massive heart problems, it was that very surgeon who operated.  Afterward he said to CK, “I held your heart in my hand.”   They both looked down at the surgeon’s open hand, and imagined the living heart held there. 

This, of course, stamps me a Bleeding Heart Liberal in some circles.  I don’t mind.  Slapping a label on me has zero effect on who I am or how I behave.  Besides, do you remember Katherine’s bleeding hearts from last spring?  I think this is one of her loveliest photos, which is saying a lot.

Make of all this what you will.  Happy Valentine’s Day.