A prayer for the ardent hearted
Last updated 7/12/2022 at Noon
What he loved in horses was what he loved in men, the blood and the heat of the blood that ran them. All his reverence and all his fondness and all the leaning of his life were for the ardent hearted and they would always be so and never be otherwise.
— Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses
This is a prayer for the ardent hearted. For, like McCarthy’s cowboy hero, John Grady Cole, I hold reverence and fondness for those for whom the blood burns in their veins, whose passions drive them — and sometimes threaten to consume them.
Every athletic coach has seen a player who has “heart.” If they’re really lucky, they might coach an entire team that has heart. I don’t believe heart can be trained or taught. It’s innate. It’s always magnificent — and sometimes heartbreaking — to see someone who will never stop trying, who will try to make the play even if it kills them.
When it’s married to talent and discipline, heart can carry a person to the very pinnacle of the mountain. Witness the tennis great Rafael Nadal, winning his 14th French Open on a damaged foot that he can’t feel, and winning through a 2022 Wimbledon quarterfinal with a 7mm abdominal tear. The man has nothing to gain from punishing his 36-year-old body. His net worth is greater than the GDP of small nations. He has nothing to prove; he will go down in history as perhaps the greatest tennis player of all time. It is the heat of the blood that runs him that drives him to seek the top of that mountain just one more time.
See Cameron Hanes, a self-confessed “small-town loser” from Eugene who decided to become the best bow hunter he could possibly be, testing his mettle on rugged hunts in the Three Sisters and Mt. Jefferson wildernesses. His quest has led him to run ultra-marathons just to train for the hunt. His obsessive commitment to a heroic ideal has made him a living legend.
Ardent-heartedness need not always be so epic.
Last week, Sisters was full of people whose passion for the art and craft of quilting brought them here from all points of the compass, sometimes at great expense, to pursue what many might regard as a mere “hobby.” It is so much more than that. For the quilters The Nugget interviewed this year, the joy of creating with fabric is as compelling and consuming as any heroic quest. I have little affinity for the craft itself, but I love telling these quilters’ stories, because their passion and commitment resonates, and all the leanings of my life are for the ardent hearted.
You find the ardent hearted at the Sisters Farmers Market. The vendors there are not flogging plastic widgets from some soulless corporation. They are offering up homegrown foodstuffs and crafts created through an alchemy of heart and soul — and it is evident from the way they interact with Sisters market-goers that they believe deeply in the ability of their creation to make our community and our individual lives better.
The ardent hearted are usually mavericks — outlaws, even — who naturally resist being defined by others, being pushed into cultural or ideological boxes of someone else’s device. Their work is not calculated for mere gain or to further some agenda; it is simply what is within them, what they must manifest to feel whole and fulfilled.
You won’t find the footprints of the ardent hearted on the path of least resistance. The road of the ardent hearted is often steep and rocky, with dangerous passages where a catastrophic fall is never far from possibility. For some, that risk is part of the call. This is not the path they chose; the path chose them.
This is a prayer for the ardent hearted: that those who brave the dangers of the trail find their way through the shadow side to be true to the upward path; that they continue to give us the gift of their passion and achievement. May it always be so and never be otherwise.