Expressions of the heart

by Mr. Sheehy

Red Pillar Box

I found sometime–I am not sure when, exactly–that when writing a letter I could express myself with sincerity and openness and in unique ways. Something about the epistle clarified my thinking and directed my words to their target. Perhaps this happens because a letter is directed to only one person, or perhaps it happens because the occasion of a letter dissolves in the greater purpose of the message any anxiety I carry about writing perfectly. Whatever the case, it is no coincidence that letters played a key role in the story of my wife and I getting together, and that I continue to discover my best writing when crafting a letter. It is in the letter that I most accurately express what is in my heart.

the heart in my feet

I thought of that mode of my expression today during a student’s speech. In introducing herself to the class, this young lady attempted to explain to use why she loves dance so much. She told us, “When I dance, I can express myself in ways I can’t with just words.”


I don’t know if she has heard that somewhere or if it just came out perfectly, but I wrote it down, not only for its beauty but because it describes my children. In particular, it describes my son, who talks a little but not so much that he can explain the intricacies of his heart (Well, at two maybe this is as intricate as his heart can be: “Garbage. Truck. Dump!”). This little boy wakes up before his sisters and about the same time as me and my wife, which means he gets to hang out in our room while we get ready for the day. One of his favorite ways to occupy himself is by tinkering with my clock radio: turning it off and on, adjusting the volume, changing the station (the last of these tasks are done with knobs, dramatically increasing the pleasure for a two year old. On one occasion he cranked the volume up so high it frightened him, and he ran out of the room crying). When he comes across a song that strikes him he leaves off playing with the radio and begins to spin and dance around the room. Two mornings this week an old country tune has struck his sensibilities, and he has allowed the music to take him where it will. On Wednesday it took his face to the floor and I ended up carrying him around, consoling him, with my shirt half-buttoned, hoping he could be mitigated before I became late for work.

Alas, this is the risk of dance in the Sheehy house. I have noticed that when he runs around the house he catches himself when he falls and ends up laughing about his collapse; when he dances, he rarely catches himself and his routines dissolve into tears. Poetically, I’d like to say the difference arises from the manner of engagement. When dancing, he sometimes enters the expression so fully that he isn’t prepared or braced for a fall, whereas with running he knows he could trip at any moment. The concentrated look on his face while he dances suggests such a possibility.

Yet the cold analyst in me is aware of a more likely explanation: he probably doesn’t understand the effects of dizziness, and while dancing he tends to collapse sideways, making it difficult to sneak his hands out in front of himself. Now that may technically explain the falls, but the face I see is unmistakable: he’s learning from his big sisters, the dancers, and from somewhere deeper inside, him that he can express his heart through dance.

Thanks for reading.


Photos: “Red Pillar Box“; “the heart in my feet“; “spinning