A Heart That Shines


We are creating a nice little tradition in this February edition of Simply Westlake. Two years ago I wrote about “High, Low, Aha,” an evening family ritual that I love. Then last year I wrote about something else I love – community. Now this year, for the third year running, I am using the February edition of Simply Westlake to share yet another thing I love – the Head Heart Angel from Key Largo, Florida.

Her story has also been brewing for a little over a year. My family and I visited Key Largo between Christmas and New Year’s last year, and during one of my daily walks I noticed a wood, red heart lined with Christmas lights attached to a tree outside of a church. It struck me as special enough that on my way home I stopped to take a photograph.

The next day I doubled checked to make sure there was not a sign hanging to help explain why this lone red heart was stuck to a tree. There was none, so I chalked it up to a sweet holiday decoration and returned to Texas.

Then we returned in March for spring break and I noticed that the red holiday decoration was still attached to the tree. And that, in addition to what used to be a lone red heart, there were now other red hearts attached to fences, storefronts and telephone poles along Highway 1.

Sure that this was more than a coincidence, I asked storefront owners about the red hearts hanging outside their stores. No one seemed to know their origin, or if they did, they weren’t willing to share. I even Googled “red hearts in Key Largo” and still came up with nothing.

Eventually I returned to Texas and forgot about the red hearts… until returning to Key Largo for the third time in June. By then the number of lighted red hearts had multiplied yet again and now seemed to be everywhere I looked. Intent on finding the epicenter of this heart movement, I slid into reporter mode searching local newspapers and interviewing local officials. I wanted to find the person responsible for stirring the hearts and minds of others who, like me, were growing increasingly curious about the mystery of these multiplying hearts.

For I knew that behind the red, wood, lighted hearts was the heart of someone who shined. And I was right, because when Marietta and I finally met at a quiet little coffee shop, she modestly told of how she handmade each heart and hung them in the middle of the night. She intentionally remained anonymous and never explained the meaning of the hearts, because Marietta said, “That is the way love should be given – freely and without expectation.”

Then freely and without expectation Marietta sent me off with a seedling – a way to begin spreading love in the great state of Texas. You can see mine from the twelfth hole of Vaquero’s golf course.

Look out, though, because the next one might just show up in the middle of the night in your yard.

Claudia Beeny

Founder and Executive Director

Posted on 2/1/16 1:13 pm by Claudia Beeny in: Community

4 thoughts on “A Heart That Shines”

  1. Sybell Dick says:

    I was intrigued and did research and couldn’t find much…. how can I acquire a red heart to take home to Jupiter Florida to spread the love of Marietta’s work

    1. Katie Kolkmeier says:

      Sybell, email us at [email protected] and we’d be happy to get you in contact with Marietta! Thanks!

  2. Victoria Conley says:

    I lived on a boat behind The Murray Nelson Center in Key Largo.Florida with my boyfriend I had one of those red hearts which meant the world to me. You see my boyfriend died on a jet ski out there! The step brother came and took my home when he died and along with that boat they also took the heart. I was crushed and have never gotten over losing them.😢😢😢

  3. Amy JoAn says:

    It’s amazing I am finding the meaning behind these hearts from a traveler. I’ve lived here in the keys for over a decade and never knew of their meanings. I recently opened a new shop which has one of these hearts attached to a tree near my entranceway. I thought of taking it down since the lights no longer work when someone mentioned they believed it had meaning other then valentines day festivity. I decided to wait until I had a chance to research its meaning. Finally having the opportunity of coming across your article tonight, I’ve decided to leave it in its place as well as repairing the lights. Also, since I specialize in murals and restorations, I will happily add her quote to the center of the heart with her name so her beautiful message continues to spread in 2019. Thank you kindly, Amy JoAn, owner of Amy’s Creations located at the Rain Barrel mm 86.7 Islamorada Fl

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