Thoughts On Love
Tomorrow is St. Valentine’s Day
And early in the morning
I’m a girl below your window
Waiting to be your Valentine.
Then he got up and put on his clothes
And opened the door to his room.
He let in the girl, and when she left
She wasn’t a virgin anymore.
William Shakespeare (Hamlet, circa 1600)
What is love? On this day, perhaps the most commercial of days to celebrate love I’ve been thinking a lot about this very subject.
Is it that first spark, that first rush of a first kiss? Or is it the long haul, that deep and comforting blanket of love that comes from knowing someone through and through? Is it the bond you feel for your children, or is it the familial love of siblings and parents? Perhaps it’s not even a person, but a pet, a paw-companion that follows you trustingly and lovingly through life. Or is it a place in nature that bathes your heart in a warmth like no other? Then again, maybe it’s not even in the living; perhaps it’s only in loss that we feel true love most intensely?
Ah yes, I have deep thoughts today.
I believe all of these are love, and they all ebb and flow with the tests of time. This Pandemic has been a big one. It’s brought people together, but it’s also ripped some apart. I know several friends who’ve sadly passed away this past year after long illnesses. I know others who’ve “found each other” during these crazy times, and still others who’ve realized they were not meant to be. Tests of love make everything clearer.
In many ways you could say Paul and I are incredibly lucky. We lived for 9 years fulltime in an RV, so we already knew we could manage together 24/7 in a single space. But we also traveled during that time, so this “staying still” business has been a new test for us too. It’s not been easy, especially for me, but I don’t regret any of it. We’ve found new love during this time, family and community, and in some ways we’ve found (or are finding) ourselves. It’s been over 25 years and I still couldn’t imagine anyone else I’d rather go through these trials with. He is my Valentine, now and forever.
But I digress….let’s get back to the original question, shall we?
What IS all this love stuff? And what does it mean? Today I share a few ponderings on exactly that….
Is It The Beef?
Our local grocery store had their Valentine’s display out this week.
For a country that is known for Love, it was probably the smallest display I’ve ever seen, and it gave me a good chuckle too. Instead of flowers, cards, and the usual trinkets there was beef in heart-form (very elegant), fois gras (because who wouldn’t want to eat fattened liver for their day of love?), a heart-shaped display of Ferrero Rocher chocolates (OK, I dig it) and a single red camisole for that oh-la-la effect (to be worn while serving the beef I assume?). Oh, and champagne of course (what else?).
Just for fun I asked one of our neighbors if that’s actually what they do for Valentines in France. I was a smidgen disappointed when they replied to the negative. “Non, normalement on offre des fleurs et peut-être on sort pour dîner” (no, normally we give flowers and maybe go out for a dinner).
What, no heart-shaped piece of beef in a sexy red camisole???
As it turns out Valentines celebrations are relatively low-key in THE country of love. A bit surprising at first glance, but perhaps not so much when you think about it? When you live in a place where poems & songs of amour surround you everyday, where painters and romantics and lovers have waxed poetic through the ages, you could say that Valentines Day is really kinda superfluous. Who needs a single day to declare your love when you have centuries of love-history behind you?
The French have a point…
Is It The History?
The origin of Valentine’s Day is a wonderful mystery.
Some say it all dates back to the Roman festival of Lupercalia, traditionally held in mid-February. Of course in those days it was a raunchy affair with lots of gratuitous nakedness, drunkenness, sacrifices of a goat and dog, and slapping of women with their bloody hides (for fertility). A veritable cornucopia of old-school heathenry. Not surprisingly the whole thing was banned at the end of the 5th century by Pope Gelasius I to be replaced, so they say, by a Christian celebration for a Saint.
Which brings us to Saint Valentine himself.
The Catholic Church recognizes at least a dozen different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, but the one we associate most strongly with Valentines Day dates back to around AD 270. He was either a priest of Rome or a Bishop of Terni who ministered to persecuted Christians and may also have performed secret weddings (both banned at the time). Some accounts claim he healed the sight of a judge’s daughter, and wrote to that same daughter from prison just before his death, signing the letter “from your Valentine” (an unlikely, but fun fiction?). Whatever his exact transgressions, he was beheaded by Emperor Claudius II, and canonized by the Church a while later.
Fast forward a thousand years or so, and although St. Valentine was fixed in history he was still not directly associated with the idea of love. The romantic side of his day came much later in the middle ages, and is largely attributed to English poet Geoffrey Chaucer who caught widespread acclaim for his ~1382 poem “Parliament of Foules,”.
“For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.”
It was the first known written mention of Valentines Day in a romantic gesture, and spurned the start of a trend that eventually led to hand-made paper cards, love tokens and everything we have today.
The rest as they say, is truly history…..
Is It The Thought?
I’ve always been a romantic fool.
I’m the kind that cries during Rom Coms, goes “awwww” whenever I see two old people hand-in-hand, and feel my heart fluttering whenever I meet a dog or cat (there is nothing purer or more instantaneous than paw-love, you know?). Then again I also manage to fall in love in nature multiple times a year, gushing poetic about trees, or coastline or even the wind depending on my mood and which way it blows. I see love everywhere, and it always impacts me deeply.
My own place in all this has always felt rather unimportant.
I’m an observer, a recorder of the beauty that is around us rather than a part of it myself. It’s the very reason I blog and photograph, but rarely shoot any selfies. it’s also one of the (many) reasons I got out of corporate life so many years ago. I always felt responsible for the people first, then the business and far behind all that myself. The stress of that weight darn near killed me.
But such is the burden and balance of love, is it not?
If we truly love, we often care more for the other than ourselves, or perhaps even despite ourselves, and that’s the clincher. I can’t help but be moved by all that is around me, and that is my love to bear, my pain and my joy. It’s the essence of the romantic fool that I am, and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
In The End It’s Just Love…..
Ah yes, love can be a complicated and difficult thing, but In the end I believe there’s only one result that matters and that is that we do love, despite it all.
It’s precisely because love is so rare and precious, that it’s so sweet. It’s precisely because it demands so much of us that the rewards are so high. So many things in life can be accomplished simply if you have the strength of love supporting you. And so much can be experienced simply if you open yourself up to the love around you. I know this past year has tested us all, and likely tested your love in many ways. But hang strong my friends, it’s all worth it in the end.
So from my mushy heart to yours on this day, I wish you all a wonderful Valentines, filled with the wonder and beauty that is love, be it in human form, paw form or natural form. Much love to you all.
Are you a romantic like me? What do you usually do for Valentines? How do you feel and express love? You know I’m a love lover, so please DO share below!