Today, if you may have forgotten, is St. Valentine’s Day, and if you have forgotten, well, you know what to do, and we hope it’s not too late to find the rose, cook dinner, for once, or better yet, open that bottle of Cognac, find the right card, expressing exactly the right sentiment — although “I love you” will do in a pinch and always.
Now — even if it’s 10:49 p.m., and besides, it’s only 7:49 in San Francisco — there is still time to say it with a smile, seal it with a kiss and let the memories flash by and tell you how this very moment stopped time, some time ago, in fact, “the very first time I ever saw your face.” Say it or sing it: now.
And if you’re thinking about someone of recent vantage and vintage and you can’t stop think about her/him, don’t, unless time has just run out, go to Twitter, don’t go to email, to Instagram, don’t go there. Run as fast as you can, use Uber if you must and knock on his/her door, flowers in hand, hope in your pocket and say: “Here I am, please don’t slam the door in my face.”
Love runs on words, sweet words, outrageous words, words like jet fuel, words as imaginary happenings, flying fast and furious and helpless with imaginary wings. Poets, writers, painters, songwriters, dancers occupying space and air, image-makers and imaginers insist that love and this day is their empire, the place where they come from. They insist they own it, but we borrow from them as if at some outdoor and inside-the-heart market and make them our own, through our own experience.
Besides, there are all kinds of words and images, but words, especially, about all kinds of love. Family love, familial love, a mother’s love, exceptional withal for all, the more bewildering and stoic love of fathers and the attachments boundless among brothers and sisters, sisters and sisters and twins and general love among friends, and, yes, pets unconditionally and the admiration of heroes and kings.
All that love acquired by most, if not those bereft and longing, exists on our horizons before we have imagined our first kiss, let alone achieved it, have been stirred as if we had never heard of romantic love or its existence and affect and effect. Someone’s walk, a five-year-old’s declaration of interest in you and only you, a dance, a kind of shyness that one day was off-putting, the next day poetry itself.
We enter the realm of love at almost any age, it doesn’t require instant consummation, or understanding for that matter. It just is, and those who understand the special moment are luckier for life.
I saw her standing there, I will always love you, love is a many splendored thing, love me tender (love me true). Love is like a red, red rose. I’m in love, I’m in love, I’m in love, I’m in love with a wonderful guy — sings Nellie Forbush in “South Pacific,” but so do so many other guys and girls in so many songs. Listen to the music, the poets, the playwrights.
Chaucer’s couple said it best or maybe just first (for Richard II and the queen of Bohemia): “For this was on seynt Volantynys day. Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.”
Juliet of Romeo and Juliet (now there was a pair) says it best and right away: “My bounty is as boundless as the sea,/My love as deep; the more I give to thee,/The more I have, for both are infinite.”
And Romeo at the balcony: “It is east and Juliet is the Sun.”
And so on and so much. Think of the lovers, requited and unrequited, but not unquoted, in Shakespeare, the sad Ophelia, the grand Cleopatra, the hidden Rosalind, love in all of its outcomes.
Love is all manner of itself. It’s where we separate the men from the boys, the women from the girls and women and men from each other to bring them together in a more lasting way. Love is what reminds men of just how different women are from themselves, and better themselves because of it.
Those first sightings — starry-eyed, dizzy, enchantments, really, for stirred like potions in a happy but confusing cauldron — are the same for lovers, male and female, any first-timers. But there is this: men tend to be bowled over by a wrapped-in-beauty vision of the beloved, women tend to be the visionary, see not just touch and feel and beauty and, oh yes, that physical contact of entry and embrace, but like sages see the future, them together still, children abounding and homes and hearth and shared ambitions and: love. Love down the years, striving to burst forth from its beginning, say the word always.
It’s St. Valentine’s Day. It is after all the heart and the word and the song.
It is the time of the red, red rose of Burns, sung by Eva Cassidy, of E. E. Cummings:
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
Cummings, as he often was in lyrical matters such as the heart, was on point for me. In my life, lately and earlier, I have learned this — as I have many things — from my love and my wife Carole in recent times: that there’s always something. Faced with fearsome things, she was always there for and with me, and I knew then, afraid or not, she would always be there, and I would not be alone. A gift of love, always.