(Author practices heart shapes for a Valentine’s Day and is struck by the white heart with it’s hole in the center… the Navajo say that it is in these open spaces that the god comes through)
(The Valentine’s Day card and beautiful grained heart shaped wooden heart that Iren, extraordinary artist that she is somehow cut and fashioned into a heart…it is trimmed with bones – just right. Another treasure)
In this land of scarlet sunrises the desert skies are muted on this Valentine’s Day morning. A few shark gray clouds slide by as I watched for the rising sun star to peak through a “hole” in the center of bare trees that lace the horizon. This space seems to hold the sun like a lover on most days. Today its light is diffused.
In the Russian Olive a cloud of Redwings sing love songs, celebrating their love for each other and the coming of spring. They rejoice daily, oblivious to the fact that in this soul destroying culture we celebrate love with a capital “L” with red hearts and flowers for only one day a year. The skeptic looks scornful when I remark mildly to myself that even one day is better than none. But is it?
This year I sneeked over to my neighbors’ studio early this morning to leave a homemade card (yes, it had red hearts) that I hope will express my gratitude for the deep friendship and affection I feel for these two people every single day of my life. The point here is to remind myself that there are authentic reasons to participate in Valentines Day.
For all practical purposes I had given up what I consider to be a day devoted to Collective Sentimentality but this year was an exception. I have found friends in this place who see the Earth with eyes that mirror my own visions in Nature, and this has been a gift beyond all imagining and well worth a red heart celebration.
I cannot afford to be sentimental about human love that even at its best is always conditional (I include myself in this ocean of humanity).
As a child having suffered the ravages of constant criticism, rejection, invisibility, and human cruelty, I turned to Nature to find what I needed. And S/he did not disappoint me.
I found love in my grandmother’s flower gardens swarming with bees and the brilliance of impossible hues, scents that perfumed the sweet Earth leaving my nose in a state of ecstasy. Maybe that’s why my first word was “fower.” The Goddess of Flowers came to me as First Mother, rising out of the sea like a Botticelli Venus.
S/he came on the wings of every white moon and under the hooves of the red deer that grazed under my grandmother’s golden apple tree.
I also found love in the trees that I leaned against, climbed, hugged, even slept in. They whispered love songs as I slept against rough bark.
In retrospect though, it was my relationship with dogs that was the bedrock of my learning about Love. the depth of their capacity for this emotion astonished me. They loved me because I was, when humans turned away. They loved me when I was sad and angry, when joy overflowed, when melancholy struck. They loved me! I couldn’t get beyond the wonder I found in their ability to continue to see me even as I slowly became invisible to myself.
Initially, dogs were probably my most important teachers… As I write these words I look at the two lying here on the bed with me as I write. One, with her bulging coal black eyes peering into my own as she stretches out lazily, four paws in the air, the other dreaming as her tail wags, her precious little body rising and falling with each breath. “My two little girls” I call them as I celebrate each day of our lives together including today!
Dogs throughout my life offered their Love as safety and comfort, freedom from anxiety qualities that I needed to help me survive. But most of all my dogs embodied TRUST, the one quality I must experience to some degree (or the illusion of it) in order to feel affection for any human.
Dogs are predictable – not mercurial – even on bad days. Unlike people, they always mean what they say. Their actions are predicated on what they feel. Not what they think. No room for chess games where people are used as pawns. Even when dogs act out their trickster sides it is never with the intention to harm.
Dogs also opened the door to my becoming a naturalist because it seemed to me as a child that all animals embodied the qualities of “dog” so I wanted to know more about every non-human species that lived on the planet! This obsession remains with me today.
Communication between myself and other species developed quite naturally through my ongoing experiences with birds, skunks, groundhogs, otters, beavers, to name a few (although my conditioning prevented me from believing what I knew to be true for years). Some call this form of communication without words telepathy, I call it an aspect of Love.
When Lily b. a collared dove came into my life as a free flying housebird 27 years ago he read my mind almost from the beginning, cementing my belief in telepathy forever. Today, for example, he bellowed out his song when I wrote about the necessity of trust re-affirming the truth that trust is more essential than any other quality I need to experience the emotion I call love.
Eventually my fascination with animals brought black bears to my door and I have spent the last twenty years of my life as their student. I have learned more and more about communication (verbal, behavioral, and telepathic) grounding my present perspective in “black bear” reality.
There is one wild bear, a namesake, that I reach out to today thanking him for his unconditional love and teaching. That bear, still a sub adult, has survived last fall’s slaughter, I know now, and still dreams beneath a tangle of tree roots somewhere in what is left of a tortured forest above my cabin on a mountain in Maine. I wear a black bear fetish, carved by Zuni artist Stuart Quandelacy with its red Heartline touching the skin around my heart, a concrete reminder of our deep connection through space/time through relationship and our dreaming. If this bear is to survive he must move north soon after emerging from his den this spring, and so I send these words of encouragement his way each and every day.
In my personal life, aside from friends and my love of the Earth and her creatures, and the gift of my own creativity, I experience this day as a time of grieving for all that has been lost. People I loved who died, lost children… and most recently, TRUST in a relationship that was broken, probably irrevocably.
My grief is small but part of the great swell of humanity. Poignancy on this (too often) sentimental collective day of love seems more than appropriate. It feels like reality.
I had no sooner finished this reflection when I opened the door to find a Valentine’s Day card from my beloved neighbor. She always knows…
Thank you Iren for being.