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14 February 2006

the force that is born of love

chocolate love, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

When I walked into school this morning, I saw hundreds of red-foil-wrapped chocolate hearts strewn across the main hall floor. Every radio ad and television show beats with the pulse of romantic love (and the hope of instilling the sudden urge to buy diamonds/roses/expensive gifts in everyone within earshot). Hell, even Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is having a romantic marathon tonight.

Oh gad, it’s Valentine’s Day.

However, if you are expecting a rant about the horrors of Valentine’s Day and how bitter I feel that I don’t have someone taking me out for a candlelit dinner or giving me gifts — well, you’re going to have to read another site tonight.

It’s true that I’ve never been fond of this holiday, but not because I twist with impatience that no one else is in the room with me now. I don’t decry it, then go home and cry. Even when I’ve been in love, and had lavish bouquets of roses and boxes of chocolate truffles sent to my door on the 14th of February, I’m still not fond of this holiday.

As my friend Francoise said this morning, when I asked if she and her dear husband were doing anything for the night, she pushed out her lips and said, “No,” in her clipped French accent. “For us, every day is Valentine’s Day. Why make a big deal of it now?”

Damned straight.

You see, if I ever do get married, I don’t want a diamond. I certainly don’t want a Hollywood proposal (and if he does it on tv, then he doesn’t know me well enough to marry me!). And chocolate? I give myself that every day.

It is true, however, that I don’t have a particular love this Valentine’s Day. I’m not married. I’m not even dating anyone at the moment. Everything in this culture — and frankly a number of the blogs I’ve seen today — seems to suggest that I should be feeling sorry for myself right now. Or at least not talking about this. But I refuse to be silent, ashamed. I would love to meet someone who makes me laugh, has a kind mind, and loves to eat my cooking. (And if anyone out there reading knows someone for me, send him along.) But I just refuse to believe that hackneyed idea that I’m a ragged half perpetually searching for my other ragged half, waiting for that union to make us both feel smooth and whole. Why put my life on hold? Especially when I never know when that life might just disappear?

“Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”
—John Lennon

Instead, I believe in love itself. Satyagraha, as Gandhi referred to it — the force that is born of love. Each of us, connected together. Transitory moments, ephemerally aflame with love. Talking on the phone, late into the night, with my friend whom I have known since I was sixteen. Laughter with a new friend because I tripped over the curb on the way back from buying coffee. Listening to the stories of everyone I meet. Hugging my nephew when he smiles at me and lifts up his arms. Demanding that my students write clear drafts, even when they think it’s too hard. Cooking for friends on a Sunday afternoon, talking over my shoulder as I pat down the chicken with olive oil and garlic before I put it into the oven to roast. Giggling at the bus driver’s jokes in the morning. Smiling at the woman checking out my groceries.

And for me, love is really gratitude. If I think of everything for which I’m grateful, I’m going to fill up pages and pages with nouns and verbs. So I’ll restrain myself. Instead, I’ll just say:

I love...

the smell of fresh-cut ginger
the soft flesh of a mango slithering under the paring knife
the initial bitterness yielding to dark release of the first cup of coffee
the low, insistent sizzle of thin slices of leeks sauteeing in salted butter
the lurid red of a wide-open dahlia in August

I love those reassuring moments of being grounded in my senses. I’m alive.

What else is there, in the end?


And so, to all of you reading, I’m sending you chocolates and flowers. I hope you feel loved today, free from expectations and bitterness. If you don’t have a valentine, don’t feel bad. I’ll be your valentine any time.


At 10:23 PM, Blogger Joycelyn said...

hi shauna, wonderful, straight-from-the-heart prose, as always - i found myself nodding at almost every turn with many of the sentiments you expressed. thanks so much for sharing...

At 11:33 PM, Blogger David said...

I thought we were engaged?...

(oh well, I'l take the chocolate instead...sigh...)

At 2:02 AM, Blogger Cerebrum said...

Such a lovely post Shauna - and I can't agree with you more. I might have the man of my dreams, but really, why celebrate on the 14th.? We haven't even decided which day is our anniversary. Celebrating love can't be done on command on a specific date - it has to be done in the little things, on an every day basis, whether it's the love of a man, or just life itself.

At 5:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shauna, I agree that every day should be Valentine's Day. And you don't have to have a significant other to enjoy the day. You just simply need to have for yourself, your family, friends and your surroundings! For me, I am married and have 2 precious girls but Valentine's wasn't a romantic affair in our home but rather a celebration of the love that is family!
I hope every day is special for you and I hope you enjoyed another one of your terrific sounding meals!!
Hugs and best wishes....


At 6:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Valentine's Day to someone who clearly has a love of life! Beautiful pictures by the way...

At 7:02 AM, Blogger Pille said...

Lovely post, Shauna, and I'm sure you had a wonderful day!

At 7:03 AM, Blogger mary grimm said...

Even though I love my boyfriend of 20-plus years my heartthrobs this year are my 2 new grandsons--love is meant to be spread around, every day and every way.

At 12:29 PM, Blogger K Allrich said...

It's the commercialism and sentimentality of holidays that gets under my skin; until I remember to breathe. And laugh at it.

I celebrate the seasons in my own way, too. The archetypal turn of the wheel [and all its reflections] reminds us of who we are - and - who we aren't! ;-)

namaste & valentines to you - k

At 12:42 PM, Blogger kitchenmage said...

That's just sweet. I'll be your valentine any day. Especially with those gorgeous flowers!

At 3:21 PM, Blogger Colaptes auratus said...

You wrote how I feel about love and life. We just gotta find a way to meet in this fair city now! Another beautiful post.

At 4:39 PM, Blogger Marshamlow said...

I find that love means different things to me on different days. Today I am so very much in love with you for sharing the lemon stuffed roasted chicken recipe from Jamie Oliver. Wow!!! Whenever I get discouraged or feel like I am missing out on what everyone else is eating I find your writing and enthusiasm uplifting. How is your ankle? I hope you are mending nicely and free from pain. Happy V-Day!

At 7:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy belated V-Day, Shauna, I envy the lucky guy that wins your heart!

At 11:33 AM, Blogger s'kat said...

Best VD post ever! Someone asked if my husband and I were doing anything for Valentine's. I had the same answer as your friend- we do something romantic every day.

It's odd how now so many people will wish you a happy valentine's day... co-workers, complete strangers, etc. It's a freakin' Hallmark holiday, people, get over it!

At 12:37 PM, Blogger tschoerda said...

well said!

At 11:10 PM, Blogger Shauna said...

J, my dear, you are welcome. Thank you for nodding and saying so. I always love seeing you here.

David, are you kidding me? I thought you had thrown me over for Sam. Yoo-hoo! Forget what I wrote. I have a Valentine after all. (And you still get chocolate, David.)

Zarah Maria, I agree, completely. It's the little things we do that make up love. Tiny little details. The same as cooking beautiful food. Whatever your anniversary day is, I hope you celebrate it with each other as often as you can.

Tammy, thank you, my dear. I agree -- family is one of the best ways to celebrate that silly day.

Kelli, thank you. I do love life. What other choice is there? When do we get another chance? Congratulations to you, by the way, on your new food business!

Pille, thank you, my dear. I hope you had a fabulous day in Scotland.

Lucette, ah, the little ones. That's better than silly diamonds any day. I hope you enjoyed them, thoroughly.

Karina, I agree with you, which isn't much of a surprise. The commercialism drives me nuts. And then I laugh too. I can feel the earth turning toward spring, and that makes me happier than any diamond ever could.

Kitchnmage, I'd happily be your valentine too, my dear.

Jen, thank you so much, my dear. I'm so happy that the blog is helping you. That's why I'm here. I agree with you -- isn't it incredible how going gluten-free makes us gourmets? Please let me know when you come to Seattle, okay?

Blurgirl, I just can't wait to meet you. I think you're in Spain now, and I'm headed to New York in two days. But when we're both back in this lovely city, we're going to sit down for coffee.

Stef, my dear, I agree. Let's all start a movement. Valentine's Day is for our dogs! Our long-lost friends. Our children. Our favorite cooking pots! I'm sure your friends are thrilled to still be getting valentines from you.

Marshamlow, thank you so much, my dear. You have made my day. And isn't that chicken fantastic? The ankle is healing well, and I'm actually heading to NY soon. Yippee! Thanks so much for asking.

Courtney, yes. Yes.

Jennifer, thank you my dear.

Pragmatic Chef, aw shucks. Thanks so much. You're making me blush over here.

S'kat, thank you for saying that. Hey, maybe we could start a movement, and have people write posts about waht they love for Valentine's Day, instead of worrying that they didn't receive the right-size card! I hope you had a marvelous day, nonetheless.

Tschoerda, thank you. Thanks for coming by!

At 12:55 PM, Blogger Tea said...

Thanks so much for this post, Shauna! I agree, I think romance is a way of life, regardless of whether or with whom you are sharing you life. Your words always inspire, and that dahlia photo is stunning. I hope you had a good V-day and every day.

At 2:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing from the heart.


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