. . . would I, if I could, supplant one of any of the affections that I know to have taken root in you – that great and solemn one, for instance, I feel that if I could get myself remade, as if turned to gold, I WOULD not even then desire to become more than the mere setting to that diamond you must always wear.
The regard and esteem you now give me, in this letter, and which I press to my heart and bow my head upon, is all I can take and all too embarrassing, using all my gratitude.
I cannot get that beautiful afternoon out of my head, above me where I lay the grass was silhouetted against the blue of the heavens, small clouds were rushing past as the wind drove on an endless journey. Then close to me was the most lovely of all, your soft hair against my cheek, your kisses so cool and unearthly and my happiness was so great.
The Greek word for hospitality (zenophilia) means love of strangers. Some people have a knack for making even strangers feel at home. Others seem to be better at making friends feel like strangers! Rodrick Durst always believed that being hospitable will often turn strangers into friends and family.
When I was growing up, my parents showed me how to make sure whoever came into our home felt at home. A crusty uncle of mine later told me, whenever I bought my own home, I should open my doors to the sort of people I wouldn’t normally mix with. He must have done a little time somewhere along the way, because he also told me to be mindful of those in prison. “Imagine what it would be like to be in prison yourself,” he asked. I’m not sure I’ve thought a lot about life in prison, but I have to tried to be kind to the people who have visited me.
W. W. Weeks used to say, “Of all the colors known to the ancients, crimson was the most beautiful and the most enduring.” When they made a crimson robe, it was triple-dyed. First, they died the wool, and when it was spun into threads it was dyed in the yarn; and when it was taken from the loom, it was dyed in the web. After explaining this, Weeks would say, “The most beautiful souls are triple-dyed in disappointment, and pain, and heartbreak.”
Weeks was right.
Beautiful souls experience the loss of precious things, especially treasured relationships. With this loss, emotional scars get etched into the fabric of their spirits. Be kind to the crimson souls of the world. They understand grief in ways most of us may never know.
“He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed like a flower and the incarnation was complete.”
Scott — there’s nothing in the world I want but you — and your precious love — All the material things are nothing. I’d just hate to live a sordid, colorless existence — because you’d soon love me less — and less — and I’d do anything — anything — to keep your heart for my own — I don’t want to live — I want to love first, and live incidentally — Why don’t you feel that I’m waiting — I’ll come to you, Lover, when you’re ready — Don’t don’t ever think of the things you can’t give me — You’ve trusted me with the dearest heart of all — and it’s so damn much more than anybody else in all the world has ever had —
How can you think deliberately of life without me — If you should die — O Darling — darling Scott — It’d be like going blind. I know I would, too, — I’d have no purpose in life — just a pretty — decoration. Don’t you think I was made for you? I feel like you had me ordered — and I was delivered to you — to be worn — I want you to wear me, like a watch — charm or button hole bouquet — to the world. And then, when we’re alone, I want to help — to know that you can’t do anything without me.
I’m glad you wrote Mamma. It was such a nice sincere letter — and mine to St. Paul was very evasive and rambling. I’ve never, in all my life, been able to say anything to people older than me — Somehow I just instinctively avoid personal things with them — even my family. Kids are so much nicer.
Please, please don’t be so depressed — We’ll be married soon, and then these lonesome nights will be over forever — and until we are, I am loving, loving every tiny minute of the day and night — Maybe you won’t understand this, but sometimes when I miss you most, it’s hardest to write — and you always know when I make myself — Just the ache of it all — and I can’t tell you. If we were together, you’d feel how strong it is — you’re so sweet when you’re melancholy. I love your sad tenderness — when I’ve hurt you — That’s one of the reasons I could never be sorry for our quarrels — and they bothered you so — Those dear, dear little fusses, when I always tried so hard to make you kiss and forget —
I am reading Sue Conley’s book called Landslide. It’s a wonderful story about the tough work of living off professional fishing in Maine. The book opens with an explosion on the Jillian Lynne, a fishing trawler owned by fisherman Kit and his wife, Jilly. While Kit is in the hospital recuperating from the accident, Jillian replays some of the memories she has of how they met, of how they slowly and neatly fell in love with each other, and of how they eventually married and had two boys who love to challenge their parenting skills each day.
HERE IS A MEMORY: Kit takes me to a smaller island near his island with a white sand beach. These are the days before the boys are born. We’re camping in the dunes above the beach, and we swim and pretend to read on the striped blanket, but I can’t pay attention to the words because Kit’s lying beside me in the sand with his hand on my hip. I have nothing to want because I have him and want him entirely.
I love this last line: I have nothing to want because I have him and want him entirely.
I am reminded of a quote from Plautus, who seemed to believe when we are content, we have enough to live comfortably. Jilly was content in her relationship with Kit. She believed the love they shared was enough to build a happy life together.
This is a far cry from the Wall Street investment manager, Sherman McCoy. In Tom Wolfe’s novel, Bonfire of the Vanities, McCoy makes tons of money, and he loves the rush that comes with risking a small fortune to make a bigger one. He has a sweet sports car, his daughter goes to the best private school, his apartment is featured in Architectural Digest—that sort of thing. He only wears expensive clothing, and he calls himself and his partners “Masters of the Universe.” People like Sherman can never say, “I have nothing to want,” because everything around them is always saying, “Buy it. Eat it. Enjoy it. You deserve it!”
Which lifestyle do you prefer: Jilly or Sherman’s?
And if you prefer Jilly’s, are you convinced you have nothing to want because you are content with love?
In Peter Mayle’s “A Good Year,” Max Skinner recalls something he heard his uncle say about the little French town his uncle called home: “There is nowhere else in the world where you can keep busy doing so little and enjoying it so much. One day, Max, you’ll understand.”
I’m sure you have special places too. Places you enjoy doing little more than strolling down a path or napping in a hammock. Sure, it’s kind of bleak here at the end of winter but spring will take over soon, and the greenery will invite us to relax and live a little.
Love takes different forms and calls from different corners. Discovering your own oasis is one of them.
When two souls, which have sought each other for, however long in the throng, have finally found each other … a union, fiery and pure as they themselves are … begins on earth and continues forever in heaven.
This union is love, true love, … a religion, which deifies the loved one, whose life comes from devotion and passion, and for which the greatest sacrifices are the sweetest delights.
This is the love which you inspire in me … Your soul is made to love with the purity and passion of angels; but perhaps it can only love another angel, in which case I must tremble with apprehension.
Artists often depict Cupid, the ancient Roman god of love, as a winged baby that carries a golden bow and a quiver of arrows. He inflicts love and passion to his victims and has become an iconic symbol of Valentine’s Day. Cupid is the son of Mercury, the winged messenger of the gods, and Venus, the goddess of love.
In his 1482 painting, La Primavera, Sandro Botticelli positions a blindfolded Cupid above Venus, shooting an arrow.
Shakespeare said this about Cupid’s blindness in A Midsummer Night’s Dream:
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind. Nor hath love’s mind of any judgement taste; Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste. And therefore is love said to be a child Because in choice he is so oft beguiled
Are you ever struck by Cupid’s arrow? Sometimes, it’s hard to tell at first. He doesn’t always aim for dead center. The love arrow can graze or nick the skin. In such cases, platonic thoughts shift to romantic ones. Friendship may transform into something more. Like the act of wading into the water to acclimate before a swim, love can ease its way into life. Other times, when it’s a bull’s eye hit to the heart, persons dive into the deep end. We have often compared the highs from intense romance to that of a drug. Love can resemble symptoms of addiction — euphoria, craving, dependence, withdrawal and relapse. Cupid’s arrow not only affects the heart, it can overtake the mind. Neuroscience has linked passionate love with intense changes in emotion and attention, and the reduced ability to control attention. When head-over-heals in love, thoughts drift to the object of affection, sometimes obsessively.
Pablo Neruda describes the feelings of being driven to distraction by love in his poem Love Sonnet XI:
I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair. Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets. Bread does not nourish me, dawn disrupts me, all day I hunt for the liquid measure of your steps. I hunger for your sleek laugh, your hands the color of a savage harvest, hunger for the pale stones of your fingernails, I want to eat your skin like a whole almond. I want to eat the sunbeam flaring in your lovely body, the sovereign nose of your arrogant face, I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes, and I pace around hungry, sniffing the twilight, hunting for you, for your hot heart, like a puma in the barrens of Quitratue.
Whether you’re ever hit by Cupid’s arrow or not, may love, in all its potential and varieties, capture your heart and thoughts on Valentine’s Day.