The horse's pasture to the East...

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


It's Valentine's Day, a day set aside to celebrate love, my favorite emotion. Love has endless possibilities. It comes in tiny increments when you do things like open doors for people, stop to help someone across the street or to pick up an injured or frightened dog or cat. It's there in the eyes of a baby from the moment it opens it's eyes and looks in to the face of it's Mother.

There's love between a good teacher and their student when they struggle to find a way to help each other learn together. Love happens when two people meet for the first time and some indefinable spark is there that attracts them to each other. It's the stuff of legends and all of our favorite stories. 

Chaucer wrote about love when he said, "For this was on Saint Valentine's Day / When every bird cometh there to choose his mate." Hallmark made the first commercial Valentine's Day cards in 1913. Cadbury's put chocolates in to it's first heart shaped boxes in the 1860's. And my favorite, extremely gross and much too violent, bit of history about Valentine's Day was one of the supposed origins of Valentine's that had been celebrated for untold hundreds, possibly thousands of years by the ancient Romans. It was the Feast of Lupercalia, when men and women were paired in a lottery. The men would sacrifice a dog or goat, skin it and flail the women with the skin, to promote fertility. (Just between you and me I don't think that one would have made me open to the idea of creating a child.) Pope Gelatine I established the Day of St. Valentine's to Christianize the day, hopefully stopping the bloody parts.

                    "Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
                     And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind. " 
                     William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream

More years ago than I want to admit to, when I was a student at University, I volunteered to be in a study for one of my classes in Psychology. It was 1969 and just one year after the 'Summer of Love'. The event was held in one of the lecture halls in the Student Union. It was a group experiment about TRUST, my word for this year (2018). We were instructed to do the usual 'fall backwards in to a group of stranger's arms' thing along with other versions of the same idea with eyes closed, partners (two people only, leaving you vulnerable if the other person did not follow through) and so on. At the end was one last 'hugging in a circle' where we were supposed to walk around the room and, randomly, hug other people we didn't know.

I'm not very comfortable with events like this but we had to 'volunteer' for a certain number of these experiments to pass the course. I was an A student, an honors student. I tried to talk my way out of having to participate. The professor was having none of it. I had to be there. It was part of his curriculum. When he told us to walk around and hug people we didn't know, I was close to tears. I was very aware of my boundaries. I did not like being coerced in to letting someone in to my space for a grade. But I was driven. My education was one of the few parts of my life I had been able to control. I wanted that A. It never occurred to me that saying "No. I will not participate." was a viable part of any experiment. His Doc students would have taken the data down and that was that. 

I was barely 18 and still starry eyed with the whole college experience. I had not learned about how to debate with a professor, to talk back and question their authority. So I walked around and hugged people I didn't know. No one smelled bad. Not one person acted in an offensive way and some were very nice to me. They saw my discomfort and were careful to hug gently, quietly. I even heard one student say to the next, " Be careful. She's fragile. ". I thought that person would probably make a very good counselor someday. 

But what I didn't expect was the last hug with a tall, gangly boy who was standing over in the corner of the room. I don't think he was any more comfortable than I was, with this particular class. I hadn't even noticed him. That's how quiet he was. I walked over to him, smiled and offered to hug him. This time I meant it. He looked like he needed to have someone really see him. I looked right at him, straight on, and waited. He made me think of a cat that was frightened, hiding. You never chase a cat. Always wait for it to come to you. So I waited.

He walked the few steps to me, held his arms out and we hugged. For the only time that day, the hug was real. There was a connection, a spark. I could feel his heart beating right next to mine. When I stepped back, I took the time to look him in the eyes and smile again. It wasn't a 'come on' smile. I was just being me, open and vulnerable. He smiled back. And we never said a word to each other. I never heard his voice. I don't know his name. And I will probably never meet him again. But for just a few seconds there was love. It was real, palpable.For just a few seconds we were suspended in time together. And I left. But I carried that feeling of what real TRUST was with me for the rest of my life, right up to this moment. I still see his watery blue eyes and I remember what it was like to TRUST another soul, whenever I begin to doubt myself or want to hide. That was a moment of love.

I don't know who you are or why you are here, reading this. But today I am standing here, looking right at you. I am offering you a hug and a genuine, heart felt hope that you have moments of love all day long. I wish you love.

                              "Where there is love there is life. "
                               Mahatma Gandhi

I am, ever yours, Nancy, smiling

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