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February 14, 2000

Valentineís Day

What will I say? I could speak of Saint Valentine, of whom little is truly known. Or Valentinus, a Gnostic closer to my own heart. Or how folklore correlates this date with the pairing of birds, precursor to spring mating. All in the service of Love. But I cannot presume to speak of Love to lovers more ensconced than I. Not that kind of love. Is mine the perspective of the outsider? I like to say that I am in love, just not with someone. Still I will contend that I am of love, at the least. Just so, we say that God Is Love, and who would argue such a case? We well conflate two of our most important words. Words invested with so much meaning that they cease to mean at all. This is a signal that we are in important territory, an ecstatic stratum of existence where words must fail. Here Tradition has resort to symbols of a different sort. In this spirit, please accept my Valentine Bouquet:

A single rose, or what is left: a last red, wrinkled hip, thatís lingered since last summer, among the briars on the northern height of Strawberry Fields.

A fitting gift, if one of recent vintage (February flowers suggest the modern florist industry.) Apt, though: the Rose is the iconic flower of the West, that through its blossom, fruit, and thorn, sums up the promise, the reward, and the pain that lies between. One plant condensing the journey of the Spirit into an image that sends its stems winding through our lives, from time to time unfurling an unexpected bloom of Love, out of the thorny underbrush of being. A flower in the sere season.

Just now, the indigestible Hawthorn holds sway, but we have stores from last yearís harvest. Itís no mistake that our most familiar fruits are of the Rose clan. Cherry, Plum, and hairy Peach form the single genus Prunus. Malus, the Apple, crabbed or full grown, and Pyrus, the Pear, are also cousins. All now so bred that their natural history is inseparable from the history they share with humans. Even in hybrid form, traces of their heritage remain, in fruit and thorn, and most of all in blossom. Long before modern genetics, gardeners, and lovers, recognized Rosaceous commonality, equating sustenance of heart and body.

So do not pity, or resent, my withered gesture; it is made from Love,
and we too will confirm this offering, not soon enough, but soon;
When the Promise of Spring is given, amid a riot of blooms.