Thursday, February 16, 2012

Belated Valentine

Like most guys, Valentine's Day is synonomous with manufactured stress, the disappointment that comes from not living up to someone's romantic expectations (perpetuated by a media onslaught that no normal non-millionaire total romantic could live up to), and the purchase of flowers that have been severed from their roots!  Why would anyone want to do that? 

This is the bouquet I ordered this year.

I don't like this "holiday" but I observe it.  I wouldn't want my wife to be the only one in her office to be in the unenviable position of explaining why she didn't get flowers or a gift from her husband.  So I participate.  But I recognize, as do many I'm sure, that love is better conveyed on an every day basis.  To that end, there's a poem that Marvin Bell wrote for his wife that I have been fond of for years.  In my opinion, the spirit of this poem reflects how we should celebrate those we love.  And, as a gardeners, I think we can appreciate the kind of person it takes to let a weed grow unplucked or a mulberry too close to the house. 
To Dorothy 
You are not beautiful, exactly.
You are beautiful, inexactly.
You let a weed grow by the mulberry
and a mulberry grow by the house.
So close, in the personal quiet
of a windy night, it brushes the wall
and sweeps away the day till we sleep.

A child said it, and it seemed true:
"Things that are lost are all equal."
But it isn't true..  If I lost you,
the air wouldn't move, nor the trees grow.
Someone would pull the weed, my flower.
The quiet wouldn't be yours.  If I lost you,
I'd have to ask the grass to let me sleep.
-Marvin Bell

*If you're interested, here is a reading of this poem from one of Bell's former students.  She touches on why saying "You are not beautiful, exactly" isn't a mean thing to say.



  1. You must have made your sweetie very happy, the arrangement was beautiful. My husband does not like the holiday either and shows it quite well.

    1. Donna, I hope he still finds his own ways to show you how he feels about you!

  2. I like that. I'm certain your wife appreciated the flowers. And I bet she knows you love her unequally.

    1. Thanks, HolleyG. I hope she does know!

  3. It's a beautiful poem. The stress was removed from my husband this year. I made the dinner reservation and took him out. It was amazing how much this simple act was appreciated by him. The poor man...he has been taking the brunt of the "holiday" pressure for 26 years! It was the least I could do :)

    1. What a nice gift, Cat! I don't know why, but it does seem like the planning for romance aspect makes it harder on the guys. I'd like to say we're just not hard-wired for being romantic but that's probably just a cop out.

  4. Chad, Count me as someone else who dislikes this holiday. My local public radio station does a fund-raising campaign at this time of year that features bouquets of roses as a "membership gift" and that is so sickly sweet it makes me want to gag. The poem you've chosen, on the other hand, creates a much more genuine feeling of love. Although I love flowers, I would find this poem a much more thoughtful and compelling gift. -Jean

    1. Jean, I'm glad you liked the poem too. In my view, the poem speaks to that daily kind of love and the comfort that love instills. It's the kind of love that is about presence more than presents. It reminds us that things in life are not equal and that the people we love hold a bigger, more valuable place in our lives.

  5. Chad, when I worked in a large office, the Valentine's Day flower-sending ritual was in fine form. You could just feel the tension in the air. The ladies waited for their turn to traipse down to the reception area to pick up the coveted bouquets (and woe to any man who tried to get by sending 'mere' carnations!) They would come back to their desks all aglow. I worked in a department of 70 women at that time, and that's a lot of Rose Carnage.

    I never did receive a bouquet, I was one of a small sub-group of elite women who had husbands that didn't believe in Valentine's Day. Well, I'll take that back, he believed the day existed, he just didn't see the sense in spending money on flowers. Or chocolate. Or diamonds. Or cards. We still go through the card racks at the grocery store and pick out the most ostentatious ones and hand them to each other symbolically. "If I was to give you a card, this would be it." That way we can afford to splurge on an extra gallon of milk, lol.

    I enjoyed the poem very much, it is very heartfelt and true.

    1. Karen, that's a perfect illustration for what I imagine my wife's office is like. Whether or not my imagination and reality are alike I have no idea. But part of the reason I had the roses delivered to her office instead of to our house was so that she wouldn't feel left out.