Pondering, Photographing, and Writing about Wild Places

St. Valentine’s Day… For the Birds

Tomorrow is St. Valentine’s Day and the annual battle between the romantic and the cynic within me. On the outside, the cynic nearly always wins. It is too easy to openly mock the day as one, if not created, at least cultivated and commercialized, by Hallmark.  Inside, however, the romantic always fights back, aided if I am in a relationship on that fateful day by the usually unavailable pragmatist who understands the value of proclaiming and celebrating love.  And if commercialization of the holiday is not enough to keep the cynic on top, I ready my quiver of religious objection. Martyrs supporting church politics never have fared well with me.

In spite of it all, however, the romantic cannot be denied, and just as I proclaim my objections, deep inside me a helpless lover screams with a soft voice. And then this year, with the hanakwansolstimas season finally over I began dating a lovely woman who declared Valentine’s Day to be her favorite holiday. Suddenly, the romantic who so readily surfaces for writing with fountain pens, shaving with a straight razor, cooking with cast iron, using a clothesline, and the like finds himself face to face with his one last holdout.

“Who cares if it’s a commercial holiday?” she asks. “Isn’t any excuse to celebrate love a good excuse?”

I know she is right. And after all, it’s not like I would ever go out and buy someone else’s words and images mass produced for profit. I will do the same things I love to do year round–pick flowers by the roadside, surprise her with something creative, cook for her from scratch. Why not do it on February 14th? And yet, even with the romantic surfacing, the other voices, the one’s I have honored my entire life on this one day every year, are not silent. Someone asks me about my plans for tonight, and for a moment I freeze. Can I really say, “Yes we are having a special night just for Valentine’s day?” Can I not respond to the naysayers that I love to love, that I love to celebrate romance?

A couple hours ago I Googled Valentine’s day and found a surprise. Did you know that this day, named to honor a Christian Martyr, became a day for lovers in celebration of the songbirds who find their mates this time of year? Birds partnering for a season of love and procreation. Birds!

I got to thinking about my relationship with birds. I watch them, I feed them, I read about them and write about them, tell stories about them. I have a romantic relationship with them. I do not, however, visit the Cracker Barrel store and buy cheap bluebird houses with fake flowers and bible verses painted on them.

In the same way, the commercialization of plastic disposables does not make me buy Gillette, nor does it make me stop shaving. The same can be said for coffee. I don’t run out and buy Starbucks every morning, nor have I given up coffee. I hand grind beans in my own kitchen. I do not throw the baby out with the bathwater anywhere else, so why on this day and on this subject?

If I can take this path in nearly every other facet of my life, why not refuse to buy the heavily marketed flowers and sappy cards off the rack, while still honoring a day for romance? I am an undeniable hopeless romantic 364 days out of the year. This year I will turn over a new leaf and add one more day.

So, Vive la Valentine’s Day… for the love of birds! And I can’t wait to surprise my Valentine tonight. She will never expect the sunflower seeds I have in store for her…

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