Now that Valentine’s Day is over we can get down to the real business of love.
Love is not always flowers and chocolates or a fine dinner over a bottle of wine. Rather, these are icing on the cake of love. The real work of love is behind the scenes. Subtle yet powerful. Painful and challenging at times.
Love is saying “I’ll be right there” when you have a million other pressing things on your schedule. Love is the two AM feeding when they are infants, the carpooling to 100 soccer games when they are 10, holding them accountable to a curfew when they are teenagers, and eventually letting go as they kick and scream for their independence. Love is listening and keeping your mouth shut when you think you have earth shattering advice. Love is being strong and letting someone lean on you. Love is hanging on the phone for hours with a friend who just needs to talk. Love is knowing the difference between supporting and enabling. Love is forgiving others and releasing obligation. Love is forgiving oneself for mistakes made and roads not taken. Love is keeping vigil at the bedside of a dying parent. Love is holding on to hope in a desperate situation. Love is praying for good news. Love is comforting the grieving. Love is walking to the end of ones’ land every evening and waiting for the prodigal son to return home. Love is holding out a light in the darkness.
Love is swallowing your pride when your pride is getting in the way of loving.
Love is hard work.
I went foraging today for greenery, pods and other accoutrements of fall in order to decorate my front door wreath and herald in the new season. Off I went up Llagas Ave with my hand pruners and a recycled Safeway grocery bag under my arm. Today’s booty included pale pepper tree berries (they will be bright red by December and worth another trip up the hill for Christmas decorating), fragrant eucalyptus with flowers intact, almonds still encased in their protective hull, wild pomegranates (oh they pruned back my favorite bushes so they are scarce this year) and some unidentified tree pods.
I am writing this post at the urging of my middle son, Patrick, who has endured patiently his mother’s habit of petty theft, all with good intentions of thoroughly enjoying God’s beautiful earth. I learned how to do this very early in life (along with a few WWII marching songs) while walking with my dad for exercise. My dad always said that if it hangs over the fence onto the sidewalk it’s yours! That includes apples, kumquats, avocados, almonds, olives and any kind of greenery that might look good on your fireplace mantel.
This seemingly harmless activity became a habit when we moved to Portland, Oregon. So many beautiful flowers and colors I’d never seen before having grown up in semi-arid season-less Southern California. I couldn’t resist the lovely hues of violet in the hydrangeas and lilacs that grew so prolifically around every corner. I once had a small gathering of friends for tea and one of my guests asked me “Where did you get those beautiful flowers?” I replied, “Which ones? The hydrangeas are from 31st Ave near Crystal Springs Ave and those roses came from behind Reed College.” (Whoopsy.. maybe that wasn’t exactly legal.)
When we moved back to Northern California my Lebanese neighbor Eza and I used to walk together on Saturday mornings and catch up on our work week adventures. She wasn’t too sure about my habit of pinching and picking but I taught her the song: “This land is your land. This land is my land.” That seemed to quell her anxieties.
A couple weeks ago I came home from work and it appeared that my neighbor, Rick, was having a tree trimmed in his back yard. On further inspection I saw that it was my gangly out of control curly willow that the gardeners were dragging out to the wood chipper! It was hanging over the fence dropping leaves and debris all over my good neighbor’s yard. He took it upon himself to have it trimmed- never mentioning a word to me or asking me to share in the expense. Now that’s a good neighbor and an interesting twist to this tall tale. It hung over his fence so he considered it his problem.
Now I am going to Mass tonight at the Santa Clara Mission to pray for my gracious neighbor, Rick, to thank God for the wonderful community I live in and to ask forgiveness for my sins and mercy to overcome my bad habit.
Oh.. did you know they have the most beautiful rose garden there?
Mea culpa! Mea culpa!