In the wake of Valentines Day, I have been thinking a lot about love. Beyond the tokens of chocolate and roses and lacy red hearts, beyond the outward demonstrations of gifting and the spice of sexual romance.
Actually what I’ve been thinking about is the kind of sustaining love, nurturing love, that is as necessary to our flourishing as human beings as is air and water—the rich landscape of familial love and the love of heartfelt and caring friendships. And about the barren landscape that the lack of love, the loss of love creates.
You can blame it on the four books I’ve been reading. (Yes, at the same time! Why write when you can read? I’ll get to that in a few minutes…) I've been in one of those reading frenzies with books that all have one kind of deadline or another—Lorrie Moore’s new short stories, Bark, for BookBrowse review, Jane Eyre for my Feisty Readers' seventh grade Mother Daughter book club, The Goldfinch which finally came from the library after my being #372 on the wait list and is due in three weeks. And is 771 pages long. And Why We Write, (collected essays edited by Meredith Maran) because I really need to figure it out, the sooner the better.
These books all have a common thread—especially the first three; they all seriously address the fallout from the loss of love in someone’s life.
The stories in Bark are all about divorce or the end of love and let me tell you right now, there are no happy endings—except (and this is huge) that loss of love causing such great misery only points to how incredibly important love is to basic happiness and well being.
We all know what Jane Eyre is about—a young woman who grows up lonely and unloved and her struggle to find what she has been missing all of her life.
In many ways, The Goldfinch is the most devastating as we watch Theo flail through life after losing his loving mother as young boy. I can’t stop reading because I so want him to find true and deep love in his life. (And if he doesn’t find someone to love and love him by the end of the 771 pages, I am going to throw the book across the room!)
|Adam Sultonov heart island|
The fourth book, Why We Write, (a book that might very well save me) addresses the issue of needing love in Kathryn Harrison’s chapter. (She wrote Thicker Than Water, Exposure, Poison, The Binding Chair, The Seal Wife, Envy and most recently Enchantments.) She tells the reader, “I write because it is the only thing I know that offers the hope of proving myself worthy of love. It has everything to do with my relationship with my mother. I spent my childhood trying to remake myself into a girl she would love—and I’ve translate that into the process of writing…” The hope that writing will reveal us a worthy of love makes a lot more sense to me than all of the claims that, “I write because I have to.” “I write because I would die if I didn’t.” Oh please. I’ve tried not writing and it hasn’t killed me. Yet.
Anyway. I think the most interesting thing for me in all this thinking about love and loss of love is the power of the negative—that to demonstrate the importance of something, showing the lack might be the most powerful way to do it. Want to write about love? Show what happens in its absence. Want to write about peace? Show the ravages of war. Want to write about loyalty? Give us betrayal.
Want to figure out a reason to write? Try not writing for a while. I think it’s working.
I got a valentine in the mail a few days ago from a dear friend (you know who you are!) with a map that shows a route out from Desolation. She knew I needed it. Now that’s the kind of love that I’m talking about.
Take Good Care,