It is February, and love is in the air. I feel it around me as nature begins to wake from its wintry sleep. The sweet softness of spring is on its way, gently pushing into the cold, calm chill of winter. Birdsong now breaks the early morning quiet, and I listen—curious and delightedly aware. As the sun’s pale, golden rays peek through the pines, Pup and I prepare to leave for our morning walk. He stops to take a drink, and I linger by the fountain. A startled smile comes to my face as a tiny hummingbird—the first emerald-feathered jewel I’ve sighted in months—zooms just past my cheek. I turn to follow its path, yet it has already disappeared into the branches of a blossoming crimson-flowered eucalyptus. Still, the faint whir of the tiny bird’s wings seems to remain in the air. I wait, enchanted, hoping for the hummingbird’s return. Pup saunters to my side. He is restless and ready to leave. I smile down at him and, rubbing his soft, coppery head, pick up his lead. We are off, two feet and four paws, ready to discover the morning. Pup is a good soul and a gentle companion; how I treasure our morning walks together. We quicken our pace up the first small hill; Pup tugs forcefully to the side, pulling me as he sniffs at rocks and leaves. It seems someone unfamiliar has been in his territory, and he’s determined to discover just who or what it was. The nose of this sweet hound is a formidable and sometimes troublesome tool. I laugh to myself knowing he smells and understands far more than I can begin to imagine. I stoop to kiss his head; he is a wise and mischievous one, my Pup. As we move on I relish the soft, gentle warmth of the sun’s rays as they kiss my face. The sunlight is all the more delicious as a chilly breeze sweeps over me. This is life, this loving caress of nature and the Divine. A red-breasted robin flutters by, a small twig in her beak. She pauses restfully in the bare branches of a giant oak. The caw of a crow breaks the silence, and the robin, alert to danger, flies off swiftly. As Pup pulls me onward, I imagine the gentle robin readying a secret, cozy nest for her precious blue eggs. Thoughts of Valentine’s Days past float through my thoughts. Sweet images swirl through my mind creating a seamless montage of treasured moments. It is not memories of flowers or gifts that flow through me, but a melodious reminiscence of kindness, loving words, and gentle touch. There is a unity in all of these thoughts; it is the unity of soulful love and of sweet connection. I realize I am smiling blissfully, a smile that radiates from a place that is deep inside of me and, yet, beyond me. Freshly budding tree branches sway gently overhead, and the music of birdsong fills my ears. I ponder the idea of love and the wonder of the magical connection that we strive to create and strengthen between ourselves and others. It is this aspect, this jeweled core of humanity, that I honor the most. What could be more divine than touching the precious soul of the other and, through this, coming to know and treasure the soul of the self that much more? With each compassionate, loving step we take into love, we cannot help but radiate greater love into the world. For, indeed, we are the world and beyond the world. We are its riches and its ashes, its light and its darkness. This love, this free will, is both a spectacular gift and an awesome responsibility. Pup stops suddenly, his nose scenting the air. Willfully, he strives to pull me down a path, and I resist with equal willfulness. Pup offers a winsome stare, and I give in. Within moments I spy the objects of his desire. Two resplendent white peacocks linger quietly in the bushes, their feathers glistening amidst the vibrant green foliage. Though I have walked these hills for years, this is only my third sighting of the exquisite pair. Strangely, my second sighting—also courtesy of Pup’s charmed nose—was earlier this very week. Had I not seen the stunning peacock couple before, I might have disbelieved my eyes and thought them a dreamlike apparition. Pup sniffs the air again and strains to pull me closer. The heavenly creatures, one with a particularly magnificent, flowing trail of feathers, pause in stillness. Pup and I inch down the hillside, curious and intent. The magical pair, wise and watchful, vanishes gracefully into the brush. The sun is sparkling, its rays dancing off the giant branches of a moss-covered oak. The verdant, fluorescent-hued moss holds an inviting magic of its own. It seems to call out, “Notice me! Crawl up upon these branches and sit! Nestle in the softness and warmth of this February morning!” The spell is broken as Pup, not sharing my enchantment, pulls me onward. We move uphill, my feet resuming a steady pace and his paws dancing with delight. Pup knows there is new ground and fresh scents ahead. Strains of music begin to arise within me, and it is not long before I am filled with the delight of a long-familiar tune. I hear John Hiatt’s haunting voice singing tenderly, “I might have never realized the courage in your kiss and the sweet forgiveness in your eyes . . . And I don’t pretend to know how you ever saw it through, ’cause I only got to where I am now . . . learning how to love you.” I smile as I feel unexpected, warm tears come to my eyes. There is, indeed, great courage in a kiss and splendid sweetness in forgiveness. I smile at the utter magic of how this simple song, the song of my first true love, still holds such deep meaning for me. It is songs like this one that have created an uncanny, magical bond between me and those I love–those that I will always love. Beyond space and time, beyond life and death, it is the power and connectivity of love that I feel now. A strong, quivering tingle rushes throughout me, and I know that I have touched the essence of love. It is not a particular romance, friendship, or person who has taught me love, but a kaleidoscope of love-filled connections that have been, and will continue to be, my greatest teachers. I will never stop growing and learning, for I will never stop loving. It is a conscious choice. It is a purposeful, courageous intention. I pause to reflect. Yes, I have learned how to love myself and to better love others by being loved and loving in return. Love is difficult and love is wondrous; love is the essence of life. Oh, it is so simple and so true, “I only got to where I am now . . . learning how to love you.” And so, I realize that my walk, my quiet interlude with nature, has brought me full circle. I am back to where I started from, in a place of being curious and delightedly aware. A gentle wind arises, and long wisps of my hair float in the February breeze. Pup’s copper-red fur shines in the morning light, and he looks up at me, a knowing twinkle in his eye. A wondrous, full day is ahead, a day of sweet delight and loving duty. Nature begs me to linger, yet I sense the pull of home, of work, and of love. Pup is sniffing at rocks again, and I gently call his name. He furrows his brow in hopeful resistance before following my lead to begin the last stretch toward home. The sun’s sweet kisses dance upon my shoulders, and I feel, deep in my bones, what it is to know love.
Happy Valentine’s Day–today and every day.