Please Note: This journal contains a wide variety of stuff — complete stories, bits and pieces, commentary, and who-knows-what else. As is always the case these days, the material is protected by copyright. On the other hand, I publish it here to be shared. Feel free to pass it on. Just give me credit. Fair enough?

Pack Creek Ranch – San Juan County, Utah The second week of February in 2018 Cold, dry, clear

Here’s a collection of selected pieces from my Valentine’s sampler box – some new, some old, some revised, some tart, some sweet. Help yourself . . .


One – Confidence in love:

One night last week I walked into the City Market straight into the double aisle of “Seasonal Specialties.”
VALENTINE’S DAY! shouted the sign.
Inviting me to enter the Valentine Vortex of red, pink, gold and chocolate.

I wandered s down the aisle of valentine temptations, in a mental sugar high.
Two high school girls were examining the red heart-shaped boxes of mixed chocolates – the biggest ones.
“This is the one Cody is going to get me.”
“I didn’t know you and Cody were . . . . you know . . . in love.”
“We aren’t – not yet – but when we do fall in love, this is the box he’ll buy me for Valentine’s Day.”
That’s just two weeks away.” “
I know, but I’ve got my mind made up. Cody is my man.
“Does Cody know about this?”
“Not yet. But he will.”
“Why don’t you just buy the box of candy for yourself?”
“Because Cody has money and I don’t.”

Two: The cutting edge of Love

When I lived for a time across from an elementary school, I often noticed the art work posted on classroom windows. Snowflakes. Strings of dolls.
And hearts for Valentine’s Day.
Apparently the students had been let in on the great secret that heart shapes can be made by simply folding the red paper in half first before cutting.
Fold once. Cut once. Unfold. Shazam! A heart.

Valentine’s Day is not national holiday declared by politicians. It’s not run by any religion. If anybody is in charge of Valentine’s Day, it’s Kindergarten teachers. They introduce us to making our first red heart –
just fold here, cut once, unfold – A HEART!

I wondered how the students will feel when they find out the truth that real hearts are not smoothly symmetrical? When they find out that real love is not symmetrical, either? That cutting out something with lumpy, raggedy, asymmetrical sides is more realistic. That real love looks more like the snowflakes they cut out a month before – no two alike. Will they feel disappointed?
Or just relieved?

Three: The sounds of Love.

One afternoon during the week before Valentine’s Day I passed by the school during recess. Several little girls were skipping back and forth across the playground shrieking at full capacity.
Shrieking is the special talent of little girls.
Not yelling. Not shouting. Not Screaming.

Several little boys were standing watching the little girls.
Nonplussed about what they were seeing.
Uncertain as to how to respond.

Though they don’t consciously recognize it, this behavior is an early stage of foreplay in the long run-up to Romantic Love.
Skipping, shrieking, staring . . . and wondering.
This is a practice mating dance the rookies do.

Someday, when the girls are grown up and shriek late at night while having a drink at a bar, the young men around them will not just stand and stare and wonder. They will not be confused about what’s going on.
By then they will finally know the code and know what to do next.
Shrieking is nothing to be afraid of.
Unless, of course, you think love and romance can be dangerous . . .

Love is explosive. That’s for sure.
Besides shrieking, love causes people to laugh, sing, shout, scream and call upon the deity: Oh my god, oh my god . . . !

It’s been a long time since I screamed out of sheer exuberance.
Where could I safely try that out one more time?
Could I safely skip and scream at the same time?
Would it attract women?
Would my neighbor call the police?
I tried it in my basement.
The screaming felt pretty good.
But I have lost the ability – and desire – to shriek.
And I am no longer competent at skipping.
And also no longer afraid of the dangers of love and romance.
At least – not as much as I used to be.

Four: Men and Valentine’s

Last week, over morning coffee with two friends at the Moab Diner, one man grumped that he couldn’t figure out what to get his wife for Valentine’s Day this year, but he had to get her something or she would be upset.
She likes to be surprised, and he’s running out of ideas.
So I suggested he get her a quart can of chocolate body paint – with brush.
Silence at the table.
“What? Are you crazy. No way.”
“Yes, I’ve seen it advertised on line – two day delivery.”
“Does it come in milk chocolate or dark chocolate?”
“How about with nuts?’ “
You have to supply your own nuts.”
“Bloody hell – you have to BE nuts to give your wife a can of that. It’s way too kinky.”
“What’s wrong with kinky? You ever tried kinky?”
“Well . . . actually . . . no . . . unless you’d consider . . . “
“Never mind. Suppose I get the can of paint, then what?”
“The key to success is to give it to her all wrapped up in red paper and just say “Surprise!” – and don’t say anything else – no explanations or instructions. Just let her figure out the message.
And if she doesn’t want it, then you have a hole quart of chocolate to eat.
It’s a win-win deal.”

Five: Valentine’s Messages

On the sidewalk in front of a bus stop I saw this message written in blue chalk: Lucy Loves Bradley.

On my way back from my walk I noticed that the message had been altered.
Bradley had been crossed out.
A new name added.
Now the message reads: Lucy Loves Joshua.

Six: Valentine’s Wanted

I once saw a Valentine’s Day Wanted Poster tacked to a telephone pole.
There was a drawing of the head of a young man.
And underneath was this advertisement:

A beautiful young man. Brown curly hair, green eyes, freckles.
Tall, slender, athletic, talented, independent. Drives a yellow Ducati motorcycle, and wears a leopard-skin jacket.
If you see him, tell him Anna misses him and is still looking for him.
When he smiles in memory of me, kick him in the groin as hard as you can. Tell him that’s from Anna.”

Seven: Valentine’s Day fundamentals

So we have this annual holiday represented by a naked, winged adolescent boy armed with bow and arrow, unreliable judgment, and a vindictive nature. Odd, when you think about it. It is a tribute to human hopefulness that we continue to have such high and affirmative expectations of the activities of good old Cupid.

Everything that has forward motion and is alive is subject to hazard and consequences.
It’s best to stay a little vague and foolish and loose when addressing the subject of love, don’t you think?

Life is not fair.
Life is often difficult.
You can’t ever really know what another person thinks. A
nd love is a risk we take.

At least once a year we have cultural encouragement to indulge in love,
even if only for a day or a weekend.
Love is not always constant, content, or lasting.

But, what the hell, take a chance . . .
For at least one day, love yourself – just a little.
And love someone else – at least a little.
Expect the best – because expectations shape experience.
Who, knows – someone may love even you . . .Surprise!