A Few Charms (Banner)

A Few Charms (Banner)

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

A love story and a poem - a reflection on Valentine's Day

After being married for almost 25 years I was surprised to find that the best description of marriage I've ever seen was in a book on my teenaged daughter's shelves. Sometimes inspiration comes from the most unlikely places, including novels, poems or fables. I was even inspired to write a poem of my own, as a gift to my husband on Valentine's Day.

One of my earliest charms, the red vines, was a gift from my husband for my "Always and Forever" bracelet, about our love and marriage. I had this vague notion that vines could represent a marriage, but since I hadn't written a blog post about the charm, I hadn't put my thoughts into words - until yesterday, Valentine's Day. Now, in doing some research and writing this post, I have discovered that I was on to something; my instincts were correct.

If you had asked me over 25 years ago what makes a marriage I would have given you this poem "On Marriage" by Kahlil Gibran. In fact we had a friend read this in our wedding ceremony.

"Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving seas between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup, but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone.
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow."
- Kahlil Gibran

I wanted us to support each other, nourish each other, and celebrate each other. But I did not want to lose myself. Little did I know that I would not lose myself, but find myself, a new self, changed by the years together.

And so I came to see that, although we were separate trees, our roots had grown together and our branches had become intertwined, as JRR Tolkien described in this poem to his wife Edith.

"Lo, Young we are and yet have stood like planted hearts in the great Sun of Love so long (as two fair trees in woodland or in open vale stand utterly entwined and breathe the airs and suck the very light together) that we have become as one, deep rooted in the soil of Life and tangled in the sweet growth."
- JRR Tolkien

Turns out that my idea, that a marriage could be represented by vines, was not such an original idea after all. The vine has long been seen as symbol of marriage, in particular the vine and the elm tree. In Italy, and other wine-producing countries, they would "grow wine" on trees. It was a common practice, at least into the 20th century, to have orchards of elm trees that were pruned to be used as supports for vines.

Tuscan country life 1849
There were many examples in Renaissance literature using the vine and the elm as a symbol of marriage, and fables were created from the association. The stories would tell of an elm tree, that did not produce fruit, inviting a vine to grow among its branches. Although the vine initially declines the offer, after being exposed to the harsh weather, the vine "creeps feebly to the Elm's embrace; and in his arms finds sweet solace; United thus they storms defy. And mutual grace and aid supply." I love this representation of marriage.

Without the vine, the elm would have nothing except leaves, and would not feel productive. Likewise, without the elm, the vine would trail along the ground and not produce fruit in abundance, and it's fruit would rot.

Some stories told of a fruitful vine that acknowledges its debt to the little tree that supports it. Some tales say that the vine learns that we often can not rely only on our own resources, a sign that you are not alone. This image is often described as "the living union of a married pair" with grateful dependence and mutual support.

Abraham Bloemaert 1620
Between the 16th and 18th centuries, in many European countries, artists commonly painted the image of the pairing of the vine and the elm. In the myth of Vertumnus and Pomona, Vertumus takes the shape of an old woman and urges the reluctant goddess to marriage by pointing to the vine in her orchard.

But still, the best description I have ever found, of a loving committed relationship, whether a marriage or not, came from a YA (Young Adult) book: "Allegiant" from one of my 15-year-old daughter's favourite book trilogies (if you haven't read "Divergent" and seen the movies, please do).

"I used to think that when people fell in love, they just landed where they landed, and they had no choice in the matter afterward. And maybe that's true of beginnings, but t's not true of this, now.

I fell in love with him. But I don't just stay with him by default as if there's no one else available to me. I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me."
- Tris from "Allegiant" by Veronica Roth

Using this quote from "Allegiant" I made this sign for my husband for Valentine's Day last year.

This year, inspired by poems and fables - and a YA novel - I wrote my husband a poem.

And when my husband needs reminding (and because The Simpsons is his all-time favourite TV show) I will simply tell him that "I choo-choo-choose you," every day.

In case you're not familiar with the source of this Valentine, check out this 17 second You Tube video of Lisa's Valentine's Day card for Ralph.

 Or you can take two and a half minutes to listen to Lisa tell the whole "love story" of Lisa and Ralph.

 My Valentine's Day gift
Pandora heart charm
"pink bow and lace"
better than flowers
better than chocolate
better than lacy lingerie
on Valentine's Day
"Rose of Hearts"
My work-in-progress representing the year 2017
PANDORA Rose with pearls, moonstones, and mother-of-pearl

Related Posts:

My home, my marriage, my husband and my honeymoon - a story about the symbolism of the lighthouse charm and my first attempt at writing a love poem.

"the deepest secret nobody knows" - a story about how we treat those we love, inspired by an ee cummings poem, and the charm to represent it.

Sheila and Mike's Excellent Anniversary Adventure - a story about a colourful outing for our 20th wedding anniversary and the charm I had engraved to remember it.

I would say "Yes" all over again - a story about how my husband had to re-enact our engagement, with our kids as witnesses.

You can search the blog, at the bottom of the website version. Using the label for "Always and Forever bracelet" you can see all of the stories about those charms, about love and marriage.

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