As an adult, I’ve given myself permission to forgo celebrating most of the holidays of my childhood, which seem to have lost their magic and become overly-stressful or tied to buying things we don’t need. I prefer the liberation and fulfillment of celebrating on my own terms—through a small but intentional Thanksgiving dinner, a Christmas hike through the Redwoods, or just skipping the celebrating all together and being grateful for the peaceful spaciousness it creates in my life. I try to connect with those I love in other ways – being fully present when we we’re together on an ordinary day, sending a thoughtful gift or letter when they don’t expect it, and always being kind.
In my admittedly radical mind, Valentine’s Day is essentially a marketing ploy to profit off of love, and in the past the pressure to have a perfect romantic evening has often left me feeling less-than-fulfilled. I now have a wonderful partner and soulmate, Jeremiah, and as Valentine’s Day approached (with our one-year anniversary soon to follow) I wondered how we could celebrate in a way that would do justice to the depth of our love and all that we’ve learned from each other. Rather than plan something extravagant, we decided to simply spend the day together, doing things we love to do together and appreciating each other.
Between delicious, healthy, home-cooked meals with Kathryn, our dear friend and roommate, Jeremiah and I spent the day with our hands in the dirt (my fingernails are still dirty as I type this), in service to the soil and water and plants and animals that give us life, and in service to all future generations—including, we hope, our own children—who will inhabit this planet someday.
We started the day planting willows as part of a riparian restoration project to help secure and enhance a dynamic floodplain along the Macama Creek, a tributary of the Russian River and an area with an usually high density of macroinvertebrates, the tiny creatures many fish and birds depend on for food. I’m not much of a science nerd, but the significance of caring for our watershed in an era of drought, climate change, and heavy pollution is not lost on me.
In fact, it was our shared concern for the state of the world we’re inheriting—and our determination to DO SOMETHING about it—that brought Jeremiah and I together. In each other we have found deep compassion and understanding to lean into when the pain of the world and our own life experiences is acute enough to rain tears from our eyes and our hearts. And through each other we are consistently challenged and inspired: to open our minds and hearts, to embody the change we seek, to develop and step into our strengths, to feel our feelings, to focus on what is truly important, to create and embrace a new path that is so different from the one Society has laid in front of us.
We spent the afternoon and early evening with Kathryn, tending to the sweet garden that surrounds our home (the Big Red Barn). Here we are collaborating with the curves of the land to allow more precious water to infiltrate; building up rich topsoil on what was recently barren ground; and growing diverse perennial plants that are resilient enough to produce food, medicine, and habitat regardless of whether future tenants have a green thumb. The alchemy that results when our own unique contributions to the garden interact with each other and with the patterns of nature brings me great pleasure and a sense of wonder at the power of Creation.
There is something deeply fulfilling and healing about pouring sweat and love, patience and tenderness into these pieces of earth, these islands of a future we know is possible. It’s an exercise in active hope, presence, and non-attachment: all important lessons for relationships, too.
As the sun set above us, a striking ribbon of bright, velvety red cut across the sky, fading to gorgeous hues of soft pink. As we paused in delight, a winged messenger swooped above us and perched in a nearby tree, coaxing out a simple but powerful prayer that was forming in my heart:
“May our love be a vessel for healing ourselves and our world.”
Thank you Jeremiah, Kathryn, and all the beautiful beings who made this day so sweet.