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Sheltered Reflections # 19

By Maureen Kalbus

Sheltering at home, with primroses and orchids bursting into bloom in our courtyard, and bulbs pushing their way through the recently softened soil, I am realizing we are into February, careering towards Spring, and St. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Different stories about St.Valentine abound. Perhaps the most widely accepted is that of a young Christian imprisoned in Rome, who healed and befriended the jailor’s blind daughter, who brought his meals each day. The night before his execution in A.D. 270, Valentine wrote her a letter, signing it “From Your Valentine.” By the Middle Ages, he had been created a martyr in the Catholic Church. At the end of the fifth century, Pope Gelasius declared February 14th as St. Valentine’s Day. Some believe this was the date on which Valentine had been executed, while others link it with the pagan celebration of Lupercalia on February 15th. It was a fertility festival, dedicated to Faunes, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as Rome’s founders, Romulus and Remus.

Geoffery Chaucer was the first to record February 14th as a day of romantic celebration in his 1375 poem “Parliament of Foules.” The oldest known valentine still in existence, is a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife, while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.It is contained in the British Library in London. In the eighteenth century, friends and lovers exchanged small tokens of affection, and by the twentieth century, printed cards replaced hand written ones.In 1840, Esther A. Howland , “The Mother of the Valentine’, began selling the first mass produced Valentine cards, in the U.S.. Nowadays, millions are sent. Growing up in the United Kingdom, Valentine cards were only exchanged romantically. When I came to America, I was amazed that Valentine cards were printed for parents, siblings, family members, friends, co-workers, ministers, doctors and even cats and dogs! I thought,”How daft!”

However, when I mulled it over, I liked the idea that, at least once a year, people expressed their feelings to others. I embraced it, and now send cards to relatives and friends, telling them how much I appreciate them, and why.

Throughout literature, stories and poems have been written about loving relationships. Among the best known quotations:

“My bounty is as boundless as the sea, my love as deep; The more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite.” William Shakespeare

“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I would walk through my garden forever.”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Elizabeth Barrett Browning

“Young love is a flame; very pretty, often very hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. The love of the older and disciplined heart is as coals, deep burning, unquenchable.”

Henry Ward Beecher

“Age does not protect you from love, but love, to some extent, protects you from age.” Anais Nin

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” Helen Keller

“ Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself

But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:

To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.

To know the pain of too much tenderness

To be wounded by your own understanding of love;

And to bleed willingly and joyfully.

To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;”

Kahlil Gibran

The sale of millions of red roses on Valentine’s Day, perhaps may be attributed t