I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Love is timeless

Me as a toddler
This picture tells me so many things about my early days. I know I was loved immoderately by my parents, and my sister Norma Jean had not yet made an appearance to move me from the center of the universe. I'll bet my mom made that outfit for me; back in the 1940s there were not very many cute little outfits like this one for toddlers. Plus she loved to sew. It almost looks like I'm wearing two different colors of socks, but it must be a trick of the sun, since I cannot imagine she would have allowed that. I can also see that I'm wearing little panties, so I must have been housebroken by then (I mean potty trained).

Daddy had a darkroom and enjoyed taking pictures and developing them himself. His family at this time consisted of the three of us, a nice little nuclear family during war time. I'm not even sure where we were living; since I was born at the end of 1942, World War II must be close to being over, and Daddy was certainly not gone, for this picture to have been taken. Norma Jean must be incubating, since she was born when I was two-and-a-half. I look to be about two.

I've been thinking about what remains from that time. Since I've read that the cells in our bodies are replaced every seven years or so (most of them, anyway, according to this article), what makes me still that little girl? I sure don't look anything like her now, and I have no recollection of what she was like back then. When I recall my childhood, most of what I remember is being loved, feeling safe and cherished. For that, I thank my parents. I wish I could have given such a childhood to my own son, but it was not to be.

Yesterday I finished reading a book about a couple of star-crossed lovers in the mid-1960s who were foiled in their attempts to get together by life circumstances. They truly loved one another and didn't know that the other was still alive. Forty years later they are reunited, in their late sixties by then, but still the same to each other. The book ended after their reunion, but my imagination had no difficulty filling in the rest. (The book is The Last Letter from Your Lover by JoJo Moyes.)

It makes me think about love, what it is and whether true love really does last forever. If that is true, then the love I received from my parents is part of my DNA, and the love I gave to my sons while they were alive is also still somewhere inside me. That is not to say that I don't still feel love for them, but it's different, laced with pain around the edges, so I don't allow myself to dwell there for long. It's funny; my parents are both gone, too, but when I think of them there is no pain, just gratitude for having had them as part of my life. That love is not gone, either.

But thinking back about other old loves, such as husbands and boyfriends who meant everything to me once upon a time, there are plenty of memories of good times and bad, but the love is rather one dimensional, not full and robust. I suspect it's because I've moved on and they are no longer part of my life today. My spouse of today, Smart Guy, has taken over that position in my heart and I guess there's no need for me to mourn the loss of any other. Must be the neurons in my brain only have room for one at a time. I wonder if that's a genetic trait that millennia spent in monogamous relationships (even if only serial monogamy) has facilitated.

But that's neither here nor there. What I'm trying to tease out of myself is what, exactly, remains when the object of love is no longer there? A phrase from my past just emerged from the fog: "the greatest of these is love." I find that it is a Bible phrase from 1 Corinthians: "So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (How did I ever find anything before Google?) According to this, these three things continue without fading or being lost.

I know that when I am feeling love, great or small, I feel a bit like I am glowing with it. Being suffused with love is a great place to be, and if I could figure out how to be there all the time, I would. But of course life is filled with ups and downs, peaks and valleys, and I guess, thinking a little more about it, I would probably stop noticing it if it were always there, like the invisible air I breathe every moment. No, it's better to have a few valleys where I'm not feeling the love so that I can be aware of it when it's surrounding me.

After this Sunday morning ponder, I sit here with my laptop, tea gone and partner still asleep, and I feel the love. I've got a good day planned, an outing with my friend Judy, and perhaps a bit of time outside in the garden, and the ability to stride out into my day with a full heart. I can only wish the same for you, my dear reader, and hope that your day is filled with love.


Cait O'Connor said...

This was lovely to read, thank you.

Stella Jones said...

I think we can love on many levels - some over the years, others at the same time. It is an interesting concept.
That's a pretty picture of your younger self D-Jan.
Be happy :)

Linda Reeder said...

In my busy life, I infrequently take the time anymore to ponder such things as love. I can always count on you to slow me down on Sunday mornings to do a bit of reflecting. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

You are very fortunate to have experienced that deep, abiding love and affection from your parents. Not many of us have. Good post!

Arkansas Patti said...

"would probably stop noticing it if it were always there, like the invisible air I breathe every moment." Wonderfully well put Djan and helps explains why conflict, bleak periods and occasional sorrows are necessary. We need the contrast to appreciate.

O-town Ramblings said...

What a timely post. Last week as I was driving to my grandmother's house just after she died, a song called "Love Remains" rotated through my playlist. I love the lyrics. They remind me that after all is said and done, the love we give and receive in life is the one thing that will last, even after death.

Thanks as always for your reflective, thought-provoking words. Enjoy your Sunday.

CiCi said...

I think you must feel love all around you, give and receive of various levels of love all the time. People tend to be generous in their love, at least I think so.

Sally Wessely said...

Great post. Love is not always easily understood. I do believed true love lasts forever. I fell in love with my husband at age sixteen and didn't reconnect and marry him until I was forty-seven. I had always loved him. The love we have deepens, but it also remains young.

Elephant's Child said...

Love and laughter are the foundations of my world. Always changing, never changing.
Hugs to you - and love.

Rian said...

I too think that there are many kinds of love. But I also believe that deep abiding love like one has for a child, or a parent, or a spouse is more than a feeling... but an energy source in itself that exists long after the passing of a loved one. It may be a romantic notion, but I believe it can defy time and space.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, What I really like about your blog is that you usually give me something to think about. And there is a lot in this one today. Did you happen to see the news story this last week about the guys in New Orleans who are posting simple signs all over the city that have just one word: LOVE. People are saying there are already positive results. So you are on an interesting topic today. And also, you've gotten some very thought provoking comments today. Very interesting, DJan. Take care and have a good week. John

Linda Myers said...

How lucky you were to have a happy, loving childhood!

Glenda Beall said...

Your beautiful thought-provoking writing brings me here each week and I, like many others, gain so much from you. I think you safe and loving childhood helped make the loving person you are today. The photo of you as a little girl is adorable. Who wouldn't love that child?

Rita said...

No one can take away the love you have lodged and nurtured in your heart. Even if bad things happen later or people leave...I do agree, the love remains. You can try to bury it deeply, but if you unearth it, polish it up, and take a long close look--the shine and light are still there.

I love your Sunday posts, my friend. This was lovely. :):)

Mel said...

Lovely. And that picture of you! So adorable. The idea of you suffused, glowing with love is so beautiful. I'm trying to do that too, to greet the day with an open heart. Thanks for shining so much out into the world. I hope you have a lovely week.

Friko said...

There are many different kinds of love, all equally valid and important while we are feeling them.

Is there a love which lasts a lifetime? I don’t know, I don’t think I have experienced it. Not truly and deeply and really.

Without love life would be a desert.