Category Archives: Traditions

TO MY VALENTINE

A LETTER TO MY SIX-YEAR-OLD GRANDSON

February 7, 2017

Dear Morgan,

I suppose your class is beginning to talk about Valentine’s Day. You’re probably seeing lots of heart decorations and valentine cards and candies in the stores. Some people think the whole idea of having a special day to celebrate love with flowers and cards and candy is ridiculous. Some people think its pretty cool. I always liked Valentine’s Day because my birthday is the day before so my birthday parties were always full of valentines.

But what the heck is this day really about?

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, Emperor Claudius II ruled Rome. He was nicknamed Claudius the Cruel because of the cruel ways he abused his people and for the many wars that he started. Because of him, Rome was fighting so many wars that Emperor Claudius couldn’t find enough soldiers to fight for him. He blamed this on the idea that men were refusing to join his army because they did not want to leave their partners or families. So Claudius decided to make it illegal to get married and have a family. The people were afraid of Claudius, so no one stood up to him.

Except for a Christian priest named Valentine. Valentine was a kind man. He felt great compassion for people who were suffering because of the cruel Emperor. He helped them in any way that he could. One of the things that he did was to secretly perform weddings for people who wanted to be married. Eventually the Emperor found out and had Valentine arrested.

There are many legends about the things that happened while Valentine was in prison. One story says that he healed the blind daughter of the Prison Guard. Emperor Claudius had Valentine killed on February the 14th in the year 273. Because of the stories of how Valentine demonstrated love and compassion despite the cruelty of Claudius, the tradition of “Valentine’s Day” got started. It has evolved through the hundreds of years since he died to what we know today.

I like the story of Valentine. I like that this day is about Hearts. Morgan, did you know that every single person in the world has 2 hearts? There is the one we can see which is the heart that pumps the blood through our body. If that heart stops, our body dies.

But deep inside that heart is another heart–one that doctors cannoheart-of-lightt see with X-rays or surgery. It is made of pure Light–and inside this Heart is our True Self–some people call it our Soul, or our Spirit. It is the part of us that lives forever, even when our body can’t live anymore.

The love we feel and the love and kindness we share with others comes from our second heart, our Heart of Light that lives quietly inside the big one that is pumping our blood. When we talk about “opening our heart” to care about someone, or to forgive someone, or to be kind to someone–it is this Heart of Light inside us that we are opening.

This Heart of Light cannot die, but its light can grow dim. Think about when your Daddy builds a fire in the backyard. If he puts a lot of wood on the fire, the fire gets big and bright, right? If he stops putting wood on the fire, gradually the fire gets smaller and smaller until there are just some glowing coals of burnt wood left.  This is what can happen to our loving Heart of Light. When someone is kind to us, it is like putting a log on the fire. We feel loved and we feel warm inside. The light in our special heart burns brighter.

But, when someone isn’t loved very well the light in their heart can get very small. If someone is bullied and hurt, they might close off this special heart. They are trying to protect themselves from feeling the hurt. If they do this, their special heart can grow hard, like a lump of charcoal. They might become mean and angry, or very depressed and lonely. The love in their Heart of Light will become just a faint glow among the coals.

So what does this have to do with Valentine’s Day? I like to think about all the little valentines we give our friends and family and the special people we love as a way to say, “Hey, I know that you are special! I see the Heart of Light inside you. You are important and valuable. You are loved.” And our message is like a little stick placed in the fire to make it burn a little bigger. Our message makes their Heart of Light shine a little brighter.

This day is a reminder to us to keep our Heart of Light open so that kindness and love can come into us. When our Heart of Light is full of love, we can be kind and loving to others. This special day reminds us to keep filling up each other’s hearts with love. Just like putting wood on the fire. Valentine’s Day reminds us of a man who was willing to be compassionate and kind and to help people, even when a cruel Emperor tried to make it illegal to love.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my sweet boy.

Love,

Nonna

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SPRING SONG

SPRING SONG

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March 20, 2016

I saw two robins in the slush during our Winter’s final tantrum the other day. They were fighting over what looked to be a worm. It had been raining hard in our part of the city, while snow buried everyone up over the bluffs. Our basement was leaking, proof that the ground was saturated and the earth soft–we knew this because it was easy to pound the metal stakes into the ground to put the deer fence back up around our garden. The tulips were pushing up above the earth–a beloved delicacy for the pregnant does who wander out of the snowy woods into the neighborhood where the snow has retreated, looking for the special treats they crave. So, it might truly have been a winter fattened worm escaping a flooded den. Do worms hibernate in dens? Where do they go when the ground freezes up? The scrawny robin won.

When my children were young, we went for our first ice-cream cone after we saw our first robins in Spring. It was a tradition. But I’ve become lactose intolerant. I bought some fresh strawberries instead that afternoon while it rained, and the school children were at home having a “snow day”.

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This morning the sun came up blazing rose-gold, announcing the first day of Spring. It is streaming in through winter streaked windows, inviting us to fetch our overshoes and go for a muddy trek in the hills. I am making fresh ground-buckwheat pancakes. David is frying bacon. There is a pitcher full of Green Smoothie on the counter filled with pears and pineapple, grapefruit and greens, ginger and celery and cucumber and avocado–we’re getting IMG_3258fortified for our Sunday migration into the bluffs. There are a flock of Redpolls taking turns having breakfast at the feeder outside the kitchen window; getting fattened up for their migration to their summer home in the Arctic–true northerners after my own heart!

I’m going to buy some daffodils from the Market today. It’s a tradition. A vase of Sunshine on my table. Last week we found some pussy-willows just beginning to consider opening up. This week they will be ready. Maybe we’ll find some today as we slog through the mud and navigate the swollen streams in the hills that climb up to the bluffs. From up there we can see our neighborhood laid out like a toy town. Beyond lies the harbor, the bridges, the Lake. We can see all the way to Wisconsin.  We’ll gather some pussy-willows, and fill up our house with Spring. Tonight we’ll go grill steaks at my daughter’s.

Tomorrow we’ll clean out the closets and put away the parkas and the skis.

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