what is love?

“If I had a single flower for every time I think about you, I could walk forever in my garden.”

~Claudia Ghandi

“Who, being loved, is poor?”

~Oscar Wilde

“Love is the poetry of the senses.”

~Honoré de Balzac

“Ah me! love can not be cured by herbs.”


“True love is a discipline in which each divines the secret self of the other and refuses to believe in the mere daily self.”

~William Butler Yeats

“Love doesn’t sit there like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all of the time, made new.”

~Ursula K. LeGuin

“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.”

~Eric Fromm

“Passion makes the world go round.  Love just makes it a safer place.”

~Ice T

“The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost.”

~G.K. Chesterton

“Love is not consolation.  It is light.”

~Friedrich Nietzsche

Ten possible interpretations of the title question.  Perhaps you agree with one of them as to what constitutes love.

I’m not ready to define it, myself, but I’m happy to celebrate V-day today with my new husband of a little over two months. I admit to having a long-standing prejudice against this holiday in which our culture narrowly redefines romantic love and its acceptable range of expressions, which all somehow involve spending money.

As Lisa Simpson put it in The Simpsons, “Romance is dead.  It was acquired in a hostile takeover by Hallmark and Disney, homogenized, and sold off piece by piece.”

We are both a little suspicious of the various industries who created the modern version of the holiday for their own ends, and thus our celebration is typically non-standard.   However, this year F. violated the rule that we avoid falling for commercial ploys, buying me a dozen red roses.  They are lovely enough that I forgave him and am almost able to forget, as I gaze at their lovely, tightly furled buds, the details of the lives of the South American agricultural workers who prepare most of our cut flowers for the floral trade here in the U.S.

Reading Amy Stewart’s Flower Confidential last year totally changed my perceptions of bouquets and my cut-flower purchasing pattern, and I had thought myself somewhat educated about the business end of blossoms, with an aunt who is a florist and a six-month stint working for a floral shop in college.  But it turns out I knew almost nothing.  (By the way, the book is a great read, highly recommended.  Just don’t read it if you’d like to keep your flowery illusions.)

I won’t be putting my nose into the heart of these roses, which mostly have no scent anyway as they are bred for looks alone, nor touching them much at all once they’re in their vases, and I’ll be washing my hands immediately after any contact.  The faded flowers won’t end up in my compost pile, either, as they have likely been dipped whole — blossom, stem, and leaves — in some noxious fungicide in order to increase their chances of passing the import inspection.

Terrible, isn’t it, how a beautiful flower ends up coated with poison to survive a moment’s inspection after its long-distance, fuel-guzzling flight, all to satisfy a strange notion of economical “efficiency”?  And even more terrible still, that injustice should be done over and over to our fellow human beings supposedly to honor a day dedicated to love, but in reality to support a Free™ market which doesn’t recognize such crucial intangibles as love, honor, beauty, truth….

But I don’t want to rant on this day.  Let’s spread some love instead.

I thoroughly enjoyed a recent post by Carol at Flower Hill Farm in which she discusses “Giving Gardens,” and I cannot think of a better way to show love, both tangible and intangible, to our fellow human beings in this time of great economic distress.  If you haven’t read her lovely post yet, I’d encourage you to check it out and consider planting your own giving garden this season.

And no matter how you choose to celebrate this day (or if you choose not to), I hope that it is a great one for you and all those you love!

22 Responses to “what is love?”

  1. Very enlightening read … I’d rather a gesture of love on Valentine’s Day than a bouquet anyway! The sentiment rather than the dollars and cents.

  2. I’m not one much for florist’s blooms anyway, as a rose without a heady scent seems to miss the point to me these days. But I’ll have to read up and see where our industry sources its flowers as I’m trying each day to be a more conscious consumer!
    As for love, the Yeats quote hits the mark for me, it touches on those deep feelings that can hold a spark throughout the years no matter how mundane day to day life might become at times!

    • I agree, Heidi. When I first began to catch the gardening bug, it was with a passion for roses, and I quickly decided there was no point in growing anything without a fragrance. The difference is remarkable.

      Yeats and Nietzsche and LeGuin were my favorites of the above quotes, in that order. 🙂

  3. Dear Meredith, I much enjoyed your well chosen quotations to mark St. Valentine’s Day. Like you, I am a little sceptical of the cut flower industry preferring a few well chosen sprigs from the garden. That said, enjoy your red roses.

    • Dear Edith, I’m glad you appreciated the selection. There is nothing to be seen of garden flowers at the moment, unfortunately; even the wee violas were crushed under a blanket of snow. 😦 But typically my preference is to snip a few “sprigs”, as you say, for indoor use, and leave most of them to be enjoyed on the plant. 🙂

  4. I didn’t know that florists roses went through so much – but then I don’t buy flowers, which is why I try to grow my own.

    Still, it is lovely to be given flowers for Valentines Day (I am still waiting for a bar of chocolate to materialize here!) 🙂

    • Karen, I do hope you receive your chocolate! I have a great friend named Karen who could not survive without chocolate, and it is so easy to find her a gift she will deeply appreciate. I hope your beloved has gotten the hint. 😉

  5. My brother-in-law used to buy my sister roses every week before they were married and he realized that was going to be a pricey gesture to keep up, so just before they married, he planted a rose garden for her under their bedroom window. When they got back from their honeymoon, there were buds on them.

    • Lynn, that has to be one of the most romantic stories I’ve heard in years. Your sister is one lucky woman. No need to say “I never promised you a rose garden” in their home; the promise is blooming every summer beneath the bedroom window. 🙂

  6. My husband and I gave up “buying” anything for holidays of any kind years ago… no seduction by marketing here. 😉 Oops, sorry, one Mother’s Day he got me a load of manure for the garden.

    We opt for our time together. This evening we have planned a special meal with a nice accompanying bottle of wine and shared in love and quiet conversation. Happy Valentine’s Day Meredith to you and your husband!

    • Diana, if my husband were to buy me a load of manure, I’d be overjoyed. 😉 We’ve actually got something similar planned, and it works for us as I enjoy cooking and we both love wine and high-quality conversation. Happy V-day to you and your husband, too!

  7. A fine post, perfect for today. Good question … What is love? As you can see, a broad spectrum of wants/wishes for the perfect V-day gift … from manure to chocolates and flowers:) May your day be filled with ♡♥Hearts♥♡ and happiness!

  8. I agree with Lisa Simpson. I was never a fan of forced declarations of love. I’m more of a subtle kind of gal. 😉

    Hope you and F. have a fabulous day!

  9. LOL, she’s a wise gal, that Lisa. 😉 And you are definitely subtle, Talon. A poet would never accept a forced declaration for the genuine article, I’m sure. Hope you have a great V-day, too.

  10. i like lisa’s quote as well 🙂 she was a smart litle girl.

    happy day to you and F!

  11. Dear Meredith, this is such a beautiful post! And I have learned something new from you today … you see I buy organic food, I mostly clean with natural products, yet I never thought that I could find chemicals on the flowers … but of course I can … why in the world I’m surprised about it? … wishing you and your hubby a happy V-day, may your every single day be filled with love

    • Birdie, I’m so glad I could share the info! I admit to being horrified when I first learned it, myself, and flashed back to all those times I buried my nose in a bouquet, unsuspecting. I also wondered if I should be surprised anymore. We who are attempting to clean up our consumption habits for the long-haul and the earth’s health are getting so cynical, but also so wise to all the tricks!

  12. I’ve been trying to ‘educate’ my hubby about this very thing. I posted a single rose (from a bouquet of a dozen cut roses that he gave me) and I was hesitant to do so because I’m learning so much about the cut flower industry. Unless its from a stateside, sustainable grower, then I think it should be perfectly fine to get cut roses, don’t you? Anyway, congrat’s on your 2 mo. of marriage and I totally understand your hesitancy to celebrate by the commercial standards that society throws on us.

    • Jan, I think my hubby is on a different plane sometimes, with a fairly laissez-faire attitude — but that is because he’s focused on other issues and passions and ways of improving his contact with the world. That book I mentioned does go over the ecologically and ethically better alternatives — but I’ve looked, and out here in the rural area I have yet to find a florist who supplies even organically grown cut flowers, not to mention fair trade or sustainable ones, and none local that I’ve seen, except from my back yard!

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