Nature’s Valentines

Sunrise from downtown San Anselmo

Chocolate is fattening, florist mark-ups are exorbitant, and restaurant reservations are impossible to get (not to mention that your Groupon won’t be honored even if you do snag a table).

Fortunately, nature supplies a lot of wonderful valentines for free, at least for those of us lucky enough to live in the San Francisco Bay Area. The run-up to Valentine’s Day here is always my favorite time of year because it’s our spring, with an incredible display bursting forth.

Here are some of the confections I’ve been enjoying on my walks around town this week:


What is your favorite no-calorie Valentine freebie?

Nature’s Valentine

Plum Blossoms

Even though we are in the midst of a drought, the Japanese plums are blossoming. They always do this time of year: It’s Nature’s Valentine to Northern California.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day and my 60th birthday, my friend Mary and I went to Filoli the day before, on Friday the 13th. On the drive down, I passed a movie marquee advertising Fifty Shades of Grey. I listened to NPR, which featured holiday stories about polyamory and how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Ebola zones. I felt a tad conventional (and very, very lucky) with my box of See’s chocolates for my husband all set for the big day. But soon I arrived in the staid territory of Filoli, a refuge for ladies who lunch. Their Valentine feature was fifty shades of camellias spilling out of teacups:

And, better than an assortment of chocolates, more of nature’s confections:


 HyacinthsMagnoliaHappy Valentine’s Day!


How will you celebrate?

Love, Actually

Green for sustainability

Green for sustainability, a little scuffed for reality

“Our lives are so boring,” my husband remarked recently. “Pretty much the same thing from one day to the next.”

“That’s why the girls have a horror of becoming us,” I replied. “And also why it’s so hard to write the holiday newsletter year after year.”

“Don’t get me wrong,” Jonathan continued. “I’m really happy with our lives.”

Me too.

Perhaps it’s just self-delusion, but I’ve long thought that the secret to a happy marriage is a high tolerance for boredom. Jonathan thinks the secret is watching DVDs of long-running TV shows, like Friday Night Lights. Our Friday nights consist of pizza and Netflix. Our latest addiction is The Good Wife, which has the advantage of 6 seasons with 23 episodes each. Not to mention the salutary impact of the title’s subliminal message!

Still, even Jonathan and I have our limits. So the other night we decided to shake things up a little by going to see a live one-man show at our local community theater. As soon as the lights went down and the performer appeared onstage, Jonathan’s eyes closed. I would have elbowed him awake, except my eyes closed soon after. We made our escape at intermission, and settled in for the next episode of The Good Wife.

Perhaps the natural arc of long-term love moves from rutting to rut. Couples dubbed by “Modern Love” editor Daniel Jones as “appreciatively resigned” fare best with this trajectory.

We can come to appreciate some pretty strange things.

The other night, for example, I was laboring over a clogged toilet that looked as if it might defeat even Roto-Rooter. Jonathan came in and asked if he could help. I remembered a midnight years ago, same toilet, same linoleum floor, my exhausted husband cleaning up from the latest round of our daughters’ stomach flu. Back then I was inexplicably turned on watching him mop, flush, and mop again. “Is this what it’s come to?” I’d thought in despair. I couldn’t imagine anything more depressing than reviving muted passion over an overflowing toilet. How low we had sunk from the days of mutual fascination! But a wise friend saw it differently: “There’s nothing more intimate than seeing someone take such tender care of those you love.”

Those kids are gone now, leaving none of their messes to clean up. Intimacy is the glue that keeps us together. Not the intimacy of candlelit dinners and sexy lingerie, but enduring intimacy, which requires a continual process of mutual forgiveness for not remaining as exciting as when we first fell in love. We stay together precisely because we know each other’s messes, and mop up after them patiently and lovingly time and time again. Not because we have to, but because we want to take care of those we love.

And because we always look forward to the next episode.