I do not pretend to be an expert on the subject of love. Only a fool would do that and, while I have acted the fool in some circumstances and hope to again, I am not that foolish.
I have, however, learned a few things about love, both from my own experience of loving and my observations of other’s behavior. Let me tell you a story about love- this, of course, in honor of St. Valentine’s Day, just past.
Many years ago, when the world was young and my hair was long, DJ and I owned a funky, old, split window VW bus, festooned with Grateful Dead stickers. Our faith in that vehicle’s transportational abilities bordered on the delusional. With its tiny, four banger engine and it’s unpredictable electronics, it should never have been driven further than the nearest Dead show- if the show was here in Oakland. We convinced ourselves, however, that since it had wheels (one on each corner) and often started when we turned the key, we could drive it anywhere. As I said: delusional.
During this period of our lives, we were deeply involved in the support and maintenance of a spiritual retreat in the hills just North of Ukiah, California, which could only be reached by driving (after a long, slow freeway trip) on narrow, poorly maintained back country roads. These were not the country roads about which John Denver sang. These roads reflected the endless struggle between Man and Nature, and Nature was winning. We’re talking suspension breaking, tire busting, root jumping, car killing roads- and that was when they were dry. Given all that, and our state of mind at the time (you may feel free to speculate what that state might have been, given the era) it is not altogether surprising that our frail, overheated vehicle had a terminal seizure of some kind and gave up the ghost, halfway up a lovely, green hillside.
But that’s not what the story is about.
Something about the pooling oil under the car told us that this was not a bailing wire and duct tape fix; the car was going to have to be towed, somehow, to the nearest mechanic. How we hoodwinked a grumbling tow truck driver into coming into the hills and hauling our bus out is a story in itself. Suffice to say that we were towed to a local shade tree mechanic who, miraculously, had a spare VW engine in the back of his garage- and, finally, we’re reaching the story I’m telling, here.
In the mechanic’s front yard, was a large, grey goose. Also in the yard was a battered, blue, plastic cooler. When we commented on the goose (discarded coolers were too common in that neck of the woods to warrant comment), the mechanic said, “Ya want to see something funny?” We did. “Go on over and pick up that cooler”, said the mechanic, grinning evilly. Shrugging, I took a few steps toward the cooler- and the goose suddenly launched herself at me, neck outstretched, hissing wildly. This was a big goose, and she meant business, so I jumped back ten feet, while the mechanic had a good laugh. When he recovered, he told us the story I’m telling you.
It seems that, a few years previously, this goose had lived in that yard with her long-time mate. Geese, as you may know, bond for life, but a cruel fate (I admit I do not remember the details) took her mate from her. Upon her mate’s death, the goose seemed to have transferred her loyalty and affections to the old, blue cooler, perhaps because it was always in the yard they shared. She would not allow anyone to come near the cooler without rushing to defend it, perhaps for fear that the cooler, too, would be taken from her. Who can tell? Certainly, the mechanic told us, she never strayed more than a few yards from its side. No one, as long as she lived, was going to harm that cooler or take it from her.
So, what are we to make of this story- we, the creatures who assign meaning?
Like a Rorschach test, what you take from the story will depend on what you bring to it. If disappointment has made you cynical, you may find the goose’s behavior laughable. If love or loss has wounded you, the story may be painful. If, like me, you are a hopeless Romantic, you will find a moving nobility in the Goose’s fidelity. Perhaps the ways of the heart, avian or human, are too mysterious to be neatly classified at all. The possibilities are as numerous as the story’s readers. How do you receive it? Does it matter what or who you love, so long as you love? For that matter, is this love at all, or merely some kind of instinctive attachment, gone awry? Judge, and observe what your judgement says about you. May the insight serve you well.
As always, I welcome your comments , questions and shared experiences. Until we meet again (and may it be soon), Happy Trails to you!