“…in this way began our unwise / and persistent and lucky life together.” – Wesley McNair, For My Wife
This month we celebrate Erato, goddess of love, muse of lyric poetry, torch-bearer, archer, and all-around trouble-maker of the heart. Why, you may ask, did we not dedicate February to the love-muse? Why March? Why not draft with all the courtly love of Saint Valentine and let loose with harps and chocolate kisses and sugary hearts?
Indeed. Why not?
I had dinner with a dear friend recently. I love to listen to her talk. She brings an artist’s sense of paradox to her work as a therapist. Over our pasta and Pinot Grigio, she told me how she frequently gets asked by clients (either directly or indirectly) how to make a marriage last. “The answer,” she mused, “is simple: the only way to stay married is to not get divorced.” Almost sounds like Yogi Berra.
Such is my indirect way of answering the “Why not.” According to Catholic tradition, Saint Valentine was martyred for refusing to deny his faith in Christ. It seems the modern celebration of Valentine’s Day rather misses the point. I think the great Saint himself would have been appalled at what it has become: a shallow celebration of lust, a guilt-ridden excuse for going out to dinner, and salt in the wounds of lonely souls.
And what of Erato? She’s not limited to a month or a season, and she certainly refuses to hang only with the young and lovely and newly smitten. Erato has befriended the likes of Shakespeare, cummings, Piercy, and McNair, among countless other poets and musicians in warming the hearths and stirring the passions of soulmates everywhere at all times of life.
There is more – and less – to this business of getting and staying together than Hallmark cards would have you believe. I’m with McNair. Young love never begins in wisdom. How can it? How can you know what love will require of you? But with a good deal of persistence (and just as much luck), you may just make a life together.
Along the way, a few more lyric lines to stir the heart strings wouldn’t hurt, either.