Meditations on Love
Yet another American holiday has come and gone, as the months seem to pass ever more quickly. Valentine’s Day may be the most reviled of holidays, as the typical messaging focuses on romantic love, leaving anyone who is without a partner (or perhaps in an unsatisfying relationship) facing feelings of inadequacy and loss. We may participate in the rituals of the holiday, but do we really feel as though our current way of observing this day are truly capturing the love we have for one another in our relationships?
As I gathered a few small gifts for my husband, I thought about all of this. What kind of meaningful gifts can you offer to someone with whom you share a whole life? Especially at this point in time, when we have an abundance of material objects but never enough time to be together? How could a card possibly express the depth of gratitude, appreciation, and affection I feel for my spouse?
Perhaps it is obvious that it cannot. I chose instead to look at the holiday as an opportunity of acknowledgement, of taking some moments to express overtly what I feel on a regular basis. And so, as I considered this opportunity of expression, I couldn’t help but think of our daughter, who is busy growing and preparing for her own journey into the world.
Our daughter sits just below my own heart. I can feel her move all the time now, trying to stretch tiny limbs in a cramped space, having hiccups once or twice a day. Our blood is intertwined; everything I eat she eats; even my emotions can affect how she feels. So much about her is a mystery, but it feels good to keep her so close. I must remember sometimes that she can’t actually hear what I’m thinking, although she can hear our voices, and so I try to sing Potawatomi songs to her every day, so the sounds of our language are some of the sounds she hears from the get-go.
My growing belly can’t be missed; perfect strangers comment on it now as I waddle through the grocery store; it is odd to experience this amazing but ordinary phenomenon. Our daughter is an expression of our love for each other – we knew from the beginning of our relationship that we wanted to be parents and it’s been a fundamental aspect of our marriage. But the love that has made her is bigger and older than our love for each other, and I can feel an unfurling of love and hope like a strong root that extends all the way back to all of my ancestors and then forward, into an unknowable future. To the children we grow, we pass along spiraled strands of ancient proteins, stories told and untold, shared histories, and belonging. Names and places and habits that are much older than I am all become part of her inheritance. I have been blessed to know and love many wonderful people in my life, and to be wounded by the experience of trying to find and share love, as have we all. But never could I have imagined the currents of this kind of love. As my body, that nearest and dearest of homes of mine, grows and stretches to make room for her, so, too, does my figurative heart.
As a writer and speaker of language, I rely upon words to express my interior perspective and emotions. But now, even on just the precipice of motherhood, I am at a loss for how to adequately share my feelings about the person-yet-to-be that I carry in my body. There is no holiday, no gifts of chocolate or card or song or any single thing which could possibly communicate this love.
For our honeymoon, my husband and I spent time on Kauai, the oldest of the Hawaiian islands. The Native Hawaiian helicopter pilot who flew us to view Wai‘ale‘ale, a remnant of the ancient volcano, Olokele, whose eruption 10 million years ago formed the island, told us that the volcano is the mother of Hawaii. It is a difficult-to-reach place. Known for being one of the wettest spots on the entire globe, seeing the volcano is a rare privilege, as it is usually covered in dense rain clouds. The pilot maneuvered the helicopter over a ridge in such a way that the peak was revealed to us all at once, and I was not prepared for the overwhelming emotion I felt in seeing it. I erupted into tears; there were no words; I have never seen anything so beautiful. This is the closest I can come to articulating how I feel now, at the edge of emergence of this new person, and at the privilege of being no small part of bringing her into the world. “Love” is such a simple word for something so complex.
Mickki Garrity (Bodewadmi) is an enrolled in the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, a Cobell Scholar, a Doris Duke Conservation Scholar, and is pursuing a BS in Native environmental science at Northwest Indian College.