Winter II

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Guest edited by Tami Ramsay

During the first few months that my husband Robert and I were dating, we courted, wrote love letters and pined for each other at a distance while he worked in Argentina as a professional fly fishing guide. Upon his return home, when I picked him up at the airport in his bombachas de campo (culotte-like pants he should have left in South America), one of the first things he pulled out of his bag for me was a heart shaped rock and a rock ring. He had found them amongst thousands of other rocks in the bed of the Collon Cura, a river that snakes through one of the estancias nestled within the Patagonia region. Young and passionately in love, it thrilled me that he had brought me momentos from his travels but I was more taken by the coincidence of the shapes rather than their inherent symbolism. You see, he was then and remains now a hopeless romantic and I have been reluctantly shuffling behind ever since.

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The truth is, love is difficult for me, for reasons both legitimate and pathologic but best left for the couch. It requires a willing submission to vulnerability that often eludes me. As life would have it, my marriage and children have taught me a thing or two about myself. Although some might still describe me as a recalcitrant romantic, I have been fundamentally changed and undressed by love and am most definitely a softer soul as a result.

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In preparing for this post, and sticking to the spirit of the column, I went out to gather what was blooming that could read Valentine’s Day without screaming “Be Mine.” Fortuitously, and almost on cue, I found an abundance of winter blooms that symbolize my juxtaposed experience of love: beautiful but imperfect, strong but soft, enduring but ephemeral.

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I love the showy blooms of camellias but they are short lived off the vine and bruise easily. Much like the experience of falling in love. The stiff nature of the Japanese flowering quince can seem inhospitable but then, in a moment of vulnerability, bears the most tender and lovely petals. I can relate. Historically, the Sakura, or the Japanese cherry tree, is a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life, of the transience and impermanence of things. Alas, love is wispy, always growing and ever changing. The lunaria annua, or money plant, with its heart shaped leaf, is commonly called honesty, and as you know, there is no love without that. And lastly, the red bud quietly abides most of the time and then, just when you don’t expect it, has a singular moment of passion. You can read into that what you will.

Not just on this day, but often, I remind myself that it is the journey of love--after cresting its peaks and wading through its deep and wide valley - that is the real teacher. Fortunately, I am a work in progress because the lessons of love are never ending.

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IMAGES | Floral styling, arrangements and photography by Tami Ramsay