One clever reader said that she doesn't like trash-men, anti-Valentine's Day Valentine's Day parties, and I think she's onto something there. It is foolish to spit on something good, like romantic love, when deep in your heart you know it is good. It is a much better idea to celebrate it--although how to do that when you don't have a love interest, boyfriend or husband can be a puzzle.
One solution is to make Valentine's Day about love, not just romantic love, which is what you have done when you have sent cards, chocolate or party plans to your Single girlfriends.
But you don't have to rule out romance entirely. For example, many people, including many artists, feel passionate love for their own countries, their cultures, even their fellow countrymen. In the 21st century, with our worries about (or, sadly, embrace of) racism, this can make some of us--especially in shame-bedeviled English-speaking countries--rather nervous.
But thank heavens nineteenth-century poets and twentieth-century songwriters did not share our timidity about expressing love for our countries, cultures and people! If they had, how impoverished we would be, and some of us might not even have a country. If your nation has been free from foreign rule for over 200 years, you might take national identity for granted: not so the Poles, Slovaks, Czechs, Lithuanians, Latvians...
Personally I do not see why loving your own country and your own folk better than other countries and other folk makes you more likely to go to war or be a hateful person than an old hippy like Gilles Vigneult, who wrote, "Mon pays ce n'est pas un pays, c'est l'hiver." ("My country is not a country; it's winter.")
As a matter of fact I grew up in Toronto--which Hilary White often says is not really Canada--at a time when the chattering classes (mostly from Toronto) were taking apart the notion of what it was to be a Canadian in our post-1967, multi-racial, multi-ethnic country. As a child I longed to be Swiss, for the Swiss seemed to have a strong national identity and knew who they were, and didn't think being Swiss was reduced to just having a Swiss passport. I also envied French-Canadians, especially in Quebec, for their unique culture was not at all masked or swept away or (then) even threatened by immigration.
Migration does something odd in that it separates a culture or one's sense of oneself as belonging to a nation from a geographical place. One of the odder sights in my parents' neighbourhood is a Pakistani man who shovels snow in traditional Pakistani clothing. Whereas those clothes are probably absolutely perfect for the climate of Pakistan, they make absolutely no sense whatsoever in the northern parts of Toronto in February. But perhaps he is afraid Western clothing will make him Western, which he does not want to be, although he certainly now lives in the West.
I think one should live where one loves, and if one can't live in the beloved place for some reason, then to learn to love where one lives. If this proves impossible, then one should move. On the plane yesterday, B.A. pointed to Toronto out the window, and as I looked at the dear old ugly town, my heart sank and I felt very homesick for Edinburgh. I find it hard to love a city which constantly cannibalizes itself, and which constantly tears down the places I have lived and loved and even studied. In Edinburgh, the homes of my Edinburgh great-grandparents are still standing. In Toronto, my theological college has been ripped down. Edinburgh preserves and offers its past; Toronto is about money and food. Torontonians don't preserve; we consume.
But Toronto does have snow and it does have trees, and so I can find my love for Canada as Canadians traditionally have, in the weather and the wilderness.
Mon pays ce n'est pay un pays, c'est l'hiver.
And there is also the romance of other places--particularly cities. Paris, for example, is considered wonderfully romantic by womankind, and this has nothing to do with Frenchmen--or potential French boyfriends anyway. (Personally, the concepts of French pastry chef, French baker, French chef and French designer have always thrilled me more than the idea of French boyfriend although I imagine many women would protest.) Just BEING in Paris--always within five minutes of a patisserie--is enough.
Rome is also very romantic and, again, this has nothing to do with boys, although at my age it is particularly flattering to have 20 year olds sigh "Bellissima" at me, the charming wee liars. Florence is very romantic. Venice is romantic. The Rhine Valley is very romantic, if you are lucky enough not to know 20th century battlefield details. Edinburgh is romantic. The Highlands are stunning.
Frankfurt is probably not romantic, but I am very fond of it anyway. I am also very fond of Warsaw.
Well, that is certainly enough from me. But if I am in a mood to celebrate romance on Valentine's Day, which is the day after my husband goes back to Scotland, I think I will read travel books or go for a walk in the snow.
What places do you love best, and which places do you think romantic?