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Valentine’s blooming

Alan Braunholtz

Valentine’s Day looms, which is probably not the best way of looking at it. Much better to see it as a happy symbolic prod to appreciate what we often take for granted. The love and friendship of others is a special gift that more than anything else makes life worth living.Sure, sometimes it’s nice to be by yourself. Enjoying your own company is a useful skill, but only if you have the choice to choose. Without that choice, it’s loneliness. We’re communal animals. Living alone isn’t normal. Few aspire to be hermits. Solitary confinement is a severe punishment in all societies.Strange, then, that so many of us shut ourselves away every night with only the TV for company. I’m not sure if the TV is the cause of our reduced social lives or just filling a void. Probably a bit of both. Valentine’s Day helps you to appreciate your luck and whoever allows you to live without depending on a vacuum-filled box for company. Family friends, pets, none are taken for granted on Valentine’s Day, although every day is Valentine’s for a dog.Modern life provides many trade-offs. We can choose careers, lifestyles with more ease than ever before, but this choice and mobility take us away from our homes and relatives. When young, this isn’t much of a problem, as you want change. That may be those rose-tinted spectacles of sentimental nostalgia or educated hindsight, but with age, those we’ve left behind in the wake of our career choices seem more and more important as a lost support network and just plain good company.Perhaps we realize that our time is finite, we can’t have it all and we second-guess the roads chosen. I’ve never understood families who have huge unresolved feuds that bitter pride refuses to allow them to fix. When exactly are they planning to make the move?You can never give too many tokens of affection to those you love, and it’s hard to overestimate the power of flowers. Flowers are found in prehistoric grave mounds. A Swedish king started this more modern Valentine tradition when he imported Persia’s language of flowers in the 17th century. There are apparently a lot of different meanings, depending on type, arrangement and even the scent. Unless you’re a Keats or Byron, a flower’s tough but fragile beauty is hard to match with words. They have no possible practical value or use, so they are the perfect symbolic gift. They can’t be the wrong size, color or style. Victorian England embraced the Persian code (since they couldn’t talk emotionally, that stiff upper lip thing), but we’re a lot more free form now, and short of lilies at a wedding, it’s unlikely any one would care as long as they looked pretty.Add in a bar of chocolate and you’ve got the sensual and spiritual sides covered. Heck, then an unromantic practical gift like a Leatherman, snow shovel or electric kettle will even be welcomed without one of those “oh you only see me as a practical girl then!” conversation to nowhere good.Adults, hopefully, stop judging gifts by their dollar value when their children start making things for them. It truly is the thought that counts, and slinking off to the card aisle in the supermarket before presenting it at the checkout counter shows little forethought. Hint! Today’s the 12th, still time for a card, flowers and chocolate. Symbolic gestures and gifts make for happy valentines.Alan Braunholtz of Vail writes a weekly column for the Daily. Vail, Colorado


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