It was Valentine's Day. Another one, alone.
February is always a bleak month — the cold, gray, bitter days lingering even after the brief, teasing promise of spring at Imbolc, when the groundhog pokes his head from his borrow cautiously and the serpent rises from within the mound towards the warming sun. But it will be a while before the daffodils began to sprout, pushing their way up through the mud. And even longer before the trees, most hesitant, will start to bloom and green again.
And in the middle of it was another Valentine's Day alone. Maybe a care package from Mom with some red and pink candy-coated chocolates or a vase of flowers I bought myself at the grocery store to bring some life and color into my little one-bedroom apartment. In past years, Valentine's Day had been rough. At work, college kids seemed to congeal into smooching couples at every table, holding hands, gazing longingly, making their poor lonely waitress roll her eyes whenever her back was turned. At home, the apartment was quiet and empty, a snug den against the dark and cold... but an empty one.
But this year, things were somehow different. Over the Christmas holidays, when I had been visiting my parents, an earthquake rocked Lancaster County just past midnight. My mom called me on my phone (I was out with a friend) to check if I was all right. And I was. Something was shifting in me, as sure as there was a shift in the land. Something had been shifting for a long time, the tension building up in the stillness of my solitary existence. And that winter, like the earthquake under the rolling hills and desolate, brown-stubbled farmland of my hometown, that tension finally moved within me to a new place of stability and ease.
Another Valentine's Day alone, and yet I couldn't feel lonely, or sad. I felt... gratitude. For my life, and myself. It might sound silly to say that it had taken years to finally be okay with being single, but after a bad break-up with a man I'd been head-over-heels in love with, and the years since filled with false starts and unrequited crushes on losers and jerks, I had seriously started to think maybe there was something wrong with me, maybe I was unlovable. But such a fear was in tension with the love and gratitude I always felt during my time in nature, out walking in the woods, watching the birds flit from tree to tree, or the wind dance through the fallen leaves. Even as I felt alone, isolated and misunderstood by the other humans in my life, the more-than-human world seemed to embrace me and court me with its attentions and elegant soul-songs. Each leaf, a gift. Each star, a marvel.
I couldn't tell you when the shift happened that winter, but by that Valentine's Day, the tension had begun to ease. I felt loved, and alone with the world in an intimate, lucky kind of way. And so, to honor that relationship — a love affair that had never paled or faltered in all the years I'd taken it for granted — I decided to perform a love spell, in honor of the day, in honor of the earth that my own body, too, was made of.
I'd sworn off love spells years earlier, after a botched one that had, I'd assumed, never worked and only left me feeling embarrassed and bitter, like that song by Ani DiFranco where, after listing all the qualities she wants in a partner, she wails over and over, "Do you think I am asking too much?"
So this Valentine's Day, I dug out the stones and charms I had blessed for that ritual. I poured myself a small glass of mead, sacred honey-wine, into a tiny chalice. I scattered handfuls of dried rosebuds in the tub and drew a bath scented with luscious lavender and vanilla essential oils, and I set up an altar with candles and rose petals and twining pink ribbons on the flat top of the toilet's back. I spoke prayers of gratitude and praise for the earth, and the winter, and the coming spring still so fragile as to be only half a dream within the sleeping, frosted ground. I anointed myself with oils, and stepped gently into the warm, steaming bath, sinking first to my knees to cup the water to my face, washing away the tension and loneliness of previous years. This was not a spell to find love or bring love or attract love — this was a love spell of gratitude and celebration.
After my bath, I gathered together the rose petals and rosebuds, the stones and charms and ribbon, and I collected them into a bulky pink jar. I took the chalice of mead out to my balcony and, after a sip to honor the Spirit within me, slowly poured the libation over the offering stone resting on the rail, watching the golden-brown liquid dribble down sticky and sweet along the woodgrain and brick. Back inside, I placed the sealed spell jar on one of my dressers, where it promptly became just one more bit of my carefully cluttered home décor.
Only a few days after this, my correspondence with another Druid online (who'd agreed to talk with me about meditative and trance techniques) took an unexpected turn. Poetry and inspiration were seething in my skin, and he told me he'd been having experiences with the Celtic goddess Brigid, who mischievously suggested that something was in store that was going to knock his socks off. Of course, I wasn't a devotee of Brigid then, at least not by that name, and this Druid was a divorcé living up in New England whom I'd known for years as an online friend and fellow blogger, a guy who had an ex-wife and kids and was probably way too old for me.
And then I was madly in love, and so was he.
And a month later, on St. Patrick's Day of all days, he drove fifteen hours down from chilly, snowy Massachusetts to meet me in person for the first time. And we've been a painfully adorable couple ever since.
And we've had Valentine's Days and anniversaries and birthdays and other special days to mark and celebrate and remember. But in some ways, I think I'll always think of that year, that Valentine's Day, as my first Valentine's Day with him. Because in so many ways, it was my first Valentine's Day with myself as the person I could become, and the person he helps me to be.
Who says there's no such thing as magic?