In the last Waynedale News I saw an article announcing the Valentine’s Day Eagle Watch at the Salamonie Interpretive Center, and I thought to myself ‘What a nice way to celebrate the day with your sweetheart.’ Little did I know until talking with my friend, John Brennan—a retired English professor—that celebrating love on Valentine’s Day actually began with a story about birds, and eagles in particular.
In a dream poem by Geoffrey Chaucer, written around the year 1380, a meeting of birds comes together on the 14th of February, the time when they begin returning from their winter homes and looking to choose a mate for the coming year. In this story three young male eagles (tercels) argue over which of them will win the ‘hand’ of one formel or female eagle. Soon the lower class birds enter to protest, and they launch into a comic parliamentary debate. In the end none of the three tercels wins the formel. She is allowed to go off and choose a mate for herself in her own time. Nature allows the other birds, however, to pair off, and the dream ends with a song welcoming the new spring.
Dr. Brennan, who taught courses on Chaucer at IPFW, said that “The Parliament of Birds” was the first reference to the idea that St. Valentine’s Day is a special day for lovers, though February 14 had long before that been the Christian feast day of Saint Valentine who was martyred in 269 AD.
I appreciate that love has its own day of celebration, but I like to think that Valentine’s Day is about more than just romantic love. I remember the cards and little candy hearts that my children exchanged at school as they were growing up. Their teachers took special care to make sure that everyone in the class was included, and that’s something I really thought was important. That meant that my children were being taught that love should be shared with everyone—early lessons of inclusion!
So this year on Valentine’s Day I’d like to ask that we all do something not just for the sweetheart in our lives but for everyone we meet. Take time to stop, listen, and share a hug or a smile. If you receive flowers or candy or a gift be sure and show your gratitude, read the cards you receive and know that the sender probably took some time and care to pick that card out just for you. I say all these things as a reminder not just to you but to myself as well. As I know it does for everybody, the busy-ness in life often eats up the time I should be taking to show my family and friends just how much they mean to me, that I really love them and that I am glad they are in my life.
And, one more thing: Try to catch the eagles at the largest winter eagle roost in Indiana—3 p.m. on Saturday the 13th and Sunday the 14th. It will be a fitting tribute to the coming spring and the celebration of love that is Valentine’s Day.
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