|Taj Mahal, completed in 1648, honors Emperor Shah Jahan’s|
favorite wife who died in 1631, after giving birth to their 14th child.
Just in time for Valentine's Day, the online Smithsonian magazine offers Abigail Tucker's "Top Ten Demonstrations of Love" The series of vignettes covers grand gestures of love by the famous -- inventors, politicians, royalty and celebrities.
Of course, Smithsonian's collection of grand love gestures doesn't include the expressions of love among us common folk, but those are the ones that interest me most.
In our family there is a story about the love between my Great Aunt Eva and her husband George Pyle, a Montana rancher. My great aunt, the second of 10 children, was born in 1878 into a certain amount of privilege. Her father was a successful merchant in Saint Louis Missouri and owned an emporium, a large general store. Aunt Eva was schooled in the arts appropriate for young ladies of the time--embroidery, lace making and other scissor arts. I don't know how Aunt Eva and Uncle George met, but do know they married and Eva moved to the ranch outside Polaris Montana, still a small and isolate ranching community today.
The story goes that Uncle George was often out on the range and Aunt Eva was alone, except for visits from the wives of neighboring ranchers. Domestic chores were handled by a staff of Native Americans and my aunt did needlework by the hour, resulting in beautiful lace for pillowcases, sheets, undergarments, curtains. George and Eva had three children--all dying within days of birth. A highlight of my aunt's life was a visit from the circuit riding minister who'd come to stay for a week or so and families would flock to the ranch for preaching and socializing. Then Aunt Eva would be alone again.
H. D. Koerner’s painting Hard Winter reveals the hardships
of the western frontier. This painting is notable in that it stripped
away the romanticism often associated with cowboy mythology.
But, they say George and Eva were completely devoted to each other, when they were in a room together, the bond between them was almost visible, they hated to be apart.The Smithsonian's story reminds of this. Before each Valentine's Day, George would ride horseback to Dillon, a three-day trek in the snow. He'd ride to the train station and pick up the strawberries he'd ordered for Eva and ride back, keeping the berries from freezing by wrapping them close to his body, under his coat. Shattered by George's death in 1947, my great aunt sold the ranch in Montana and moved to live with family on ranches in Lake County. Although it made her cry, my grandmother always brought Aunt Eva strawberries on Valentine's Day.
oerner’s painting Hard Winter (below), origilly appeared as a black and white
|John Van Veenendaal|
From Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem In Memoriam:27, 1850:
See you in The Garden with the one you love. Wear red and bring a heated heart.I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.