To be able to say how much you love is to love but little.
Francesco Petrarch was an Italian poet and scholar who lived between 1304 and 1374. He is considered one of the initiators of 14th century Renaissance.
To be completely honest, I knew OF him but, until two weeks ago, I didn’t know much about him.
I had only a vague idea that he was a famous poet (whose works I had never read…) and one of the enlightened.
Then, we went to Provence on vacation. I wrote a post about it a few days ago, called “Perspective: The cure for the common disappointment”. I wasn’t disappointed by Provence, but by the scorching weather that stopped me (and my almost 6-month old pregnancy) from enjoying myself.
The highlight of the trip though was a hike through a little village called Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, where Petrarch is said to have lived a certain number of years of his life, not far from Avignon.
The reason why he settled in France was because he fell in love with a woman.
The many stories written all over the place in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse tell how it was love at first sight for the poet, who saw his beloved Laura in a church in Avignon.
She, however, did not respond to his ardor, because she was married – and wanted to stay virtuous.
So Petrarch loved her from a far and retreated to this place on the side of a small mountain, where he hiked less than an hour to a fresh water spring. He poured his love there – and later on his sorrow, after his beloved Laura died (of the cholera, I think).
They say he never loved anybody else.
People make pilgrimages to the spring.
There is a plaque there retelling of the love story.
The hike itself is gorgeous, along a strong river that murmurs over rocks and in between branches, sending freshness in the air. We sorely needed it, for the heat was unbearable.
My three-year-old son hiked with us with great joy. I had never seen him so excited to walk. He did the whole hour and a half skipping and hopping almost, following his dad and running back to me every so often to ask “Are you okay?”. I, on the other hand, was huffing and puffing like a great white whale stranded on the shore and forced to crawl.
Close to the fountain we met a group of people coming down the slope.
“Is it nice?” my husband asked them.
A lady laughed: “Not so much… the river is much more spectacular.”
The water level was so low that you could barely see it hidden in the open cave.
The rocks were polished to a shine by the millions of people who must have done the pilgrimage over the years.
An homage to love… romantic love… unrequited love… unfulfilled love… idealized love.
It got me thinking…
As I was reading the story of Francis and Laura and how his love poems for her became world-famous through the centuries, a thought popped into my head.
(RED ALERT: be prepared to be grossed out. If babies and kids gross you out, do not read further haha)
It was, in fact, the flash of a scene that happened a couple of years ago, when my husband and I were struggling with our very young son during one of his winter colds. He hated having his nose cleaned and us, dotting parents, wanted to make it as easy and smooth for him as possible. But still… it needed to be cleaned. So we found this contraption at the pharmacy… it’s a little pump, with a hose at one end and a little plastic whistle-like part that you are supposed to put in your mouth and… yes, suck. As in, the snot. Out of the baby’s nose. There is a filter at the end of the pump, but still…
The thing is, when you are a parent, it doesn’t really gross you out. I really don’t care. My husband doesn’t either. Well, we care about our kid being healthy. And comfortable. But my beloved did look at me that night and started laughing, saying: “Three years ago I would have never imagined that one day we would be doing THIS together…”
It made me laugh. And, to this day, I remember it as one of the funny – and tender! – moments in our marriage.
Because… first of all, I don’t know too many men who would be right there with you, ready to suck snot out of the baby’s nose! Sorry… it’s gross, it’s not romantic… it’s not sexy… and yet, he gesture is. Because it says that his love knows no bounds and, also, that he will do whatever needs to be done. And that is incredibly sexy.
Secondly, he thought that my devotion to our son was sexy too!
It was a circle of love that keeps on growing to this day, though many, many other moments, big and small.
Some moments are gross. There are bodily functions involved… but we have fun and make fun of it all – which makes it awesome.
Other moments are tense. We had a few fights on our trip to France, because (I swear) the heat got to our heads. We were at the end of our wits and snapped at each other a few times. I might have even started crying at some point… (blame it on the pregnancy hormones!). But I don’t mind us fighting. Because it is never mean and it is never unfair – and we always end up apologizing where we need to.
We are living our domestic paradise through washing dishes every night, keeping the house clean and juggling things so we can make a bit of time for ourselves and for each other.
It is the most romantic, sexy adventure I could have ever imagined.
I think back to my dreams about my beloved… there was so much idealization in them… and none of the details that make up a life (that includes snot and buggers and colds… among many other things…).
All the purple and pink stuff that surrounded my imaginary scenes of love vanished with the years.
I know people who suffer greatly because of that.
They have the impression that that stuff is the real deal.
But I say it is not.
There is so much beauty in real life, in “ordinary” life… in blending with someone and building a life together…
And yet, we do not see monuments to that anywhere.
Not that I know of.
Not even in literature.
But perhaps it is because “And they lived happily ever after…” is not that interesting to talk about.
Or is it because we have a love affair with suffering? With the knife in the wound, the unrequited love, the missed chances and the loneliness?
In fact, I don’t really think about this much anymore. I have to go wipe some noses, make some dinners and steal some kisses in between some chores.
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