It was yet another day when tornadoes were threatening the Virginia Peninsula and my mood was in keeping with the threatening clouds I photographed. I was at an intersection; I snapped a shot with my cell phone and posted it to Facebook. I thought nothing more of it. I was feeling grouchy at the prospect of having to write another weather story. Nobody at my newspaper liked weather stories, with the exception of one colleague who I informally christened "Weather Williams," who ate them for lunch.
I didn't think a lot more about my grouchpgraph until Debbie later pointed out the word "love" spelled in gaps in the clouds. To be honest, I couldn't see it. Maybe I'm not good at seeing love in everyday situations. When you are a journalist you get to thrive on hate in the same was as you need a caffeine fix.
"I hate journalists," one of my favorite poets William Butler Yeats once commented. "There is nothing in them but tittering jeering emptiness. They have all made what Dante calls the Great Refusal. The shallowest people on the ridge of the earth.”
I don't really agree with WB on this one. I find journalists are some of the deepest people on the ridge of the earth. But they are also apt to seek out conspiracy theories and deny the very existence of love be it in the clouds, the natural world or in those around us.
But to be empirical about it you have to ask what is love? Although more songs and poems have been written about love than anything else, it remains an elusive concept.
Perhaps the most common definition of love come courtesy of Wet, Wet, Wet and the film this song was the soundtrack to - Four Weddings and a Funeral. It seems a long time now since Hugh Grant was unleashed on an unsuspecting public as a foppy haired idiot, who we were all a bit jealous of. For a start the blabbering prat proved irresistible to Andie MacDowell and later Julia Roberts - although it still confounds me how a bookshop owner can afford a place in Notting Hill. Still these kind of films, shamelessly marketed at Americans to portray a mythical kind of Brit, were certainly successful. And the mushy old Wet, Wet, Wet love is still popular.
I took this recent posting from YouTube. "Me and my husband love this song. He told me, the first day he saw me, he was listening to this song. This is my favourite song so when he proposed to me, he played it in the background. He said this song reminded him of when he had his love at first site of me so it was right to have it playing when he was proposing to me. It was so cute and romantic. This song means so much to me, I love you Honey, I always will!!"
Well I'm all for love at first site - would that be the building site?
Of course bands have been writing songs about love long before this. All You Need is Love became a classic Beatles hit. They even hired an orchestra to make the point. Does Mick Jagger make a cameo apperance in this vid. or am I getting old and confused?
In this respect, the Beatles are wrong. There's no consensus about what constitutes the greatest love story ever told although many people are apt to mention Romeo and Juliet. In my opinion it's Doctor Zhivago because it has all the classic ingredients - passion, snow, longing, Communism and ultimately tragedy. If anyone tells you love is possible without a good sprinkling of Communism they clearly have no idea what they are talking about. Julie Christie sparkled in the classic David Lean film and yet for me a more recent TV adaptation felt more powerful. It starred a little known actress called Keira Knightly, with a face that launched a thousand crushes among my friends, the Helen of Troy allusion only serving to remind us love is as old as the rocks.
But the fact Dr. Zhivago is so powerful suggests love is at its most poignant when it is whisked away. If the beautiful people had decided all they needed was love, and small things like eating were unimportant they would have got increasingly annoyed with each other and familiarity would have bred contempt and perhaps cannibalism.
And what if love needs to have an edge and a dark unpredictability to move us. What is it has to be a second cousin to madness? U2 appeared to think to. Love certainly has an edge in this video - and he plays solo.
Or maybe love is worse still. Love is a war zone, and its more like Stalingrad than Grenada too, if you listen to Pat Benatar. I love this video. it's so rooted in the Eighties it makes me want to go out a bash away on a big, old Space Invaders arcade game. Pat's hairstyle is certainly row 2 alien.
Love is a creature of contradictions and it tends to be fleeting. After the death of his friend the poet Tennyson wrote: "Better to have loved and lost than never to have lost at all."
We all know what he really wanted to write is: "Love is a stranger in an open car. To tempt you in and drive you far away." And if he shows up with a sinister hand puppet, so much the better.
But perhaps for long lasting love we have to look to the clouds or those who have lovingly crafted buildings.
The Taj Mahal is seen as the world's most beautiful monument to devotion. It was built the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife. That's not to say it's proof of his undying love. If it was wouldn't he have built it for her when she was alive? It's not clear what was wrong with the first two wives. Maybe the emperor fell out with them and honored them with dog kennels.
When Diana, Princess of Wales posed alone for photos in front of this famous mausoleum to love with her marriage to her husband on the rocks, the symbolism was fairly clear. Even cynical journalists could pick up on it.
But surely love isn't all quicksand. There must be some easy answers. We all know the city of love is Paris as opposed to Newark, New Jersey - at least if we gloss over the unfortunate period 1793 to 1794 when the Terror reigned and heads were tumbling from guillotines in every square. Paris is also the setting for perhaps one of the most accurate songs ever written about love, accurate because Howard Jones has questions but no answers.
I only need to watch this video to realize I left something behind in Paris - a very long time ago.