love, actually
June 23, 2011
little house in literature, memories, memories, photography, photography, poetry, poetry

Flicking through my notebook, I stopped at this photo of Picasso and Dora Maar. Look at the two of them together: perfect. Her glossy voluptuousness alongside his bullish solidity. The symmetry of their poses and their bodies a contrast to the horizontals of sky and sea. And, apart from wishing it was me in that sea with the scents of the Mediterranean around me, it set me thinking about the mysteries of pairings.

Often, during my (many) moments of people watching, I pay particular attention to couples. What was it that drew them to each other; what keeps them together? Over the years I've seen friends and family un-couple and re-couple. I've done the same myself. Sometimes it's a mystery why one individual is chosen over another. But a greater mystery to me is this deep need to move through life with another person. At times it seems that being in a pair demands more than it gives; times when love can be hard to summon. Times, to be honest, especially with the conflicting needs of family life, when a relationship seems less a matter of love than a practical arrangement. There is no hiding in a long relationship; all one's flaws are exposed and tested, over and again. To know someone utterly is to be known, and the vulnerability that comes with that sometimes overwhelms me.  

But to be willing to endure this exposure, endure all the compromise and contingencies and uncertainties that moving through life with another person involves, is to me what love is. To love someone despite, as well as because. To ask 'would I do it again?' and be able to answer yes. Yes. What more?

Bei Hennef

The little river twittering in the twilight,

The wan, wondering look of the pale sky,

       This is almost bliss.


And everything shut up and gone to sleep,

All the troubles and anxieties and pain

        Gone under the twilight.


Only the twilight now, and the soft 'Sh!' of the river

        That will last for ever.


And at last I know my love for you is here;

I can see it all, it is whole like the twilight,

It is large, so large, I could not see it before,

Because of the little lights and flickers and interruptions,

         Troubles, anxieties and pains.


You are the call and I am the answer,

You are the wish, and I the fulfilment,

You are the night, and I the day.

          What else? It is perfect enough.

          It is perfectly complete.

          You and I,

          What more - ?


Strange, how we suffer in spite of this!

DH Lawrence, from Selected Poems (ed. James Fenton, Penguin)


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