A Thought for Valentine’s

Beginning this year, I started subscribing to a daily piece of meditation from The Henri Nouwen Society. Here’s the one for Saturday, January 19. As Valentine’s Day draws near, I feel this is most apt:

Creating Space to Dance Together

When we feel lonely we keep looking for a person or persons who can take our loneliness away. Our lonely hearts cry out, “Please hold me, touch me, speak to me, pay attention to me.” But soon we discover that the person we expect to take our loneliness away cannot give us what we ask for. Often that person feels oppressed by our demands and runs away, leaving us in despair. As long as we approach another person from our loneliness, no mature human relationship can develop. Clinging to one another in loneliness is suffocating and eventually becomes destructive. For love to be possible we need the courage to create space between us and to trust that this space allows us to dance together.

                                                                                   — Henri Nouwen

Solitary 1


Photo: Bow Valley Ranch, Fish Creek Provincial Park, Alberta. Taken by Arti of Ripple Effects, November, 2012.

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Feb. 15, Bonhoeffer Read-along Part 1, Ch. 1-18 (Or any part of it)


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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

14 thoughts on “A Thought for Valentine’s”

  1. Or, how can I miss you if you won’t go away? This is an excellent and very on target bit of thought. While I have long believed that yes, human companionship is indeed wonderful, the first human one should make friends with is themselves. It doesn’t fill the desire for another human, but it makes being without one easier (and sometimes less painful). Years ago I wrote a poem about wanting to be alone together and together alone. I wish I still had it. But I feel that’s what I got from Rick — that when we are together we can be our own people, our own individual selves. We don’t have to hang on every word or entertain one another. But when we’re alone — if I’m here and he’s elsewhere, I still feel as though we are together. I’ve been trying to figure out how to write about that. Maybe it’s forming. Thanks for a great share.


    1. Jeanie,

      I have my slow days… They come more often than I’d wanted to. About this excerpt, I feel it speaks to every relationship, doesn’t it? A time for solitude, and a time for togetherness. Over the years, I’ve learned to appreciate both kinds of moments. Thanks for sharing.


    1. Micheline,

      I’ve long appreciated the spirituality of Henri Nouwen’s writing. But just so glad I’ve discovered the website for the HN Society this year. I highly recommend their daily meditation. Thanks for stopping by the pond. 😉


  2. I think my husband’s occasional shoots on location has strengthened our marriage.The alone time makes us both more appreciative of our together time… but even when we’re together we give each other a lot of space to just sit and read without having to talk to each other every second of the day. A gorgeous photograph, by the way, yours?
    I have a write up of The World Without You by Joshua Henkin up if you’re interested. I hope you’re having a great year Arti and staying warm!


    1. Sim,

      Don’t you enjoy those apart times due to business or other reasons? For me, those are the times I can really relax, be messy, and eat whatever I want. 😉 Yes, of course, we’re free to pursue our own interests when together. For me, all those birding and nature photography are opportunities for solitude, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them. Yes, I took that photo in a natural area in our City. Have added some info at the end of the post. Thanks for the heads-up to your post. I’ll stop right by later.


  3. I did not know about Mr. Henri Nouwen but what he says is so true. I knew couples who wanted to do everything together, all the times. The wives would say for example “I cannot go there because my husband does not like….” even if the wife would have enjoyed it. My husband and I have traveled separately many times and we are still married after almost 46 years but some of these “togetherness” couples have parted ways a long time ago. You can have trust, love and be intimate with your loved one and not have to share the same space all the time. That last photo is great.


    1. Vagabonde,

      That’s amazing… 46 years and still going strong. You’re so right about finding the balance between separateness and togetherness, not easy, but essential in a healthy relationship. I can attest to that, and that applies to interests and passions too I’ve found. It’s impossible to find someone exactly like myself, so I’ve learned to accept differences, and maintain and respect individualities. As for the photo, I took it last November in a Provincial Park right within our City. It’s one of the biggest urban parks in North American I learned, with various entrances through different communities. And I’m very grateful for it… have done a lot of birding there.


  4. I read this inspiring post right after my husband met with some of his male family members to plan an annual fishing trip in the remote woods in Ontario. It’s a trip I’d never want to take even though I’d enjoy the scenery, and I’m glad he has people to enjoy this experience with.

    I remember a time when I felt left out if he planned events without me, and I didn’t think I got my “share” of time with him. We can be insecure in our youth! Now I can definitely appreciate being apart from time to time. We cling to our mates out of loneliness even when we don’t want to do all of the same things, because sometimes it is hard to be alone. It’s better to find a balance when we can dance to together as well as dance alone.

    I’m going to check out Henri Nouwen. Thanks for bringing him to my attention!


    1. Cathy,

      You’ve brought out a good point. I’ve been thinking about it too… as we get older, more ‘mature’ in age let’s say, we’re more ok with being apart than we we were young. Different life-stages definitely influence our preferences in our relationships. Now that I have to watch over two elderly parents, I can’t travel as much with my husband. And we’re fine with that… each enjoying our ‘apart’ time. As for Henri Nouwen, do visit the site. His writing had been a source of spiritual formation for me years ago. Now I just want to re-discover him all over again.


  5. I’m trying to remember when I first found Nouwen. I think it was in the 1970s. He certainly has endured – a testament to the truth and gentle power of his writings.

    I was going to say, if I had known and heeded the wisdom in his writings earlier, I might still have a partner. Of course, the other side of that coin is that, had I heeded Nouwen’s wisdom, I might not have chosen the partner I did! 😉


  6. I’ve heard it said about dancing that both partners must ‘hold their own space’ if the dance is to work elegantly and gracefully. They can’t lean on one another, or expect their partner to do all the work (or indeed do it themselves). As with all wisdom, it is much easier to say than to do, but definitely a goal worth working steadily towards. Thank you for the Valentine’s Day thought, Arti.


    1. litlove,

      You’re so right… easier said than done. But somehow I feel it’s related to life stages, lifestyle, and sometimes life circumstances… not unlike what the wisdom of Solomon suggest: a time to come together, a time to stay apart.


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