Bearing the beams of love

Dear Uma: Pete has made certain he'll be home for Valentine's Day. There will be a romantic dinner planned; there'll be a surprise gift and a mushy card. All his usual reticence about matters of the heart disappears on the day of the valentine;

Dear Uma:

Pete has made certain he’ll be home for Valentine’s Day. There will be a romantic dinner planned; there’ll be a surprise gift and a mushy card.

All his usual reticence about matters of the heart disappears on the day of the valentine; the dam bursts and an explosion of sentiment floods our landscape. When it recedes, he is left feeling slightly embarrassed at his own excesses. I am left feeling too fattened on chocolate and the extravagant dinner to dare to don the Victoria’s Secret garments which are the surprise gift.

They are mysterious bits of lace and satin, always red and black, colours which are purely dreadful with my white hair and vampire-pale skin. Luckily for both of us, I have never succeeded in getting myself into any of the Heart Day gift items; I believe the sight would finish off the celebration of love – not in a good way.

We have talked about this propensity of his since the day he filled my car with balloons while I was at a lunch meeting with my agent, on Valentine’s Day. The balloons, each inked with cute messages, were overwhelming in sheer number; Gary and I were forced to puncture several of them in order to make room for ourselves in the vehicle, an undertaking which caused amusement on the part of the passersby, who smiled at our dilemma. Gary was being goodnatured about the scene, even enjoying the attention – until the balloons wearing the Victoria’s Secret items showed up.

The passersby stopped passing by and soon we had a crowd who quickly moved from small smiles to huge grins and even some remarks and ribald laughter.

Gary left abruptly, flagging a taxi to deliver him back to his office and giving me the briefest of goodbyes. He is a Christian man, the kind who does not find public showings of sexy underwear funny, though rumour has it he is not at all adverse to dressing himself up in lacy bits, in a private setting.

It all came up for discussion again on our second Valentine’s Day as a couple; you’ll remember that one, Uma, as we were visiting you at the time and you played a significant part in what ensued.

I still feel my face turn red when I remember our third Valentine’s Day. Those fireworks Pete set off É I was glad we left the country soon afterwards.

But it seems nothing will quench Pete’s passion for this particular occasion, and so in our (very) separate ways, we prepare for another Valentine’s Day. This’ll be our fifth one and there has been no sign of a slackening of his devotion to the day, or a quieter expression of it.

I have nothing against love, just the public expression of a private feeling. The whole Valentine’s day shtick has bothered me since I was a child, those red hearts everywhere, any significance lost in the overwhelming number and variety of their messages, their destinations.

My mother would cut out our school sandwiches in a heart shape, and she and my father, always too obviously fond for my comfort, made even more of a display of affection on that day. The two of them wanted to see our valentines when we got home from school. My brothers would lie and cheat, adding to their pile of cards by any means available in an effort to outdo one another. My sisters would bring home a more than respectable number without lying or cheating, being pretty and popular girls.

I would usually have just enough cards to reassure my parents that I was indeed a child of their romantic union, though there was that moment of doubt when I would join the boys in throwing our cards into the garbage after the enumeration, leaving my sisters to sit at the kitchen table with Mom to go over the details of who and how many.

This year I decided I would try to get down with the whole idea and think thoughts of love – maybe even write a poem for Pete. I would buy him a red flannel shirt and some red wool socks, combining practicality with romance. I would make a heart-shaped cake, decorating it with heart-shaped cinnamon candies. I would light candles.

The day draws nigh and I find myself no closer to the proper frame of mind but I am thinking of love. The love I am preoccupied with is not the sentimental kind of Valentine’s Day, but more visceral.

I am thinking of the love that saw Obama elected President of the United States; the deeply moving evidence of the love our species is happiest with – the love of feeling good for righteous reasons, the glow we get when we know we are feeling and doing the right thing, in a universal sense.

It’s mixed up with hope and faith, this feeling, and there is not much we are capable of that gives us quite the same energy, the same high. It’s about feeling part of something bigger than our lonely selves and getting together to make something happen for the benefit of everyone.

It happens everywhere and all the time in small ways. I saw it the other day when I found myself in conversation with a woman here who works constantly for change in this community. Like many others living and working in Watson Lake, she works quietly, behind the scenes. Most people would be unaware of the passion, the unstoppable intent she brings to her efforts of behalf of everyone here. She is one of the many unsung heroes of small town life.

The more I learn about the efforts of the Kaska to change and improve the lives of themselves and their children and their children’s children, those individuals working tirelessly and selflessly to put in place programs and plans for the betterment of their people, the more I come again to the subject of love.

The education of the kids here, the schools, have been under fire since I moved here, and from what I can learn, quite justifiably. What is not talked about enough is the dedication of the teachers. It is not their fault that the government has not seen fit to make a plan, or lend support in the way of a structure that would bring the educators together.

The teachers cannot demand parents have their children assessed, the results of which could be instrumental in bringing appropriate help and training into the schools for kids who are in real need. I have not yet heard anyone speak to the commitment, the incredible efforts made on the part of teachers who, five days a week, enter these schools with an unquenchable optimism and hope that something good will happen that day for even one child. That’s love.

I am going to celebrate Valentine’s Day. I am going to celebrate the love of a good man, the love of my family and my extended family. I am going to reach further this year to celebrate the many, many acts of love I have witnessed and heard of here in this little northern town, those small everyday events of kindness and compassion.

I am going to celebrate our innate ability to recognize and respond to the people who bring us together in a common purpose for a common good.

This is the love that will change our world.

Love love love


Heather Bennett is a writer

who lives in Watson Lake.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukon RCMP are making an appeal for information in the case of Mary Ann Ollie, who was murdered in Ross River last year and whose case remains unsolved. (Black Press file)
Yukon youth being extorted online

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted on… Continue reading

Fines for contravening the fire ban start at $1,150 and could go as high as $100,000. File photo
Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. (Black Press file)
Yukon campgrounds to open early

Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. The early opening… Continue reading

Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce executive director Susan Guatto and program manager Andrei Samson outside the chamber office in downtown Whitehorse Feb. 23. (Stephanie Waddell, Yukon News)
When business models shift

Whitehorse chamber offers digital marketing workshop

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The aesthetics and economics of highway strips

One of the many cultural experiences you enjoy while driving from Whitehorse… Continue reading

Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone.
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone. (Submitted)
Yukon kids express gratitude for nature, pets and friends in art campaign

More than 50 children submitted artwork featuring things they are grateful for

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read