If You’re not Livin’ in Love, You’re not Livin’

Santafe.com | Santa Fe Monthly - February 5, 2013

"Almost from the start of my professional storytelling career, I’ve been telling love stories"

Photo: Regina Ress

All you need is love, The Beatles wrote some years ago. Some maintain that all there is is love Older people claim that all there are two emotions…love and fear. And Regina Ress, professional storyteller, says she would much rather live in love than fear any day. Ress will be storytelling at Hillside Market on February 7 and then flying into New York City for her annual Valentine’s Day concert in Greenwich Village.

“It’s all about love, honey. If you’re not livin’ in love, you’re not livin’. What else is there? The Beatles wrote ‘All you need is love.’ but I say, All there is is love.” Edna waved a bag of jewel-red dried cranberries in the air. “These cranberries are love.” She gestured toward the Hudson River… 

“Look at the sun on that water. Definitely love. You know….the old folks say that there are only two emotions…love and fear. I’d rather live in love than fear any day!” 

That’s what my fictional friend Edna says. She arrived in my life when she started talking to me from the page as I wrote a story for my annual concert of love stories for a small theater in Greenwich Village, New York City a few years ago. She has been advising me on love ever since, a funky, wise old voice in my ear when I forget. “If you are not livin’ in love, you’re not livin.” 

Almost from the start of my professional storytelling career, I’ve been telling love stories. From the gorgeous description of the wedding night of the Hindu god Siva and his beloved Sati to the Celtic tale of a bride rescuing her betrothed Tam Lin from the Fairy Queen’s curse; from the Mexican “Romeo and Juliet” tale of the origin of the two volcanoes, Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl to the original stories I’ve written about lovers in New York, I’ve been exploring love for a long time. And I say, Long Live Love!

February is, of course, named for love. Or, to be more precise, for the “Fevre/Fever” of sexual attraction and it’s patron goddess, Juno Februata. The Romans knew a thing or two about the metaphoric rising of the sap which is triggered by the lengthening days and anticipation of the rites of spring. February 14th became a day to exchange love notes. But the whole month is named for it. Fever!

And don’t believe that Cupid started out as a cute baby in a diaper. The origin of the god of love is a Hindu story about Kama, whose arrows are powerful enough to cause the chaos of sensual desire even among the gods. “You shall be more powerful than any of us,” he was told upon his arrival. And he was.

And there is an Egyptian myth of the destructive lioness Sekhmet who was transformed into Hathor, the Lady of Love. In one version, to mollify her, Ra, the Shining One tells her, “Love is more powerful than hate. All shall love. All shall be in your power.”

Did you know that according to legend the vanilla orchid is a product of a thwarted romance?

Or that Agave (and therefore tequila) is also a product of thwarted love? Such delicious stories! 

Such a delicious topic. There is a Cherokee love story about the origin of strawberries.

I wonder if there is an origin myth for those ruby-red cranberries Edna was munching. Given the color, I’d bet love is involved. 

And who doesn’t enjoy a good love story? Love can be happy, sad, physical, spiritual, ironic or just plain fun. I was telling some stories at a bookstore in Santa Barbara one time and when I finished, a woman sighed that she wished her friends could hear the stories. I replied, “Have a party. Pass a hat.” And two nights later we were in a gorgeous home in the mountains, drinking wine, eating brie and fresh figs (which are very sexy!). I told how Siva unknotted Sati’s clothes and then knotted them up again so he could unknot them yet again. I described the fisherman’s mute wife as she plunged down through the nine layers of the sea to rescue her husband from the tongue-less mermaid. And how Sir Gawain instinctively knew how to give his Loathly Lady bride Ragnell what she most wanted and freed her to be beautiful both by day and by night. (much to their mutual joy!)

I will be facilitating a “Valentine Show-and-Tell Story Swap” (like an open mic) on February 7t from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Santa Fe Hillside Market (next to Harry’s Roadhouse on Old Las Vegas Highway). Folks are invited to come and tell a story about a favorite object. Then I’m flying to New York City to share some original stories about Love in New York for my 10th annual Valentine’s Day concert in Greenwich Village. Here is a very brief love story I wrote as part of my series Village Vignettes:

Her kitchen window overlooked a small concrete playground with a basketball court and benches and a continual downtown movie of kids, old people, dog owners, even occasional guys taking leak against the building.

On one particular spring day, it was raining, raining, raining…soft but steady. Puddles had formed on the cement of the court below. She looked out her window and there was a young woman dancing barefoot in of the puddles...doing a kind of stationary ballet. She wore loose dark blue pants and a dark blue top. She had straight brown hair that hung free to her shoulders. She was fluid, a vision of grace, dancing in the rain.

“I’m in love.” Thought the woman in the window. “And I can’t even see her face.” There was a certain way she moved her arms, though, that pulled the woman from her window, down the stairs and out in to the rain. Shoeless, they danced in the puddles together for an hour. And moved in together almost immediately. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Long Live Love!