Many long years ago, I read a novel called Kinds of Love, by May Sarton. It is about exactly what the title implies – so many different ways to love: love of friends, love of a spouse, love of wild things and the land, love of children, love of place, and how all those things combine to create belonging. It was one of those books that stayed with me: not the details of it, but its wisdom and its truths.
So on this day that has become synonymous with celebrating love, I’m thinking about how May Sarton’s book influenced mine – all five (soon to be six) of mine, because while they are not romances, different kinds of love also anchors all my books.
Love is at the heart of the key conflicts of the books: love of place conflicting with love of a person; love of a person conflicting with love of family; love of an ideal sometimes conflicting with both. In the name of love, compromises are made, sacrifices offered, lives voluntarily restricted to meld with another’s. The deep love between friends is as important as sexual love; the love of family – both found and biological – creates both tension and peace.
Children are conceived and born, changing lives, bringing yet another sort of love. People die, and death rocks and challenges relationships, and questions if love is worth the pain. Love is sometimes for an idea, or an ideal: the greater good, the world that could be; sometimes it is for the minutiae that makes up lives: the familiar, mundane moments. Love is sometimes at the edge of relationships, the intrigue of what might have been; sometimes it is past, gone, remembered fondly or with regret. Love is sometimes rejected, sometimes fought against, rarely simple.
Because isn’t that what love is? Not the romance associated with February 14th, not red hearts and roses (although they have their place), but the complex intertwining of lives, needing patience and forgiveness, sharing and space, always a balancing act.
In the work-in-progress, Empire’s Heir, four of my main characters have been together for nearly twenty years, through war and its aftermath and the creation of a new peace. But life is not static, and as challenges both political and personal are changing their lives again, whether they can find a new balance will be, once more, a question of love.
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