Be Ready, Here Comes Love. There should be no one month or season that serves as the time to explore, celebrate or even gnash our teeth about love.

But as the Valentine’s Day tsunami rises, it is easy to get sucked into the commercial declare-your-love-now-or-you-are-a cad vortex.

Our quest for love and our efforts to maintain it generate a constant stream of incredible art, music, and theories… For love, countless people flock to counseling, singles mingles and online dating sites.

A sampling of literary history suggests that love “looks not with the eyes, but with the mind” (Shakespeare), and “love is linked not to what we expect to get, but what we are expecting to give” (Hepburn). Love is “a temporary madness that erupts like a volcano and then subsides” (Louis de Bernieres); love is a quest for a missing piece” (Silverstein); “Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” (Aristotle)

Love unfolds everywhere, every day.

Our challenge is to slow down long enough to notice. Our challenge is to put down our smartphones and connect.

My 10-year-old-niece, Erin MacDonald, assures me that love is family, her dog and, on Valentine’s Day, cards and candy.

Erin advises that if we are confused about love, we should “go home, hug your parents and you will feel it.”

Ten-year-old Iain Jasken of Westminster suggests that love is “two people kissing in a romantic place.” His five-year-old brother, Kyle, agrees that love involves kissing and “cutting out stuff” on Valentine’s Day.

“I don’t have a lot of experience with love,” says Iain. “But I’d say just look for somebody nice and who likes you – actually likes you – not just for something like your money.”

It is love that propelled Finksburg resident Karlie Pickett to bring her disabled brother, Tyler, to Carroll Christian Academy for show and tell when she was younger.

“I always knew he was different, but not in a weird way,” said Karlie. “I brought him in because I knew he was cooler than other brothers.”

It is love that seals the 70-year marriage between Westminster residents Howard and Mina Otto. But it is also love that makes it possible for a 25-year marriage to end in an amicable friendship.

Love calls for raw emotions and risk.

Poet and philosopher Mark Nepo suggests that “when we hesitate in being direct, we unknowingly slip something on, some added layer of protection that keeps us from feeling the world. And often that thin covering is the beginning of a loneliness which, if not put down, diminishes our chances of joy.”

Each layer of protection is like wearing gloves, he adds, and every time we touch something it doesn’t feel quite real.

Our challenge, Nepo notes, “is not to get dressed to face the world but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold and the car handle feels wet and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being, soft and unrepeatable.”

Whether you are in love or searching for it, try to savor every immediate, simple pleasure.

Show your love for others well beyond this season, and love yourself first.

Let choice whisper in your ear and love murmur in your heart. Be ready; here comes life. – Maya Angelou