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It was in the Dark Ages of my life–that awkward time between the end of childhood and the beginning of maturity. It was also, probably, the dark time between my latest “crush” and the acceptance (again) of the crushing disappointment that often follows infatuation. At the time, my mother observed (I am told, for I don’t remember her ever saying this directly to me), “Oh, you know Barbara. She’s in love with love.”

I believe that my mother hoped I would avoid making a very big mistake in a matter of romance. However, she was wise enough not to make a big deal of my perpetual heartbreak. The independence of her children, mistakes and all, was her primary goal.

While my eventual choice of a husband had its heartbreaking aspects for my mother–and for me, too–the marriage lasted 38 years until his death. So, as a best-selling greeting card I once wrote for Wedding Anniversary observed in wry fashion: “It was the best mistake I ever made.”

But back to that “in love with love” thing. My mother was right.

My gaping hunger to love and be loved, in all of its capacities–from sexuality to spirituality, affection to compassion, friendly acquaintance to lifelong partnership–needed to be fed. Perhaps my particular neediness hung out a bit more than the average person’s. I was a kid prone to cry over spilt milk. So, as soon as I learned how the alphabet worked, I became a writer. My emotions were always conspicuous.

Filling that wide-open heart with love has been a lifelong endeavor. Meanwhile, I can only hope that the spillover has had some benefit for others, too.

When I sit listening to the earth,
its clashing water, whispering tree,
I learn beyond a doubt that earth
is also listening to me.
In intersections never planned
among the living and the dead,
in serendipity of things
already thought, already said,
in conversations with the past,
in time however brief or long,
I join creation incomplete
without my life, my death, my song.
I replicate in syllables
the story of all grief, all fear,
because the world is leaning in
with love, with love, with love, to hear.

Barbara Loots