Valentine’s Day! Time and tide wait for no man; just ask King Canute. But there is a cyclical nature to the year, above and beyond the seasons, marked like clockwork by the celebrations we share. Did the year begin on New Year’s Day or New Year’s Eve? Or New Year’s Eve Day or my friend Wendy’s annual party on New Year’s Eve Day Eve? I’m only asking. This month, less than two weeks after Super Bowl Sunday, is the most romantic event on the calendar: Valentine’s Day! (Trust me, it’s always spelled with an exclamation point.) Valentine’s Day! replaced the ancient Roman fertility celebration, Lupercalia, held on the Ides of February and named after the she-wolf who nursed the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. In 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius re-christened the day after the martyr St. Valentine and the name stuck. Valentine that is, of course; who the hell ever heard of Gelasius? Valentine’s Day! is second only to Christmas for the number of cards sent, and is above all an occasion for giving candy, flowers, gifts and sex acts not ordinarily performed on week days, or, for that matter, on strong days.
Every year at this time my readers ask me for Valentine’s Day! suggestions, and this year I will give you what you asked for. It was amazing how you asked. You just sort of sat at home and yearned, but I sensed it. I had a premonition. First I would like to point out that although Valentine’s Day! is technically on the 14th it is perfectly appropriate to celebrate this love holiday any time in February. This is to accommodate personal schedules and local events, not to abet the lying, cheating people having more than one petite amie. And keep in mind, my super-romantic approach: No matter what we have planned I give my wife the option of taking the cash instead.
Botanical Gardening and the Arb
Despite the snow and freezing cold, there are living, breathing plants and flowers just around the corner within the Matthaei Botanical Gardens on Dixboro Road. On Thursday the ninth at 1pm is “Ikebana: Japanese Flower Arrangement,” a hands-on tutorial with a certified instructor. Twenty dollars per person gets you flowers and materials so you can create your own one-of-a-kind gifts that can’t miss, romance-wise. I went by myself last year, and the flowers I gave my wife lasted for weeks so that she couldn’t forget me no matter how hard she tried. On Wednesday the 22nd at 6:30 p.m. is a demonstration and practical, hands-on experience of bonsai grafting and root-cutting techniques, presented by John Genereaux of Michigan State University’s famous Hidden Lake Gardens. It is presented by the Ann Arbor Bonsai Society, and of course, always free is the humid indoor Matthaei Conservatory. If you’re fitter, and more outdoorsy than yours truly, get a bottle of vino at Village Corner, the finest wine store between Chicago and New York, then take a winter traipse through the Nichols Arboretum. Ask for Ric at V.C. and tell him what kind (and price) of wine you like. You’ll have a spirited schlep around the Arb no matter what the temperature is. I’ve been getting my wine from Ric since my undergraduate years. He knows my tastes well so I don’t have to say a word. He just hands me a bottle, shrugs, shakes his head and says what he’s said now for decades, “It’s good enough for you.”
Love and Claymation
It’s the latest family sensation. At the Johnny-come-lately Ann Arbor Art Center (est. 1909) there is a special family Valentine’s Day! hands-on educational event on February fourth from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., a claymation workshop so that kids of all ages can imagine and realize their own clay-animated movies, replete with 3-D techniques and animation software. My best V-Day! suggestion of all: the price of a pre-fab Valentine card can be more than that of a blank, hand-made paper leaf and envelope available at the WSG Gallery on Main, on which you can inscribe your own personal poetic love song to your beloved. Wed, led, bed, said, fed and head all rhyme with “can always have the moola instead.”