The Golden Hour

I carried my love easily,

it bore no burden to me.

It was my own;

cultivated and wholesome, righteous in devotion.

It was my own.

I lathered myself in it, syrupy and sweet

Swaddled myself in self love while I bided my time


for the day a love that matched my own came my way.

And there you are, the Golden Hour.

Majestic in hue and cloaked in humility that boasts of confidence

You are beautiful.

You are enough.

You give good love.

I should know, I’ve had far worse

I have entered chasms of despair and had frequently vacationed there, but this…

This love you give me is rare and precious like the gems

and the silk laden trunks that bear them.

You are beautiful.

Sun kissed and chocolate dipped

You are beautiful

You light my world and I yours

We are the light and we shine

We are a moment!

One you must experience to believe, so take a pic before the moment sours,

Love is here and thus it is the golden hour.

Temperature Guides For Seed Starting

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Photo by Kim Mendoza

Here is a quick guide to help you organize your seed ordering and seed starting efforts for the coming gardening year. These are just a few vegetable varietals we tried and/or problem solved with friends. My take away is: start seeds in their ideal season because their growing energy is not used to combat unseasonable weather conditions. Remember, some like it cool while others love it hot. Consider this factor as you dive into the 5 steps to farming with your fork here.

Optimal Plant Growing Temperatures

Cool Season Crops :: 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit

| Asparagus | Artichoke | Beet | Broad Bean | Broccoli | Brussels Sprouts | Cabbage | Carrot | Cauliflower | Celery | Chard | Chicory | Chinese Cabbage | Chive | Collards | Endive | Garlic | Horseradish | Leek | Lettuce |Mustard | Onion | Parsley| Pea | Potato | |Radish | Spinach |

Warm Season Crops :: 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit

| Beans | Corn | Cucumber | Pumpkin | Squash |

Hot Season Crops :: 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit

| Eggplant | Okra | Hot Pepper | Sweet Pepper | Tomato | Potato | Watermelon|

Optimal Soil Temp For Germination

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Photo by Kim Mendoza

For the following seeds:

BEANS………… 60 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit

BEETS…………. 50-85 degrees Fahrenheit

CABBAGE……. 45-95 degrees Fahrenheit

CARROT………. 45-85 degrees Fahrenheit

CAULIFLOWER… 45-85 degrees Fahrenheit

CHARD…………….50-85 degrees Fahrenheit

CORN……………….60-95 degrees Fahrenheit

CUCUMBER……… 60–95 degrees Fahrenheit

EGGPLANT……….. 75-95 degrees Fahrenheit

LETTUCE………….. 40-80 degrees Fahrenheit

OKRA……………….. 70-95 degrees Fahrenheit

ONION……………… 50-95 degrees Fahrenheit

PARSLEY…………… 50-85 degrees Fahrenheit

PEA…………………… 40-75 degrees Fahrenheit

PEPPER……………… 65-95 degrees Fahrenheit

PUMPKIN……………..70-90 degrees Fahrenheit

RADISH………………….45-90 degrees Fahrenheit

SPINACH……………….. 45-75 degrees Fahrenheit

TOMATO………………….60-85 degrees Fahrenheit

TURNIP…………………….60-105 degrees Fahrenheit

WATERMELON…………. 70-95 degrees Fahrenheit

In harmony with these suggestions, use your intuition to create the environment for starting ANY seed you desire within your available time, financial and physical “can do”.

Photo by Kim Mendoza.

Farming with your fork is a day to day activity you make time for, invest in with your creativity, and create the physical space to thrive.

Share your suggestions and tips with us … Please.

Green Juice for Health and Wellness (A Photo Essay)

Fresh garden greens like broccoli leaves can be eaten or juiced after the plant matures.
Broccoli hearts are always delicious and can be juiced with the skin on along with most of your favorite vegetables.
A good juicer is an appliance that will last for years. Simply replace the blade once it dulls.
The fresh liquid from your vegetable have a creamy live flavor that also increases gut health.
Adding left over over vegetable matter is wonderful compost and completes the healthy cycle of life for our bodies and the creatures that share our environment.
A little water or chia seeds in the green juice will regulate your system. Juicing at least once per week will add beneficial nutrients to your 2021 diet. Your body and the planet will thank you for your efforts.

Edissa Nicolás-Huntsman is developing Karma Compass programs to give people in our society great jobs. Donate today to support our programs, staff and the content you love. Your contribution is tax deductible.

Called to The Depths

My Spiritual Evolution

I found God when I left the church. My life, however, without a relationship with God is like hearing someone intermittently running their nails against a chalkboard. Things will be peaceful for a time, but eventually, there will be a disruption that drives me up a wall. It physically pains me just thinking about it. My ears are especially sensitive to different frequencies and sounds, so the experience is exceptionally painful and it’s one I try to avoid at all costs, but why has this past week felt like someone took their crusty fingernails and dragged them across a chalkboard in my mind? The best way I can summarize it is that you never miss your water till the well runs dry.

The Beginning of The End
My relationship with God began very early in my life. According to my mom, I practically came out of the womb loving God, and at the age of six, I invited Christ into my life. It’s safe to assume that most Sundays were spent in church with family. Sometimes it was at an A.M.E. with my grandma or a non denominational church with my mom. I didn’t believe in evolution or why- contrary to church teachings- I didn’t fully believe homosexuality was wrong. I simply believed the majority of what I was taught without question. The past few years, however, have been a time of spiritual introspection and re-evaluation that practically destroyed my belief system.

Circa 2015, things began to go south with my old church in Miami. The experiences my mom and I had, contradicted what we had been taught while confirming our suspicions about needing to leave. We had no idea that this was the beginning of what I have come to know as The Awakening. Shortly before leaving the church, however, God kept telling me I was going back to school for a Master’s degree, much to my displeasure. After dreaming of our trip out west, however, I knew I had to go soon. After ignoring many leader’s attempts to discourage my trip to the West Coast, my mom and I flew Spirit airlines into LAX. Super befitting right? Having very little money and feeling quite unprepared, Spirit made a way for us to fly on Spirit airlines into Los Angeles. In the first few weeks of my arrival, I spent much of my time asking God, “Why You would send me to the other side of the country with five outfits so I could be a homeless grad student?” I was baffled why He would do that to me so I spent a lot of time questioning my beliefs not knowing it would be years before I truly grasped what was happening and why.
I was so overwhelmed with school work that I barely had time to focus on my spiritual growth until after I graduated in 2017. During that time, I was so turned off by the hypocrisy of the church and didn’t bother to search or step foot in one again until some months after my graduation in 2017, when Heidi Baker came to North California, where after experiencing a second bout of homelessness, I had recently acquired residence. If I had never seen the love of God personified in anyone outside of myself, I saw it in her the day we met a few years prior. I traveled to that conference by city bus because I knew there was something there for me. I didn’t need her to speak to me directly or give me another one of her heart-melting hugs, it was the atmosphere of worship that enveloped me and left me feeling like Spirit wrapped their arms around me. It would be another year before I stepped foot in another church.

Waist Deep
In 2018, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going back to church, but once again, God surprised me. I woke up one Sunday in Stone Mountain, GA after having been invited by my dad to go to church, and after I failed to fall back asleep I knew I was being goaded to go. Not wanting to disobey God, I went, had an OK time, and knew it was time to reach out to a friend from college who was a leader in a young adult ministry in the area. The first few months of my time there were necessary. It was then that I was able to share with so many others about how God took care of me while I was homeless in Los Angeles (20 days) and San Francisco (6 months) and how I remained joyful through it all; my relationship with God. Our relationship was my tether to sanity and joy in the midst of them constantly shaking up my world. Months into my membership at the Norcross church, God began highlighting things to me in research that weren’t lining up with things being taught in the ministry. They felt out of alignment with my spirit and He slowly put pressure on me to leave the church. By this time, I was being trained for leadership and had just been admitted to the choir. I was so confused by the change of direction and concerned for my new friend’s perception of my need to leave that it took me some time to detach myself. Slowly, yet surely, God made it harder and harder for me to fit in and feel comfortable and one day in late February or early March, I finally told them it would be my last day. Hugs were given, goodbyes were said, and I’m grateful to say that some of those relationships are still intact. In retrospect, I find it odd yet beautiful how my connection to people I wasn’t so close to has grown after I left their immediate sphere of influence, whereas I lost touch with those I was once closest to.

Troubled Waters
In the years that followed this exodus out of the church and Georgia altogether, I continued to stumble across pages and articles that continued to shake the foundations of my belief system. I was constantly moving from place to place while questioning things and I was so shaken by the answers, that I slowly found myself backing away from my original idea of God, what God meant to me, and their place in my life. If you are confused by my use of “their”, it is to describe the many moving, yet interconnected parts of God.

I moved to North Carolina believing I had finally found some stability: a place I call home (a word I don’t use lightly), a healthy relationship, and work I believe in. What I realized only recently, however, is that being stable isn’t the same as being grounded. After having no meditative routine or communion with The Divine, I found myself at the breaking point. I had never considered the possibility that I could back so far away from God that I would feel myself slowly losing my mind. My over-analytical mind and sensitive spirit coupled with stress, and the ongoings within the atmosphere, engulfed me in mental chaos because I had no emotional or spiritual center and was thus sent into a divinely timed spiral.

Who would believe that a spiral could save me? It sent me in search of external help that pointed me back to myself. My mom and best friend provided a compass moment as they instructed me to use meditation to slow my mind and guide me out of my Stranger Things moment. My mom and I have a running joke that she is El and I am the Demogorgon in the sensory deprivation tank scene at the lab. She has to gingerly come in to get me when I get lost in my head. By telling me to meditate, they were pointing me in the direction of mental clarity, which led to spiritual clarity. I had to sit with myself and face the fact that I had been avoiding implementing a practice of mindfulness and clearly saw the need to reinforce my connection to God. Like I said before, you don’t miss your water til your well runs dry. When people ask me how I made it through homelessness seemingly unscathed, I tell them it was my relationship with God and my knowing that the situation was temporary that kept me joyful and at ease. It was this recent lack of this relationship that left me bereft because I hadn’t properly cared for it. I thank God for them and their advice because it brought me back to myself, back to God, my source of love, protection, peace, prosperity, life, etc. My spiritual evolution is far from over and I am far too dedicated to thriving in the depths of my spirituality to go back to shallow waters. I don’t know all that is ahead of me or how I will traverse it all, but with Christ consciousness I know I can do all things but fail. Prayer and meditation became the lifeboat that carried me when the waters got too much for me to handle on my own and it will always be here when I need it, but I’ll soon be ready to tread the waters again and see just how far into the unknown I can go in this lifetime. Are you coming with me?

Gardening With The Moon

Photo by Kim Mendoza

When gardening we take great care

So why not take the extra care to determine the best times for sowing seeds and transplanting starts using the cycles of the moon?  We can’t ignore this quiet force.  Tuning in to these “subtle” factors helps us determine suitable times to work with our plants for maximum growth and health.

In my early years of learning to work with plants, I’ve made many many mistakes. WOW! Lots of errors, self doubt, and time invested… And I find that I’m still learning. But the greatest gift I’ve received is becoming a great problem solver. One year I planted a small plot and it all flourishing with no issues. So the following year when I consulted my gardening journal and replicated the same timing and practices my garden was not vibrant and abundant AND I worked harder.

I asked myself: “What The Fava beans was going on?”

That winter I went to the library (when that was a thing folks did) and found a great book – Astrological Gardening by Louise Riotte. It introduced me to a whole other side of plant work and guided me to utilize the unseen energies found in nature to achieve gardening success. I discovered the practice of using the cycles of the moon to plant.

Nature’s Timing

Working with the phases of the moon to determine optimal times for seed starting and transplanting is an aspect of biodynamic farming made popular by Austrian philosopher and educator Dr. Rudolf Steiner during the 1920’s. As a response to noticing a decline in the nutritional value and yields of European crops because of the introduction of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, Steiner developed the principals of biodynamic farming. He wanted to return farming to more gentle, diverse, and organic practices as a remedy to the damages done by an emerging synthetic and chemical farming industry in Europe.

Rudolf Steiner taught that in order to create holistic growing environments the following factors need to be considered:

  • the growth rate of plants,
  • the synergistic balance of their environments and nutrients,
  • their proximity with other plants,
  • their various companion relationships, and
  • working with the phases of the moon for starting seeds and transplanting seedlings.

Forces of the Moon

Lunar gravitation tugs at us all!  It produces high tides in the oceans and effects the pull of water in soil.  Seed starting and transplanting during a new moon or full moon boost the forces of nature including gravity, light, and magnetism.

New Moon

Illustration copied from “How to Grow More Vegetables” by John Jeavons, page 52.

The best time to take advantage of the moon’s increasing forces is at a new moon. We plant short and extra long germinating seeds 2 days before the new moon lunar tide forces are stronger.  Short germinating seeds include: beans, beets, cabbage, and lettuce.  Long germinating seeds include: artichoke, bunching onions, garlic, and potatoes.  This gives our seeds time to absorb water so when the force exerted on the water in the seed by the new moon occurs, it creates a “tide” that helps burst the seed coats open to speed up germination.

Full Moon

Illustration copied from “How to Grow More Vegetables” by John Jeavons, page 53.

During the full moon (and up to seven days after) we transplant our seedlings into larger containers or to their final places in garden beds or containers.  We also start more long germinating seeds like some pumpkins and parsley and a majority of our flowers.  Within 28 days we find that if a seed is viable it will burst its coat and eventually catch up to it’s “older siblings”.  Both lunar gravity and earth gravity affect root growth and leaf growth… We need healthy growth to produce good food.

Astrological Moon Signs

Photo Ilana M.E. Maxwell

The moon transitions into a different zodiac sign every few days. Here is a quick look at the influences of the moon in each zodiac sign.

Moon in Aries

Used for destroying noxious growth and pest. Good for cultivating, plowing, tilling. Also a good harvest sign. Plants cultivated when the moon is in Aries are quick to bolt (or go to seed).

Moon in Taurus

Good for all root crops (like potatoes) where quick growth is an advantage. Beneficial for lettuce, cabbage and similar leafy vegetables. Taurus is also advantageous for transplanting.

Moon in Gemini

Used for destroying weeds and pest. Good for cultivation and for harvesting. Do not transplant in Gemini. Generally it is a poor planting sign for the exception of melons.

Moon in Cancer

For moon planters Cancer is the most productive sign, ruling the principles of growth in green foliage, stalk, leaf, or vine. Under this fruitful sign seeds germinate quickly. It it also used extensively for planting and irrigation.

Moon in Leo

Good for harvesting fruit and root crops. It is considered the most barren sign and is used for killing weeds and other unwanted plants. Not a good sign for transplanting seedlings.

Moon in Virgo

Do not plant or transplant vegetables. Virgo is favorable for vine growth. Good for plowing after crops come up in order to control weeds and destroying pests.

Moon in Libra

Used for planting many crops including beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, chard, eggplant, lettuce, peas, potatoes, squash, and watermelons. It is also the best sign for planting flowers. Seeds planted in Libra produce vigorous pulp growth and root development.

Moon in Scorpio

Good for transplanting and planting all crops but especially tomatoes. Do not harvest root crops- they may rot. Scorpio is also a good sign for irrigation. Good for planting flowers and berries.

Moon in Sagittarius

Good for planting fruit crops. Fairly good for cucumbers. It is also a good harvest sign and fruits picked in Sagittarius – like apples and pears keep well.

Moon in Capricorn

This sign is somewhat productive and favors root crops such as beets and potatoes. It is also a good time to apply organic fertilizers. Also good for grafting and pruning – for the wood heals well. Ideal for planting ornamental trees and shrubs.

Moon in Aquarius

Used for plowing and destroying weeds and pests. Good for harvesting fruit and root crops. Seeds planted in Aquarius does not grow well and is likely to rot. It’s a good time for cloning plants. The onion family benefits from being planted and transplanted under the moon in Aquarius.

Moon in Pisces

Used for planting and transplanting and is especially good for root growth. This is the best time for planting in dry soils where deep root penetration is needed.

Getting Started

Each sign will keep you busy in the garden working on a specific chore that benefits from using the guidance of the moon. Combining moon signs with the phases of the moon to set up your garden chore calendar helps to take advantage of the forces of the moon for optimal success.

We find that by utilizing this timing strategy of planting and working in our garden with the moon we’ve maintained healthy and quality plants through out their entire growth cycle. Of course there are times when we can not stay on schedule and we have noticed some seeds take a bit longer to germinate than the same variety planted at the proper time in the cycle. By their own timing seeds still burst open when their time is right if they are viable and transplanted seedlings survive if they have strong roots. Like anything we nurture, you make sure all needs are met – and for seeds and seedlings that includes moon light (or the lack of).

If you’re interested in trying out gardening with a little help from the moon we’ve found a lunar gardening calendar to get you started on gardening with the moon.

Give it a try and let us know how it goes for you. We will also keep you posted on our moon gardening adventures!

Keep farming with your fork!

Photo by Kim Mendoza


Astrological Gardening” by Louise Riotte, copyright 1989 by Storey Communications, Inc., published by Wings Books, Pownal, Vermont.

How to Grow More Vegetables”  A Primer on the Life-Giving Biodynamic/French Intensive Method of Organic Horticulture by John Jeavons, copyright 1982 by Ecology Action of the Mid-Peninsula, published by 10 Speed Press, Berkeley, CA.

Dovanna Dean developed her knowledge base for environmental stewardship in 1998 as a Permaculture Designer.

Thanking Old Friends (And a Few New Ones, Too)

2020 was not an easy year on planet Earth, and yet there are people who have made it extra special. People who give and love freely, and make a kinder world possible. Even when we are separated by oceans, divided by continents and far from each other’s loving embrace, we still touch each other with our good deeds, kind words and unconditional positive regard. This is to say “Thank you!” to all the amazing people who have contributed to Karma Compass during 2020 and are helping us create a community of thriving artists.

Our gratitude goes out to these amazing human beings without whose contributions to Karma Compass we wouldn’t have made it to the present moment.

We love Sarai W for the way she wears her heart on her sleeves. We couldn’t do this work without her.

We remember every word Aria Zavocki wrote and miss her fierce gaze. Thank you for your gifts.

Youth Writer Colette J blesses us with her earnest accounting of adolescent’ triumphs and challenges. She is our future.

After his donation to Karma Compass, Creative Sponsor Peppo Valetto wrote, “It was the best present for my own birthday.”

Thank you, Poet in Residence Georgina Marie. You opened our hearts with the fires of your love and grief. We will always remember you.

Thanks to Sponsor Jonelle Tucker, who frequently comments on our posts. We feel her love and presence regularly.

Thank you, Taylor Duckett for your offerings on African Spirituality and healing. We miss you.

Sponsor and Guest Contributor Hal Huntsman is an ally and a worthy partner for our work as healers and hope dealers.

Resident Artist Kristine Moore brings sunshine and joy to our horizon each week. We are grateful.

Special thanks to Ashton Huntsman for his contributions to Karma Compass Films. Mad skills are necessary to move mountains.

Your donation, given from the heart is a powerful affirmation of our work. Thank you, Ilana Maxwell.

Thank you, Edissa Nicolás-Huntsman for holding a vision of inclusivity and love as the standard mode of operating.

Special gratitude for early Sponsor Robin Lovell for believing in us when few oth.

When Will Preston wrote about Early Childhood Development, we felt his conviction and understood the truth of what it takes to thrive. So grateful.

Special gratitude goes to Laura Joyce Davis of Shelter in Place Podcast for offering transcripts of her poignant storytelling for audience members of all abilities. We need allies like her to reach everyone.

When people show up year after year and give everything from time to money to encouragement, they must be recognized as a blessing. We’re so grateful for our Sponsoring Angel Adrienne Cacitti, miracle-working visionary.

Welcome back, dear friend and Earth Angel Dovanna Dean and Kim Mendoza. With your leadership, we will transform every open space into a source of food and spiritual nurturance.

We also want to thank all our subscribers, guests and Living Artist Project contributors who make our work possible in the here and now. We recognize that your readership and participation elevates our work to the realm of meaningful contribution, and you matter to us. As Karma Compass grows, we look forward to co-creating our virtual, visual and in-person connections through new positions and expanded offerings. Stay connected to the people who make your life better.

Donate to Karma Compass today. Your tax-deductible investment goes directly to content and program development.

The Most Important Reason to Say, “Thank you!”

Want to open the floodgates of abundance? Start a gratitude practice. Maybe this sounds difficult. Perhaps you see little value or have had no practice. A young woman, a classmate in psychology, commented during a discussion that affirmations don’t work. Reflecting on her words for a few days, I understood that such a statement is unattached to practice, because anyone who applies deliberate focus to a situation, behavior or habit will see results. It’s really a question of time. The real issues is whether we have focused our attention on something of value. This is where the motivation to engage, change or attract is most potent. And yet, gratitude, a practice is passe for many, is a mainstay in my rituals of friendships, professional etiquette and a fallback when at a loss. This simple practice, remembering, honoring and finding the words to say and express gratitude will transform your life for the better.

How do we express love? Gratitude is a connection to our heart language and the current of flow. Gratitude is the action of love. The energy of love, when present, is harmonious and resonates for most people. Suzan Hilton explains in her book The Feng Shui of Abundance that “Gratitude and abundance vibrate in harmony and create more flow and ease.” Yes, this is right. This ease, experienced as harmonious vibration, is what we feel when we are close to a loving couple, a kind clerk, an old, dear friend—it’s the essence of love. Without some physical, tangible demonstration of love, people would not know, perceive or understand that love is present. This is even move important when there is physical distance.

My Goddaughter tends to the newly planted seeds she spread with bare fingers. The seeds must be watered and tended daily until they grow into mature plants.

Despite being a historically controversial Catholic figure, Valentine’s Day is culturally embraced by millions of people each year. Valentine’s Day as an important holiday in the United States, adopted and adapted by people of all faiths and beliefs, languages and ethnic group. Somehow, for people of all walks, Valentine’s Day practices are acceptable, and we make grand gestures of our love on February 14th. What is special and unique about the muddled story of the real (Saint) Valentine is that in most versions there is at least one Valentine, who wrote letters to his beloved intending to communicate his devotion and regards for her in a manner she could feel despite his absence. In other words, his letters were an expression of his love, his feelings made visible. He showed her love in the act of writing to her, and we remember his example with fondness. Valentine showed us how to express love in an intimate, private way that celebrates the beloved with gratitude.

Many people think showing gratitude is a sign of weakness or a waste of time. After a dozen years in a committed relationship, now tried in the fires of COVID-19, I’m convinced that daily expressions of love far outweigh a yearly grand gesture. (My chocolate is yummy, however.) Maybe love is an evolutionary imperative, designed to benefit the survival of humans. Otherwise, why we would bond, pair and mate? We need the emotional entanglement to draw us in, and at the same time recognize that not all emotions provide the same blessings and fulfillment necessary to sustain two people in a committed relationship. Gratitude is a form of emotional intelligence that shows a person’s empathy pathways (mirror neurons) are open and can acknowledgement and reciprocate the receipt of an act of love. Reciprocity is vital to increasing the flow of desirable emotional energy. It’s like a call to gaming partner, a text or a ping: We have to answer and connect if we want the relationship to continue. Without acknowledgment or reciprocity, the energies of love and kindness will dissipate or transform to a different emotion, just like anything that is the recipient of sufficient neglect. Neglect is not an aspect of love, gratitude or abundance.

We must use or energy channels wisely, cultivating conduits of energy that lead to greater harmony, “the good vibes” that bring happiness. Witness in your own life that when you water seeds, your nurturance gives them life. This ageless lesson persists in its truth until now. Through our careful cultivation of and attention to the seeds we want to flourish, we define our lives and our reality for ourselves and our communities. Be sure to water the seeds of love and kindness all around you so that you magnetize the goodness you deserve and bring your gifts to the world on a beam of light. When I see that, I will thank you personally, with all my heart.

Edissa lives with her husband in SoCal, where they work and garden with love and gratitude all year long.

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Not “the (only) One”

What if when it comes to love, we got it wrong?

This post is an excerpt from Shelter in Place season 2, episode 20. Listen to the full episode above.

Romantic love has a long history; Petrarch and Dante wrote about it in the 1300s, and even the Bible gets pretty steamy with the Song of Solomon. But the idea that romantic love is the great goal of life is relatively new. For much of human history, the kind of love that made John Cusack raise his boombox in Say Anything was referred to as “lovesickness,” a mixture of intense romantic attraction with elements of obsession, impulsiveness, and delusions. This view of love as a sickness isn’t totally off base. Today scientists have linked “lovesickness” to the flood of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in our brains, a chemical reaction that looks a lot like what happens when we’re on drugs.

It wasn’t until 1750, when Romanticism found its way into poetry, art, and philosophy, that romantic love began to have its day. Before that marriage was less about love and more about economics. During the industrial age, as people began making enough money to think about marriage as more than a means to procreation and financial support, Romanticism dug its claws in deeper. Individual rights and the pursuit of happiness gained importance, and with them came the idea of marrying for love.

During the 1800s as the number of publishing houses in the U.S. and Britain increased, the dark fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm made their way to the public. I remember those fairy tales, where Cinderella’s sisters get their eyes pecked out by birds, and the Little Mermaid’s tragic ending is turning to sea foam. But thanks to Walt Disney, the aftertaste that those stories leave with me is now a happy one. 

After World War 1 and the Great Depression, Walt Disney saw that people were growing weary of sad tales and wanting to escape their bleak reality. Beginning in 1937, Disney launched a golden age of movies that borrowed from the old fairy tales, but gave them happily ever after endings. It was in the prettier versions of those old stories that our cultural obsession with romantic love reached its peak.

I bring up this history because with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I think it’s worth examining our assumptions about love. I’m not just talking about the love we associate with marriage or even with dating or sex—though the conversation certainly applies to all of those places, too. I’m talking about the perceptions of love that affect us whether we are single or married or divorced or widowed. It’s a belief so common in our culture that we have to zoom out in history to realize that we’ve been indoctrinated. The idea that Romanticism has fed us—that we’ve swallowed whole—is that whether in friendship or dating or marriage, our most important quest in life is finding “the one,” that person who at last will solve all of our problems and make us whole.

The idea that Romanticism has fed us—that we’ve swallowed whole—is that whether in friendship or dating or marriage, our most important quest in life is finding “the one,” that person who at last will solve all of our problems and make us whole.

In his essay, “How Romanticism Ruined Love,” Alain de Botton says, “We can at this point state boldly: Romanticism has been a disaster for our relationships. It is an intellectual and spiritual movement which has had a devastating impact on the ability of ordinary people to lead successful emotional lives. The salvation of love lies in overcoming a succession of errors within Romanticism. Our strongest cultural voices have—to our huge cost—set us up with the wrong expectations . . . .We’re surrounded by a culture that offers a well-meaning but fatally skewed ideal of how relationships might function. We’re trying to apply a very unhelpful script to a hugely tricky task.”

I think Alain de Botton is right. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with romantic love, but that we’ve zoomed in on it so close has blinded us to the bigger picture. Whether with a best friend or significant other, we expect it to be all snuggles and self-fulfillment, and think there’s something wrong with us if it takes work.

I’m not anti-romance. I still love a bouquet of roses and a shared bottle of wine. Our desire to be cherished is innate to our humanity, and we all deserve to be looked at with love and admiration. It’s just that when we fix our gaze on romance alone, we miss out on all of the other gifts that relationships can give us.

This post was an excerpt of an episode of Shelter in Place, season 2, episode 20. You can listen to the full episode here or read the transcript here.