When I was a graduate student, I had money for necessities, but not luxuries. (Necessities were things like rent and heat. Luxuries were often things like clothes. That was when I got into the habit of shopping in thrift stores.) At some point, I mentioned to a friend that I missed being able to buy perfume. She sent me a whole bottle of Chanel No. 5. I used to wear it every day, and some days, I used to put just a little bit on before I went to bed, so I could smell it even in my sleep. I still have some left.
I don’t know if we all have a need for romance, but I think at least some of us do. I know I do . . .
I define romance broadly: in its modern meaning, it usually refers to romantic love, but in an older sense, it refers to the medieval romances, which were tales in the native vernacular (French, Italian, Spanish) rather than in Latin. They often involved knights, ogres and giants, ladies who lived beneath lakes or could turn into animals. They were tales of adventure and magic. I think we all need tales of adventure and magic in our lives.
I feel my own need for romance the most when I’ve been working very hard (as I have been recently). It feels as though I’m not truly living, merely existing. That’s when I want something interesting to happen. Something that tells me there is an underlying magic to the world, that life can be an adventure. Of course, as you can tell by this blog post, I’ve been feeling that way lately. It’s November, so the work is constant and it’s never done. But I hope there is some sort of magic and adventure in the near future, waiting for me. Sometimes I think that rather than making the future, we are pulled toward it, that there are certain nodes that draw us onward. It’s as though life is a matter half of fate and half of intention, both what we make it and what the universe wants of us. Sometimes I think of it as a dance: we are dancing with the universe, toward our futures, our fates.
I’ve gotten esoteric, I know. But what I meant to say was, I think many of us have a need for something other than ordinary life. We need it as a reminder that ordinary life is not all there is, that there is more. (And there is. I believe that.) There is courage, there is passion, there is beauty in the world. We can’t always see it, but it’s there. Those are all large things, and often we don’t have time for such large things, not in our daily lives. We only have time for smaller things, for small indicia of them. So we buy perfume; or wear long, elegant coats; or hang pictures of landscapes that remind us of our dreams. It is the most we can do, and some days that is enough. But it also reminds us that there is more to life, that the larger things exist.
I’m going to include one of my favorite pictures, which I may have posted before. It is John William Waterhouse’s My Sweet Rose, and it reminds me of our need for romance: our need to smell the roses on the wall, before winter takes them.