Local column: Love beyond flowers and chocolates

This Valentine’s Day, let’s especially celebrate the couples who have moved beyond roses and candy, writes Kristina Batalden.

Many years ago, I would travel to Sun Valley with my students to attend a journalism conference. Each year offered the unique experience of witnessing the love of two geese — a mating pair — lovers for life. Each fall I walked along their path of living and witnessed their partnership. They never strayed too far away from one another, never too far from each other’s “honk.” When the cold came, they snuggled, necks entwined for warmth. I imagine it was a simple way to share less space but share more of each other — touching, breathing, loving. It was a great joy to experience this outward show of love and care during a difficult time for me. I cherished the stable foundation they provided for each other. It comforted my chaotic life.

However, all foundations can be shaken and all comfort can be withdrawn at any time in this world, just like the time when nature ended the great love of the geese. Inevitable, yes. Tragic, yes. Crushing, yes. A new autumn came and only one goose remained at the Lodge. He was shaken. His comfort was withdrawn. He was lost.

I remember a heavy snow dripped from above and he sunk his slender neck into his feathers and waddled into a corner snugly. His singular honks were sorrowful. His way was confused. He had no path without his mate; he had no purpose- he was, alone. Alone. All alone. All one. The tragedy was beyond me and under those heavy snowflakes, I cried. I sat in the snow and sobbed.

That was the last fall of the geese lovers for me, but their loving memory haunts my living moments. Their ghosts reside with the swans at Harriman. I hear their honks while geese fly formation above our heads in the cold. Each time I visit Sun Valley Lodge I walk their path. I remember. But it hits closest to home when I see loving couples all about me. Octogenerians holding hands, sitting close, spending slow time together as the world speeds by. Empty nesters tentatively dancing about their space newly enlarged and quieted.

These are the couples I esteem during Valentine’s Day. I treasure their love and their willingness to allow others to witness that love. I admire their firmness of faith in each other. I appreciate the model of endurance through times of shaken foundations and momentary loss of direction. They survived because to be a couple means to be all in together, because no one wants to walk alone.

Let this Valentine’s Day be a day to celebrate those couples around you that have moved beyond heart balloons and a dozen roses; Hershey kisses and a pink teddy bear. They have found the secret of what a marriage is— we know because they are still together and reveling in that soft space of love. In a country where the divorce rate is around 50 percent, we need the model they provide, the determination they possess, and the secret.

Batalden raised her children and taught many others in her 22 years of living and teaching in Idaho Falls.