Valentine's Day has been a cause of much frustration in my life throughout my single years. All the hype, all the pressure to be partnered up or buy sugar-packed goodies and a million other things. There are so many different stories about how the day came about, including one I just read of how it was a pagan fertility celebration, woah! Over the years, I have worked to give Valentine's Day a more positive twist by making it more generally about love in all its glory and magic, and now, especially about self-love.
It's not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority.
Here's some interesting history to blow your mind a little, "According to the legend, [St.] Valentine crushed the violet blossoms growing outside his cell to make precious ink with which to write, on the leaves, to his friends while an obliging dove delivered the notes. It is also said that Valentine maintained a remarkable epistolary relationship with his jailer's blind daughter to whom he wrote daily and cured of her ailment.
"St. Valentine was executed on 14 February 269 A.D. His demise coincided with the pagan festivals of Lupercalia held in honor of the goddess Juno, who favored women and marriage. From there on, this late winter festival was associated with romantic love, fertility rites and the coming of spring. Violets, linked to faithfulness or the 'I return your love' sentiment, remained a symbol as well as a popular offering between lovers." -http://americanvioletsociety.org/HistoryTraditions/Saint_Valentine.htm
Some say that violets were the first Valentine's flower because of their heart-shaped leaves. Too bad they don't bloom until April! So, more on them later.
Anyway, back to self-love...
February is a perfect time for it. Many folks, myself included, complain about winter, the cold and sluggishness it produces. If we were really connected to the Earth and ourselves, we would realize that winter is custom made for turning inward and rejuvenation. Just like the plants go dormant, a little dormancy could do us all good. It is a time of yin nourishing, quiet, darkness, and reflection. It is a time to rebuild our energy and recuperate from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the year. This will provide us with energy when we need it again, during the yang or active times, coming up sooner than you'll believe possible.
My request to you for this day is to figure out how you can carve out time for self-love every day, and make a special self-love date with yourself every week. For me, this manifests in lots of different ways. It's through my morning yoga and meditation practice, but also through loving myself if I can't get out of bed some days to make it happen. My biggest self-love practice is my daily hike, time in the forest to reconnect. Sometimes I'll go with friends, because I've realized as an (mostly) extrovert and entrepreneur (aka working at home alone a lot), I need to be surrounded by others. Though there's days, usually after teaching, when my introvert self kicks in, that I need solo hikes. Also taking care of my body is super important for my self-care, like taking elderberry syrup and wild mushroom tincture daily. (You can find my blends here.)
My self-love dates can consist of a wide variety of activities. Sometimes they're letting myself take a nap, read in bed, or watching a guilty pleasure movie (without guilt). Sometimes it's going on an extra long hike and taking extra time to explore a path I've never been down before. Other times it's taking myself out to lunch or just working from a coffeeshop and treating myself to something special, or a dinner date in town with a friend at an Ethiopian restaurant or whatever I'm craving.
And of course, how can you have self-love without chocolate????!!!!
Did you know that cacao (raw chocolate from the chocolate plant) is the highest antioxidant food in the world? Unfortunately, by adding a bunch of sugar to it, it kind of cancels out the health-supporting properties. So, because I love you so much, I wanted to give you a healthy, yet scrumptious chocolate recipe from my recent Herbs as Food workshop.
⅛ cup hemlock, spruce, pine, or fir needles + some for garnish
⅛ cup sumac berries + some for garnish
2 cups cocoa powder (or ground cacao)
6-8 ounces coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup maple syrup, or to taste
Finely grind evergreen needles and sumac berries (except the garnish) in coffee grinder. Make sure the seeds in the berries are fully ground. Mix sumac and evergreen mixture with cocoa powder in a food processor. Mix coconut oil, vanilla, and maple syrup, and blend with dry ingredients in food processor, while running (this is important to help the ingredients emulsify) until it holds together, no longer crumbly, but not too oily. Blend until smooth.
I pour this into a 6.5x4.5 tupperware and it makes 12 small pieces, 1 inch deep. You could use a 9x5 inch pan and ½ inch deep, or use a loaf pan. Press garnish into top of fudge. Refrigerate until fudge is set and hard.
Founder of the WANDER (Wild Artemisia Nature Discovery, Empowerment, and Reconnection) School, Botanist, Herbalist, & Professional Forager, Abby Artemisia, lives in rural Appalachian North Carolina. She learned about plants playing in the Midwestern woods of Ohio, working on organic farms, an herbal apprenticeship, a bachelor's degree in Botany from Miami University, and running her own tea business. She teaches about plant identification, native plants, and working with plants for food and medicine throughout the country. Her mission is offering nature and herbal education to create healing through connection with the natural world and each other. She is the author of The Forager's Wild Edible and Herbal Plant Cards and The Herbal Handbook for Homesteaders. She is the host of the podcast Wander, Forage, and Wildcract, founder of The WANDER School, and co-founder of The Sassafras School of Appalachian Plantcraft.