Raymond Carver’s short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” provides the touchstone around which this year’s Oscar-winning film Birdman is framed. Which got me to thinking, if not talking, about love — specifically, what it is that people here in the Piedmont are talking about when they say, “I love it here.”
Are they ecosexuals? That’s a provocative, new term to which I’ve just been introduced, a term that has recently gained some currency among both environmentalists and feminists. It’s a synonym for sexecology, another word I never knew existed. The “Ecosex Manifesto” — which in effect replaces matronly Mother Nature with passionate Lover Earth — reads in part:
“The Earth is our lover. We are madly, passionately, and fiercely in love, and we are grateful for this relationship each and every day. In order to create a more mutual and sustainable relationship with the Earth, we collaborate with nature. We treat the Earth with kindness, respect and affection.”
Combining ecology with sex — whether as in ecosexual or sexecology — conjures up, of course, the kind of love associated with romance or Eros. But there are at least three other kinds of love, as famously categorized by the Christian essayist C.S. Lewis:
Storge, or affection, describes the bonds we have as parents, children, siblings, and families. Philia means friendship. Agape is the unconditional, selfless love we feel toward God. Like Eros, all the names Lewis used derived from the ancient Greek.
To these, perhaps should be added a fifth love. I don’t have a clue what it would be called in ancient Greek, but if I remember my Latin right — to give it a suitably sounding name — Amor Terrae might do. That translates into “Love of the Land.” And that sounds somehow more appropriate, less salacious, than either ecosexual or sexecological.
Whatever it’s called, it is this love of the land that unites us, despite often heated partisan differences, here in the northern Piedmont of Virginia. It’s a deep love and sense of appreciation for the special beauty of our undeveloped, undulating hills, rolling timelessly toward the Blue Ridge. That love is what draws — and keeps — us here.
And this love of the land, more often than not, enhances and enriches all the other kinds of love:
Storge: For children growing up here, the landscape is just like family.
Philia: Friendship is deepened when enjoying the outdoors together.
Eros: Holding hands while watching together, as if one, the sun slowly sinking over the Blue Ridge brings lovers just that much closer.
Agape: No matter your religion, nature’s beauty allows a glimpse of God’s wondrous creation. Indeed, no formal religion is even necessary for the transcendental feeling, evoked by the Piedmont landscape, of touching the sublime.
Piedmont farmers and conservationists sometimes have heated differences of opinions over such things as riparian buffers, but their mutual love of the land is undeniable. In the larger scheme of things, theirs is no different from a lovers’ quarrel, eventually to be put aside and then long forgotten.
Yes, Virginia is for lovers, especially it’s Piedmont in springtime.
Photo credit: The Bluemont Flats by Douglas Graham/ Wild Light Photos