Next week we might remind ourselves that love is not rocket science. No, it’s way more difficult. Albert Einstein put the question, “How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?” We are still waiting for his answer.
I would imagine, should one gaze into the brain of a rocket scientist, on display would be a highly functioning organ, operating optimally, neurons synchronously firing away, circuits lit up—the Rockettes, if you will. But when we embark on love, our brain’s physiology runs amok, leaving a trail of wine, chocolate, flowers and broken hearts. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Considerable research has been done on the neurophysiology of love. The findings convey a colorful, if disquieting, notion of love’s effects on our brains. Love doesn’t come plastered with a warning label, which is a shame: it would make engaging reading.
The passion of first love sends our bodies and brains into overdrive, replete with racing hearts, sweaty palms and flushed cheeks. Our euphoria reflects the boosted blood flow in the brain’s pleasure centers, the region where drug addiction takes root. Our minds, transfixed on our beloved, trigger a dip in the brain’s serotonin level, symptomatic of those afflicted with obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Love of a less tumultuous kind takes hold after passion. Romantic love keeps the passion’s spark and chemistry, but is more balanced and sustainable. The brain’s pleasure center still lights up, but the light is not blinding, nor the love blind.
In romantic love, there is mutual affection and respect, shared pleasures, interests and life goals built for 2. With marriage, the ardent lovers transform into devoted partners and parents, the once white-flames of passion give way to a contented glow of nurturing, managing, planning, dance performances and soccer games. The fire? Flickering in the outdoor grill. As Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack beautifully ask, “Where Is The Love?”
How to rekindle the fires of romance? Not long ago Sherwin-Williams, the paint company, suggested couples might rediscover their romance by, yes, painting together. Wives and husbands, they had learned, split home improvement tasks into two types: his and hers. The company presented home painting projects as a way for couples to reconnect, share some laughs, enhance their home and sense of shared achievement.
Our company, Burpee, using focus groups, found a similar divide when it comes to gardening. “She grows it and I eat it,” and “He grows it and I cook it,” were common refrains. Paradise Lost! Romance stops at the garden gate-precisely where it should begin.
Research demonstrates that when couples share the unpaid responsibilities of the home, the happier they are. I can think of no better place to work as a team than the garden, the home’s true “living room”.
Gardening allows couples to engage in multiple ways. They plan, ready, and lovingly tend their garden. They contend with weather, and a colorful mix of challenges, mishaps, surprises, disappointments and triumphs. Together they admire, harvest and dine on the results. Can’t do that with your laptops or iPhones.
The garden becomes a collective work of imagination. A few steps into your backyard and you’re there: your own spa-theatre-dreamscape-ashram-sensorium-cathedral-oasis-refuge-herbarium-cabinet of wonders. Your joint labor of love is a place of meditation, exercise, natural marvels, spectacle, aesthetic beauty, fragrance and color.
Another thing. The garden is a veritable Shangri-la of romance. Ask any passing bee, dragonfly, butterfly or hummingbird. Want Einstein’s answer? Look out your back door. Love is in the air.