I (Heart) Green

Jean Danielson

Jean Danielson

Years ago, I rented a section on the second floor of a very large three-story Victorian house in Evanston, Illinois. It wasn’t that long after grad school and I was still feeling very communal, but in an ‘I need space’ sort-of way.

The couple who owned the house was interesting—eclectic and adventurous. In the summer Rosemary would grow a garden in the very small backyard that included all sorts of vegetables, but most importantly, basil. In late summer she would populate the freezer with serving size portions of pesto in small Dixie cups that would slowly disappear through the fall and winter months. Her husband, Herc, was newly retired. He spent a lot of time reading newspapers, books and telling me stories from earlier in their lives.

One Valentine’s Day, Herc was fretting over what to buy Rosemary. He had all day to figure it out, but he was having a heck of a time. When I saw him later that evening he said the solution was simple: he went to the grocery store and bought red things. On the counter were two apples, a bottle of salsa, strawberries and ketchup. He already had the pinot noir, so he was good to go.

Choices can be difficult. What can be done that shows thought, creativity, affection or mirth? And on top of that, how does one add a sustainable I-want-to-love-the-world-I-live-in twist? With this in mind, I set about to find examples that are meaningful, fun and demonstrate an awareness of how we individually and together impact—and appreciate—our communities.

  • Cook a dinner that involves vegetables and fruits. Choose many colors. Since it is the middle of winter, finding what you want may be tougher as the vast majority of these foods will be imported. However, if you made your pesto last fall, you already have a great start.
  • Find a local winery and go to a wine tasting. Some of Iowa’s hidden joys are its local wineries. You’ll find 74 Iowa vineyards listed here.
  • Go ice fishing. Not only do you get to participate in the great cycle of life by being in nature and catching your own food, but you get to snuggle.
  • If you want to set a mood, use soy-based candles or dimmable LEDs. Or embrace total conservation and shut the lights off.
  • Find gifts at local shops that specialize in unique items or are designed to last. Do not use wrapping paper.
  • Buy Fair Trade coffee, put it in your thermos and go for a walk, ending up at a local park. You can show how well you think ahead by bringing a blanket to wrap around the both of you.
  • Die your reusable cotton bags red with beet coloring. You can make designs on it in traditional batik style with soy wax drippings.
  • Support handmade items in a virtual setting. Etsy is a great place to explore.
  • Feed your wonder. Over a homemade tomato and spinach pizza, plan a day trip with your sweetie and learn about the treasures your community holds.

As for me, I am planning on taking time this weekend to find multiple artists who sing ‘My Funny Valentine.’ Etta James does a rockin’ version.


– Jean Danielson is director of operations for Indigo Dawn. She likes making lists.

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