I asked my students what images they associate with love, what metaphors and similes come to mind. "Love is a battlefield," they answer, thinking of old Pat Benatar. "Love is a warm puppy," they answer, thinking of old Charlie Brown.

These were astonishingly old-fashioned responses.

I asked my friends the same question and also got old answers: "Love is an aching in the heart," replies one, citing the Supremes song; "Love has no pride," replies another, departing from the linguistic angle of the question in order to invoke Bonnie Raitt's. Answers come from Peggy Lee: "Fever"; Aretha Franklin: "Respect"; Martha and the Vandellas "Heat Wave"; and Patsy Cline: "Crazy."

Bonnie reminded me of a bizarre song when we were growing up called "The Bright Elusive Butterfly of Love" which included a line about you might wake up some morning to "the sound of something moving past your window" followed close by "heaving breathing."

This is not how you know you're in love, I now realize. Nope, this is how you know you need to break your lease and NOT leave a forwarding address. (Heavy breathing outside your beloved's window is an appropriate expression of affection only if you are a Golden Retriever.)

We know what love isn't, though, don't we: love is not hereafter; it is not love which alters when it alteration finds, etc....

The closest I can get is to think of it this way: falling in love is like the falling of snow.

It is always a little surprising but rarely completely unexpected: the conditions have to be right, after all, and if you're aware of your surroundings, you might have noticed all the signs in advance of the actual event.

Sometimes it's slick, treacherous, difficult to navigate, and you end up on your busted and broken up, shocked and ashamed; other times it's gentle, peaceful, and sweet, leaving you marveling at its beauty and hoping it won't be gone too soon.

What's your image? How do you complete the sentence "Love is...?"

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