“Love is in the air; every sight and every sound.”
The sight of love is certainly in evidence; it is February after all. Rack over rack over rack of hearts and flowers and sentiments line grocery and drug store aisles while Hallmark’s CFO relishes in the glories of love. Fine restaurants promise that the path to romance is paved with gastronomic excess. Jewelry and department stores ramp up their advertising picturing everything it is possible to stick a heart on assuring us that this is a gift “she is bound to love.” I’ve seen the ubiquitous shape gracing everything from a heart worm test for my dog to a “hand-cut and butterflied ribeye” to a perfectly shaped pizza!
While there is no escaping the sight of love this month, the sound of love blasts into our earbuds. The “oldies” proclaimed a softer (at least familiar) sound of love . . . to which we are “hopelessly devoted” because it is “a many splendored thing” that “makes the world go ’round,” while the current love songs seem more strident to me—reflective, I guess, of a culture less patient with love’s blooming.
An aside: “Love is in the Air”? John Paul Young may have been the first to record it, but I personally preferred that pure Tom Jones disco beat.
I have kept some visible, tangible evidence of the love, the sight of the love, that I’ve received and treasured . . . cards and letters from our parents saved as much because of their unique handwriting as their words. I hold in my hands those cards with their still familiar script, and love washes over me. My engagement ring . . . the sight of love . . .the love of a 19-year-old Oklahoma farm boy proudly and prominently worn on my left hand. His love letters are hidden away, tied up with a blue bow. I know precisely where they are, but I rarely untie that ribbon to open one of them. It’s almost as if something sacred might escape, and a piece of that innocent love evaporate.
The love he and I share has its own unique sound . . . the familiar greetings, predictable goodbyes, private jokes, even retorts. “I’ll load up the horses and go home . . . ” may be Shakespeare to you, but far more to us! There were a couple of songs Bruce sang to me when we met. One was a “love song” I guess; the words about a hopeless love in contrast to ours which was filled with promise. But the fact that he was a romantic with a good voice overcame the dark side of love that lurked in the lyrics. The other was . . . well it sounded like love.
I’ve known love that I could see and hear, but if it’s in the air, does love have a smell? Does it have an olfactory aspect as well as an auditory and an ocular? And, if it does, how do I recognize the odor of love?
For mom and dad it was that divine yeasty aroma that emanates from bread baking. A waft of that in the air never failed to produce a reminiscence of their meeting . . . and we never tired of the love story. Daddy was a “dough maker” and mother decorated cakes at the Peter Pan Bakery in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, before WWII. Dad had to pass her to run huge sacks of flour to the top of the mixing machine, and after they spotted one another, his athleticism and her beauty ignited a flame that rivaled Peter Pan’s ovens for over half a century!
In 1966 we moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and were assaulted by something new “in the air.” Eau de paper mill. . . . It was wretched and nauseating, but just thinking about that pungent smell makes me smile now because those were good days. Our first ministry assignment, toddler daughter, a brand new apartment (with its own brand new smell) and not a stick of furniture—borrowed baby bed, borrowed sofa and mattress, and our first furniture purchase, a metal “dinette set.” The chemical reaction required to produce paper also produced sulfur compounds (that means “rotten eggs”) that could make you gag, but pungent or not, love was in the air!
My growing up years were spent in western Nebraska, home (among future blog topics) to sugar beets and sugar beet factories. Acres and acres of sugar beets were hoed by migrant farm workers (another topic for another day) who came seasonally and lived in “shacks” to work the fields. When harvest came and the beets went to the factory, an odious odor permeated the air for miles around. Mountains of sugar beets surrounded the factory, dumped there waiting to be processed while they deteriorated and produced “organic matter” (think stinking garbage dump). The sugar beet factory meant “hold your nose, complain, and gag” to a dramatic girl, but it meant employment and a successful year of farming to our neighbors—love in the air!
My Nebraska years and my Oklahoma farm boy introduced me to the delights of silage and feed lots . . . unmistakeable aromas not intended for the faint of heart or nose. Pure stench to the uninitiated but pure love to the cattleman whose bread is buttered there (and that’s a word picture for you!)
One of my greatest delights was burying my nose in Missy’s sweet neck. That quarter horse had attitude (which in the horse world apparently means I fell short as a horsewoman). But just the smell of her was joy enough to make up for all of the shortcomings we shared when I was in the saddle.
Bruce and I are on opposite sides of the smell of love when it comes to movie popcorn. We drive by a theater and that divine aroma draws us in . . . for me, the love in the air is the love of the silver screen . . . for Bruce, it’s a more primal love—the sheer delight of popcorn!
I know you know where this is going to end . . . with bread it’s the fermentation process, with sugar beets it’s the rotting/decay, with the paper mill it’s an inevitable chemical reaction, with the feed lot it’s . . . well, you know. (Thank goodness for popcorn and sweet horses’ necks.)
Love doesn’t always look lovely; love doesn’t always sing in tune; a rose by any other name might smell as sweet—but sometimes one man’s love is another man’s cow manure! God is love, and I as His determined lover am not only seen and heard. “To some I am an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life. Who is adequate for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:16)