Love is in the Air. . . .

“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)

I’m a Quitter!

January . . . the “dead of winter.” The darkest and the coldest time of the year. The trees are ghostly and bare, their recent verdure replaced by mere skeletons. Every time the dog comes in, his feathery feet carry reminders of the earth’s decay . . . dead leaves, bits of brown grass, remnants of webworm nests. Days are short, skies are gray, animals hibernate, nature is dormant, and humans make optimistic promises of renewal and rejuvenation.

Where I live, there are no new leaves to turn over in January. Spring ought to be the time for resolutions. After all, it’s spring that “springs” . . . nature awakens, trees bud, fragile shoots push their way through the thaw, and the sun shines.

I’ve never been much in favor of resolutions at the start of a new year. But I have a history of starts and a matching history of quits made at other times of years and stages of life.

I started playing the saxophone in 4th grade . . . an E flat alto. I wanted a flute or a clarinet, but my father overruled that choice. He was a fan of the big band sound with a record collection to back that up, and I think he had visions of a female Jimmy Dorsey dancing in his head! I actually toted that E flat alto to college and discovered that first chair in the Morrill High School band (student body of 140) wasn’t exactly college orchestra preparation. Who knew there were notes that high above the staff? It’s still in its green velvet “casket” in the garage, dried up reeds and all!

I quit one private college in the south and shifted my hours to a small college in the west. Not searching for academic excellence, but because a handsome black-haired Okie in Buddy Holly glasses had declared his love for me, and don’t we all know exactly what we want at 19?

Piano lessons were my mother’s idea. Did she know I would eventually become a “preacher’s wife”? I even bought a beautiful baby grand and signed up for lessons as an adult; some of us pick our own punishment. I quit, but the piano looks beautiful in the living room! (That “preacher’s wife” thing? Quit that too; not the wife part.)

There was tennis in Kansas . . . I held my own in a doubles’ club, and we even played some mixed doubles fairly well. But my fear and insecurity prevailed when we moved to Tulsa, and I quit.

Oh, I sang in a choir in high school and even a church choir after we married. Sitting and singing on a fence with a kindergarten friend, I was told I “couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.” Obviously repeating a disparaging comment he didn’t understand; however, Bruce contends that I can’t carry a tune in “anything” and turns off the radio if I attempt to sing along. I sing when I’m alone in the car (just a rebel at heart), but to spare myself any possibility of public humiliation I quit choirs.

Sewing . . . quit; crafting . . . quit; horseback riding . . . quit; dog training . . . quit!

There was a “because” behind every quit. These days I’m taking it easier on myself; so perhaps all this quitting was really readjusting, rearranging, reevaluating, replacing, repurposing:

  • Readjusting . . . expectations
  • Rearranging . . . priorities
  • Reevaluating . . . importance
  • Replacing . . . activities
  • Repurposing . . . assets

Can anyone maintain all the “starts” of a lifetime anyway? “Know thyself,” and myself has managed a one-ring circus pretty efficiently but never a three-ring.

We may quit because we value the opinions of others over our own beliefs. We quit because circumstances beyond our control change the course of our lives. We quit because “two roads diverge” and we have to choose. Horses die, employment ends, passions wane; but we diversify, we push the boundaries, we explore, we grow!

“Watch! I’m about to carry out something new! And now it’s springing up—don’t you recognize it? I’m making a way in the wilderness and paths in the desert.”  (Isa. 43:19 ISV)

Surprise yourself with something new . . . but wait until April!

“edgywise words” at last

Writing, a simple exercise. If one loves reading . . . examining the thoughts of others, critiquing the logic, the form, the grammar and punctuation . . . then participating in the exercise should be like jumping into a familiar pool! Here’s the crux of the matter: stepping into the shallow end is one thing, sitting on the side and slipping in next to the 3′ marker is quite another. The water’s always cold; always takes your breath away; always requires time to acclimate. But standing on the high diving board and stepping into the momentary void can take minutes . . . hours . . . days . . . years!

I must have been born with a “red pen” in my left hand. Those who can “do” – those who  can’t “teach.” And I did love teaching! Slashing those scarlet scars across my students’ handiwork to coax best out of good and  better. And I have loved talking about writing. Bounced blog titles off my friends, composed paragraphs in my mind, highlighted beautifully crafted sentences in my favorite books to read over and over again, written phrases on scraps of paper to “save for when.” Stood on the high diving board for days and years. And then realized that the  days HAVE turned into years, and while the years have changed adulthood into “elderly,” can senility be far behind? When names escape, when it takes synchronized synapses in the temporal lobes of a room full of friends to recall events, when “that whatchamacallit” suffices for the precise descriptive term . . . it’s time to jump into the deep end of the pool before it’s “winterized.”

Jumping off the high diving board is not without risk, however. Ask the 2016 Olympic divers. Their “diving well” ( the connotations of that term aren’t pleasant) turned into a swamp leading athletes to post pictures of Shrek and Kermit posing in the slough. One Canadian diver reported that the unusual hue may even have helped her . . . as long as she remembered to “keep her mouth shut.” A chemist surmised that the chlorine must have been mixed with hydrogen peroxide (noting that a mistake here in a sufficient concentration would eat flesh off of bones). One spokesman for Rio 2016 attempted to explain the problem with the lame excuse that “chemistry is not an exact science.” The similarity to writing may be obvious. Or consider the day the wind was so strong that the Russian diver who finished 4th said it kept blowing him sideways; and the men’s world champion was knocked out in the prelims. All that to say I’ve had reasons for not jumping into the “blog well,” not the least of which has been the Canadian diver’s cautionary reminder.

On the flip side of this dive, I’m not the person I was when I started talking about writing. I’m bolder; I’m crankier; impatient; I’m more outspoken – my inner voice ways “hold your tongue” (keep your mouth shut?) while my “speech major voice” projects my opinions, my observations, my  doubts, my conclusions, my assessments.

“edgewise words” promises that my words will be “edgy.” That’s “edgy” in contrast to my natural inclination to guard and please; perhaps only edgy to me. And “wise”? Certainly a matter of opinion when cautioned to “not be wise in my own estimation.”

So my toe is dipping into the edge of an ocean of words that feel as profound as the incoming tide. It’s sink or swim time! I hope I don’t disappoint.