Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Celebrate Love

My An Arkie's Faith column from the June 15, 2022, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

This week marks our forty-seventh wedding anniversary. Because our anniversary falls in the middle of a hectic week, we celebrated our anniversary a few days early by going to Hot Springs. We have visited in the past, and I am intrigued by the history of Hot Springs. After a wonderful lunch at our favorite restaurant, La Hacienda, we toured the historic bathhouse row in Hot Springs National Park.

The first permanent settlers came to the Hot Springs area in 1807. They were quick to realize the area's potential as a health resort. By the 1830s, there were log cabins and a store to meet visitors' needs. By the 1880s, bathhouses were lining the streets of Hot Springs. The health resort industry led to Hot Springs becoming known as the "American Spa."

From the Roaring 20's until the end of World War II ten major casinos and numerous smaller houses operated in Hot Springs. Hot Springs became a haven for notorious criminals and mobsters, including Owen "Owney" Madden, Charles "Lucky" Luciano, and Al Capone. Word spread that Hot Springs was the perfect hideout for criminals running from police investigations. Al Capone and his bodyguards would rent out entire floors of hotels.

Visiting Hot Springs today, it's hard to imagine the city as a hotbed for organized crime, such as gambling, prostitution, and bootlegging. But from the late-1800s through the mid-1900s, Hot Springs was a popular hangout for mobsters. The safe, secluded scenic location of Hot Springs made it the ideal hideout. Hot Springs offered Las Vegas-style amenities before there was a Las Vegas. 

One of the most notable Hot Springs features is Bathhouse Row, which consists of a series of eight historic, architecturally unique bathhouses lining Central Avenue. We toured Fordyce Bathhouse. It's the largest and most ornate of all the bathhouses. It was built in 1915 and now serves as the Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center.

The day was hot and sultry as we walked down bathhouse row and then made our way up to the wide brick-lined promenade that stretches across the hillside above the bathhouses. Walking the promenade and looking out over the bustling city was a peaceful contrast to the chaos and cacophony below us. It might have been romantic if not for the heat and humidity that tried to suffocate us. But even with the heat, it was a lovely day, and we enjoyed our time together. 

Love is more than just romance. Many of history's greatest writers, poets, intellects, and philosophers have pondered the nature of love. American science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein wrote, "Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own." I like that description.

What is love? Humans have been trying to describe that elusive, nebulous feeling since the beginning of the written word. It's been the subject of many books, movies, and songs. Yet, love is difficult to define. That makes it a challenge when you're trying to wish your partner a happy anniversary without seeming shallow and mundane. 

Instead of trying to explain my deepest feelings, I often fall back on humor and pestering. If I am annoying enough, I won't have to express the things I don't know how to say. I love this quote from Rita Rudner, and I think it fits me all too well. "It's so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life."

There are many flowery descriptions of love in literature. Elizabeth Barrett Browning's famous words on love are some of my favorites. "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach, when feeling out of sight, for the ends of being and ideal grace." 

The Bible also has many flowery descriptions of love. Song of Solomon 8:6,7 (VOICE) reads, "Love flares up like a blazing fire, a very ardent flame. No amount of water can quench love; a raging flood cannot drown it out."

Even though eloquent descriptions of love have their place, we all know that life in a relationship isn't always lofty prose and romantic ideals. One of my favorite, down-to-earth passages about love is found in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIRV) "Two people are better than one. They can help each other in everything they do. Suppose either of them falls down. Then the one can help the other one up. But suppose a person falls down and doesn't have anyone to help them up. Then feel sorry for that person! Or suppose two people lie down together. Then they'll keep warm. But how can one person keep warm alone? One person could be overpowered. But two people can stand up for themselves."

This describes the long-term, everyday love that makes a relationship last. And that is what marriage anniversaries are celebrating. A marriage milestone means something. It is not just another day that comes and goes without recognition. It is a milestone on the path of life. As I try to put my feelings about love into words, I always come up short. I have no problem expressing myself on most topics, but my innermost feelings of love want to stay hidden.

Since I can't find my own words to express my feelings, I will use these words from Nicholas Sparks' book, The Notebook. "I am nothing special; just a common man with common thoughts, and I've led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten. But in one respect I have succeeded as gloriously as anyone who's ever lived: I've loved another with all my heart and soul; and to me, this has always been enough."

Gentle Reader, whether you are in a brand new relationship or celebrating a milestone anniversary, it is something to applaud. King Soloman wrote, "Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth." Proverbs 5:18 (NKJV) and Paul wrote, "on top of all this you must put on love, which ties everything together and makes it complete." Colossians 3:14 (NTE) "Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything without weakening. Love never fails; never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end." 1 Corinthians 13:7,8 (AMPC) Every day is perfect for celebrating love!

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