For our tenth wedding anniversary, we meant to go to Venice. You know, the place where water flows through the streets. But when the Lord answered our prayers for a third baby a little while later than we’d planned, we ended up celebrating in southern Indiana with a little tagalong.

It doesn’t sound much like Venice, but it does flood yearly being a valley of springs and all. In the middle of that valley is Indiana’s best kept secret, a little hint of Europe, a historic hotel with a most amazing restoration story. When you walk into the place, you feel like you’re in an old world courtyard with all of these interior balconies suspended under what used to be the nation’s largest free-standing dome. It astonishes with columns, marble, statues, tile work…a place fit for a royal family.

You wouldn’t know it now, but when my friend Vaughn stumbled upon the place in 1992, it was in ruins. He paused at the chain link fence that guarded the structure he’d never heard of before, then grabbed hold of the metal and began to climb. Carefully lifting the spirals of barbed wire at the top, he made his way back down on the other side of the fence, and listening to the whisper of wonder over the stern voice of rule and reason, entered the condemned building through a crumbling wall.

Glass crunched under his feet. Buckled concrete toyed with his steps. Plants grew up between the cracks on the floor. He looked up into the former glory. It felt like that moment in that place was reserved just for him.

Later, when the hotel wooed others into putting up the money to partially restore, Vaughn’s friends took up where he had left off. At an overnight fundraiser held under the dome, the couple snuck away and made their way up a ladder on the outside of the building. On the rounded roof, they held tight to handrails and scaled the structure until they reached the crown of the roof, a little cupola that holds a mystery even to this day.

Inside, the curved walls are adorned with eight life-size frescoes painted by an unknown artist. It could have been the couple’s little secret, except they weren’t truly alone. Others had been there before, scratching graffiti into the paintings of the archangels. In desperation to claim “I was here,” the vandals had made their mark, stealing some of the mystery from the place.

The stream of consciousness letter my husband wrote for me on our anniversary there at West Baden Springs was like a historic tour of our own. I walked with him through the thoughtful and sometimes hilarious words and phrases describing a decade together, all of these shared experiences and inside jokes. Some of those things are just for us.

Without the element of exclusivity, our relationship wouldn’t look much different than the relationship with anybody else in our lives. There is wisdom in keeping a secret, not just to protect a bit of important information, but also to give a relationship that sense of otherness, to keep that sense of intimacy.

I agree heartily with Sarah Markley, especially carrying her ideas to the context of love and romance: “Most of us have forgotten that some things are meant just for us. The photo might only be meant for a frame on the mantle and the eyes of those who pass through my doorway. The story of that amazing meal might only be meant for the friends I get to share the story with in person…. The older we get (and the longer I share daily life in public ways) the more we do this: gather some of our lives back as ours. Maybe it feels like a secret. Maybe it just feels right. Maybe it feels like I want to be more private. But in the end I think keeping things just for us helps us to live life in real color, in four dimensions and in brilliant clarity.”

If we publicize too many moments and thoughts with our friends and followers, there is little kept sacred to our most intimate relationship. All of us could stand to think first and avoid inviting others in too close, clouding the clarity of our most prized relationship like graffiti on the frescoes.

Here’s a little Internet break for you. Right now, before you do anything else online….
Recall a special memory or inside joke with a loved one. Whisper if it’s your spouse.



{I’m linking up with Nester for her annual 31 Days blog get together. Don’t want to miss this series? Be sure to subscribe by entering your email in the box on the homepage sidebar. Find all posts in the series here.}