Friday, February 23, 2007

Stuck with Sickness and Warm Springs

The Loving Husband is recovering from Hepatitis, Chaos and I have had a cold and now Entropy has what we are calling "Martin Death Flu." I believe in sharing, but they can keep their germs. I have too many papers due (all on March 6!)

I've been dwelling in the stories around Warm Springs. I don't know about you all, but when a story or place crops up over and over again, I start to pay attention.

If you grew up in Georgia, you probably have been to Warm Springs several times with school trips. I know I went at least 3 times in elementary or high school -- the kids around here go in fifth grade. It's really stuck out in the boonies -- near Pine Mountain and Bullockville, close to Callaway Gardens. I've flown into the airport at Warm Springs; they don't even have gas pumps (as well as I remember), just a shack with a phone booth. It's just a asphalt strip. The airport at Callaway Gardens is much nicer, with a courtesy shuttle that goes to the resort, so that you can fly in, catch the shuttle to a restaurant and get your $100 hamburger. (That's a pilot joke.)

I remember once going in 7th grade to Warm Springs and getting caught in one of those violent Georgia Thunderstorms and my parents who were driving stopping under a bridge on the interstate. There were tornadoes that day. This trip is linked in my memory with the realization that even my parents were not invulnerable and they would never really be able to keep me completely safe. I am amazed how many times tornadoes are linked to the action of God in my life; either in dreams or in real life.

Warm Springs is the home of the Little White House; a cottage where FDR lived for more than a two decades. It is a very modest cottage, not one that you would think a president would live or stay. It's been kept much like it was during his residency. Chaos has visited with her class recently and Entropy is going later in March. The nearby pools have been restored, as well and to see what they were like is intriguing.

I've also been reading about the pools of Siloam and Bethesda in Jerusalem. Bethesda is practically on the Temple grounds; it’s a pool near the sheep gate. I was a place for ritual cleaning getting ready for Sabbath – a Mikvah. The pool of Siloam is similar, near another gate. Both are mentioned in the book of John. Most scholars say that there were five porticos or porches maybe to shelter the paralyzed and the infirm.

On certain occasions, certain manuscripts of the book of John say that ‘an angel would come and trouble the waters’ – and people believed that the first person into the waters would be healed. In 1888 a pool was found with fresco of an angel troubling the waters near the temple grounds and a church was build there -- St. Anne’s – the archeological site has two pools and 5 porches.

When I read this I began picturing it in my mind – 5 pavilions around the pool full of people and I saw the image of Warm Springs. The known history of the warm springs had its recorded beginnings with Native Americans, who would take their injured and sick and infirm to the warm waters at Pine Mountain for what they considered its healing properties.

After the Europeans settled Georgia it wasn’t long before the warm springs gave rise to a spa,
A place where water emerges at 900 gallons per minute and 88 degrees year-round helped turn the place the springs in to a popular place to “take the cure”. Many famous southerners took the cure at Warm Spring, including John C. Calhoun of South Carolina and Henry Clay of Kentucky before the Civil War.

In the late 1800’s an the Meriweather Inn – the Meriweather was built on the hill overlooking the springs. They built pools and pavilions around the pools so people could better access the waters.

By the time FDR arrived in 1924 -- three years after he contracted polio, the Inn had seen its better days. One of his friends: George Foster Peabody, wrote to FDR telling him of the therapy that a young polio victim had while exercising daily in the warm waters, and Roosevelt would do anything that might help him walk again.

He found the place a shambles – and resistance to his being there was strong. His family had no idea what he was doing. They thought that he was squandering both his time and his money The lodging was awful, the food was awful, there wasoverwhelming poverty was everywhere he looked. And after a local newspaper article was syndicated nationally, the ramshackle old inn was over-run with people looking for miracles.

However there was prejudice of the type that a well educated, rich, white man had never encountered before. You see, no one knew how you caught polio – and FDR was shunned as a leper. His people – and they became his people after he made relationships with them –
after he bathed them himself and fed them and showed them his own “exercises” – FDR and his people were placed out of the inn during the main season; they had to eat on sawhorses in a back dining room; they were not allowed in the pool during the main portion of the day. They were modern day lepers.

In the HBO movie "Warm Spring" there is a voiceover of a letter he wrote to his wife Eleanor: "I am taking on responsibilities which none of my schooling in the spheres of higher learning or politics could have prepared me for... I have seen the casualties of war. But I have never seen this, a suffering so insidious, so silent, that it rattles my soul."

She wrote back:
"It seems everywhere I go there are more people in dire need of help. It would be overwhelming if not for my deep belief that help is possible..."

It would be overwhelming if not for my deep belief that help is possible...

I would like to go to the Springs today, and I think I will -- in spirit. This trek to a degree has been hard on myself and my family. I think we all are run down. I am taking a Warm Springs day today and am going to take "the cure" and I watch Entropy get better. I will work gently on my papers, trying to organize my thoughts, but I will not push. Small steps.

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