Monday, June 27, 2011

Tennessee Waltz to Missouri Foxtrot and Los Alamos Adios

(Yes, there's more than one post today--we've done a series of long road-days, followed by wonderful visits with friends, and while the blog-entries percolate through my brain as I drive down the road, I'd much rather visit face-to-face with people at the end of a driving day, than plop down with the laptop and start blogging.) 

So, continuing the journey from Johnson City, TN, we took all of Friday (June 24) to traverse the green, rolling hills of Tennessee, with a stop through Nashville, where my eldest child spent the first 15 months of life.  Then it was on to Memphis, stopping for the night at a hotel on the outskirts of the city, which allowed us some time in the morning to drive along the riverfront in Memphis.  We saw paddleboats, the Pyramid, and a little of Beale Street before heading on to Stillwater, OK, to "Starwood Glen" the beautiful, tree-filled (very un-Oklahoma)  ranch of my friends, Tom and Jill.   These two minister-friends of mine have spent their lives investing in people: students, young adults, colleagues, neighbors, anyone that God places in their path.  Tom's an ordained pastor, an entrepreneur, an inventor, a wood-worker, a writer, an athelete, and currently teaches at Oklahoma State.  He also makes the most amazing whole-grain, heart-healthy blueberry pancakes I've ever had.  Jill is an artist.  Watercolors, pen and ink, charcoal, oils; all of them obey her vision and become visions of landscapes, animals, people, still-lifes. She has a knack for inviting people into her life and into her ministry.  And her version of ministry often includes that magical chemistry between people and horses: how hearts seem to open when people, horses, Jill, and God meet in a pasture, a barn or a paddock.  Years ago, in my student days in Texas, when my inner life was in turmoil, Jill's invitation to "horse therapy" with her chestnut Arabian gelding, Firefrost, was literally a life-saver.   "Sometimes, the best thing for the inside of a person is the outside of the horse" a former president was quoted as saying.

On this trip, Patti, Calvin, and Rhys were privileged to get their horse-therapy with Jill's current family of horses:  D'Artagnan, a dark bay Arabian,  Scout, a nervous paint who is recovering from abuse in his former home, and a "movie-star teeth" white Missouri Foxtrotter whose "paper" name is "Doc", but who is known at Starwood Glen as Shadowfax.   Patti and Calvin immediately fell under the spell of their new equine friends in their first riding lesson with Jill, and then spent most of the rest of visit finding reasons to return to the paddock to groom and pet and talk with D'Artagnan and Shadowfax.  Both came away from those "conversations" changed.  (What is it about a horse that can bring out the very best in a kid?  I wish I could bottle it and spray it liberally around the inside of the car during some of our 9-hour road trips. )

Four year old Rhys was allowed to sit on Scout's bony back while being led around the pasture, and promptly acheived an equestrian milestone:  he fell off and dissolved in tears.   Of course, he was required to get right back on, while howling in protest and clinging to me in fear.  After Scout refused to move another step while Rhys continued his dramatic scene, Rhys was allowed to slide off and find a seat outside the pasture fence, to watch his brother and sister ride.  As the horses were led back to their barn and their evening meal, Rhys had already forgiven Scout and was claiming him as a friend.  First thing the next morning, he announced that he wanted to say good morning to "his" horse, "Spot".   After we left Stillwater, on our way to New Mexico, we found ourselves in one of several of those TickyTackyTeePeeTouristTrappee places, where Rhys searched the souvenir horse/cowboy models for "a copy of my horse", to take home with him.  We're still looking, and I'm sure that somewhere between here and home, there will be a toy section of a TTTPTT that provides just the souvenir he needs.

Last night's reservation was for a hotel room in Los Alamos, New Mexico, in hopes of spending today hiking in Bandelier Canyon.  However, after driving closer and closer to the bright red glow on the mountains outside Santa Fe, I realized I was driving my kids right into the evacuation zone for the wildfires that were the source of that red glow.  We were turned around by a local police officer and invited to stay in the local high school that was being used as an evacuation shelter.  Fortunately, a very nice hotel in Santa Fe still had a room available at 1:45 a.m. when we finally checked in, after my GPS completely quit working and we had spent a while driving aimlessly through the north side of the city.  This morning, we looked at the layer of white ash on the car, and smelled the air, and decided that two kids with asthma and their siblings and mom did not need to be hiking in the Santa Fe area today, and packed up for the next stop: Holbrook, Arizona, where we are relaxing tonight before exploring Petrified Forest / Painted Desert National Monument tomorrow.

The kids are all blissfully asleep, and the only glow in this very quiet hotel room tonight is the laptop screen.  Here's hoping that a reasonable bedtime tonight, minus smoke and ash, equals an energetic early start to our day tomorrow.

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