Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Goodbye ecclesia

When you believe things happen for a reason, that there is a design to this narrative you call your life, you can end up spending a lot of time scratching your head. So I’ve worn out a little patch on my scalp over this one. When the writing group I’m involved with formed two years ago we set up shop at Taft Street Coffee, a place provided by a church called ecclesia. The space, a converted church building, housed a bookstore, an art gallery and a recording studio among other things. Depending on when you showed up, you could find open mike poetry readings, a concert or an organic farmers markets going on in the gymnasium.

It was confusing: a church building owned by a church that borrowed another church for its own services while offering the use of its property to various entities to benefit the surrounding community. Although I’d come to feel quite at home in the Taft space and appreciated the hospitality offered to the likes of us by ecclesia, I couldn’t quite get a handle on just who or what ecclesia was. I just knew that 2115 Taft Street represented a unique display of spiritual and artisitic community that floated all my boats in its ambitions. Then over last summer and fall ecclesia renovated the gymnasium/performance area and for the first time since their inception in 2001 (I think), began to hold their weekly services in the building. Meanwhile, Image had scheduled their yearly conference to be held in Houston and ended up utilizing Taft as one of the conference venues. As part of the four day event last October, a worship service was held at Taft and that was how I inadvertently attended an ecclesia service.

I’ve been attending ever since. Which is to say my time there has not been nearly long enough and is the reason I have been scratching my head ever since our move to Missouri began to gel. I love the community they have fostered; I'm moved, challenged and inspired every time I walk through their doors. In a time when it seems many Christians believe “when two or three are gathered in My name, we’re at a Republican convention,” it’s deeply heartening to see people focused on putting hands and feet, their own hands and feet, to the gospel. I wrote a benediction for last Sunday's service based on the lectionary readings for the week which addresses something I else love about ecclesia–how they embrace the world in all its forms, its beauty and its brokenness, and yet strive to be not of it, how they inhabit the world within the world, addressing the unseen within the seen, and seek out the essence of what really matters. I will miss the community, and it truly is a community, greatly, though I find solace in the belief that no goodbye lasts forever. Thank you, ecclesia.

Benediction for the 7th Sunday of Easter

You who have known the name of God
who have received the word of Christ
You who Christ has presented to the Father as His own
Go out into the world as One
as Christ and the Father are One
called to the world, yet no longer of it
turning from every evil way
and delighting in the truth that He is
and make known that everything in this world
came from Him
and will return to Him
to bring Him glory
Relinquish those things that will blow away like chaff in the wind
and persevere in that which will bear fruit and remain
while you walk between the world that is
and the world that is to come
keep His word
as He has kept you for the Father
and so bring Him glory
that His joy in you would be made full.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Goodbye Taft Street

This is a “last” I’ve really dreaded. Last night marked the culmination of one of those perfect amalgamations life occasionally bestows on you that proves the universe has not only made a place for you, it has pulled out your chair, unfurled your napkin and set a plate for you. Such was the case with my sojourn at Taft.

We showed up like iron filings to a magnet. What started for me as a trek to a mysterious bookstore advertised in a tiny ad in the Houston Press ended up bringing me into what was to become a unique and vibrant community of writers. Each of us winded up at Taft through a series of serendipitous occurrances around the same time, converging over shared passions of faith, literature, writing, service and community.

It was a combustible mix. Mark and Jenny Johnson, founders of Strange Land Books and Literacy Foundation, provided their space at Taft to pave the way for Anthony Connolly, Mark Bertrand, and me to offer our abilities as writers to a community. Karen Miedrich-Luo joined us on the night of our inauguration and a core group formed with only vague ideas of what we hoped we might accomplish together. Over the course of the two years or so we’ve been together at Taft, we’ve hosted a weekly critique group, held workshops and readings, produced an anthology, and taught high schoolers. We’ve encouraged, provoked, challenged and strengthened each other. When some obscure literary journal that no other friends or family members have ever heard of accepts one of our stories or poems, we know the journal and appreciate the accomplishment. We’ve become each other’s biggest fans.

It’s been a rich time, charged and productive, and the enthusiasm has been contagious. We’ve recognized ourselves as beneficiaries of something that feels bigger than any of our best intentions could have conceived and no one counts it incidental. We don’t know exactly what we’ve started but whatever it is, our impulse is to share it.

When Anthony’s wife was transferred to Columbia, MO and Karen’s husband was accepted into law school in Dallas it seemed our little Camelot might end. Unwilling to let such a fruitful venture wither away, we put heads and hearts together and conceived LiT: Life in Translation.com,Though we’re still working out the logistics, we hope to set up a virtual writing community and export our literary bounty to all the places we’ve since scattered to and then to points beyond.

Our impetus to create a literary community connected by faith has already begun to bear fruit, even prior to the launch of LiT. Many connections have already been made. We’ll soon have LiT groups going in Houston, Dallas and Columbia and we’ll take it from there. The dominoes have started falling.

But I’ll miss my seat on the couch on Thursday nights at Taft. The music spun by Ash. The coffee brewed by Jason. The titles that line the shelves like familiar faces. Most of all, these writers, these friends, who, in all I understand about the art of life and the life of faith, have seriously upped the ante .

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Star Deprived

In a couple of hours, a few dozen friends from over the years will begin drifting in for a last “party on the patio”. We’ve had many of these over the years and we couldn’t leave without a last hurrah. Based on past experience, the party will go on til the sun is long gone and the chatter of many voices will distill into the few; the conversations will stretch and deepen into the sort that linger long after a party ends.

When I hopped into the car moments ago for a final ice run, the CD player was queued to Robbie Seay’s “Go Outside,” his contribution to the first CD offering from The Voice, which then got me thinking about stars. Which is not hard to do. “Go outside, praise the God who mapped the stars up in the sky...gather with those you love” which would be a perfect soundtrack for tonight’s gathering if only you could see the stars from our patio. And this is a big reason we are moving to Columbia, and not even to Columbia but to a tiny town outside it, because in Columbia, as in Houston, the stars have been scrubbed clean from the sky by city lights. We’ll be lucky to spot one or two steadfastly twinkling, unappreciated, on the periphary of the horizon.

Last summer, while our kids were away on extended family vacations, Wayne and I jumped into the car for an impromptu road trip west. I wanted to take him, my English city boy, to the Grand Canyon. There are few things on earth that live up to their hype and the Grand Canyon is one place that never disappoints, no matter how much you’ve talked it up or how many times you’ve seen it. It still boggles the mind and short circuits your preconceptions. I stood on the rim of the canyon, in virtually the same spot I’d stood on exactly 15 years before, and wondered how long you’d have to stand there to notice the mountains move. God wears a different wristwatch.

That night we pitched a tent under the tall pines of the north rim as the sun was rapidly setting. By the time I headed for the restrooms, I needed my flashlight to navigate my way through the trees. When I cleared the trees and branches and emerged into the open, I almost ducked. The stars hung so low and close and plenty it kind of spooked me. I had forgotten.

What do you lose when you lose the stars? More than we can know. I’ve been working on a translation of Psalm 97 for The Voice and pondering how the heavens “declare”. And funny enough, Mark was doing the same, brilliantly, on his "How Do the Heavens Declare God's Glory?" post of May 12. Oceans and mountains "declare" but we don't all have oceans or mountains. But no matter on what corner of the earth, what desert, what river, what jungle, what hill or what sea, we all have the same stars and in that way, we share a language. Stars don’t just help us sail our ships or find our way through the desert. They are constantly speaking and when we turn the bright lights on, and the stars off, we lose touch with something we need not only to see, but hear, to rightly navigate our souls through this blink we call time.

We’re going to go get our stars back. And tonight we’re going to celebrate it. I’ll sign off now, it’s time to go outside.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Signs and Wonders

If you ask me where I live, I'll tell you Houston. If you live in Houston and ask me that, I'll tell you Montrose. It's the part of Houston, the town within the city, where I've lived almost since I got here. I've gone down Montrose Blvd. by car or bike, oh, maybe a gazillion times. But only today did I notice this. Call me Mr. Magoo.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Accidental Town

It’s three weeks from today that the movers will arrive, load up the truck and lead us out of the town I’ve lived in for the past almost 17 years. It’s occurred to me these last weeks as we go through the leave taking processes, that somewhere along the way I stopped being a visitor and became a resident. I’d never meant to stay in Houston; when I arrived here I was still of the mindset that I never intended to stay anywhere. There were too many places to experience. I gave myself two years tops to absorb whatever the city might have to offer before I moved on.

Later, I couldn’t figure out if my perpetual restlessness here was the result of arriving with the notion that being here was temporary or if I just never quite clicked with the city. I resented the seeming disregard of esthetics by city planners, if there had ever been any planning, and the willful unattractiveness of so much of the place. A year after being here, I quit my job, gave up my garage apartment (dubbed “Rickety Shack”by friends), put my meager possessions in storage and decided I’d head out west and wander around until some city or town tugged on my sleeve saying, “This is where you should be.” At the last minute, my college friend Sherry, who’d become a flight attendant and had the liberty to visit often from NYC, decided she’d go with me. We ended up camping from Texas to California, with me dropping her occasionally in one city where she had to make a flight and picking her back up in the next city or state to continue our journey. When we finally U turned at the Pacific Ocean and made it to Colorado six weeks later, I realized I was headed right back to Houston. Maybe I’d had too good a time to pay attention to any particular town calling out to me. Regardless, I got back to Houston, enrolled in grad school and decided to freelance rather than take another full time graphic design position.

I kept the thought of the next place in the back of my mind. As I approached what should have been the final year of my slow trek through the MFA program at U of H, I met my husband to be. Wayne came for a visit and never left. We married eight months later and not long after that, he took over the business side of my barely profitable graphic design business and we slowly morphed into a real design firm. But he, too, suffered wanderlust and frustration with Houston’s lack of esthetics. Every time we’d leave town, we’d consider not coming back. But we always did. It’d taken us years to build our business up—many long, difficult and unappreciated days and nights. When each of our daughters was born, I was back at work within the week, Wayne within a day or two. With my first, I was talking with our print rep when my water broke; he quickly excused himself, we jumped into the car for the hospital but first stopped to drop off a job that was due and then drove to the bank to make a deposit, both of our mothers in tow.

We finally have it running on auto pilot. We no longer have to pound the concrete for business, it comes to us. In that sense, we have it made. We could cruise. But. This nagging thing.

Christmas before last, we went to Colorado. The girls saw snow. They saw mountains. We thought: yes, Colorado. We came back to house hunt two months later. There were maybes, even almosts. But it was like snow that doesn’t stick—each possibility melted for one reason or another and soon enough, again, we found ourselves living life as usual in Houston. Then Anthony and Dyan, Canadian friends of ours who shared some of our sensibilities, were transferred to Columbia, Missouri. Anthony (read Anthony’s online essay, The Thin Place) had helped initiate the writing group I’d become a part of two years earlier and I was going to miss his contribution to our close knit circle. After returning from their house hunting, Anthony described what Columbia had to offer: the cultural amenities afforded by college town living, four seasons, hills, trees, rivers, natural beauty, quality of life, good schools, clean air, etc. Enough to make us want to investigate. They graciously hosted us as we looked around the area and convinced ourselves this move was doable.

We decided if we were going to do this, we would go all the way. To find a property where we would be able to see the stars and be unable to hear the highway. We bought ten acres outside of Columbia. We’d have the city close enough when we needed it (albeit a "city" of 4 million less than the one we’d be leaving) and far enough away to experience semi rural living. Although our kids would attend Columbia schools, our address was in a town called Rocheport. It was not until we went back up for inspections a couple of weeks later that we went to visit the town we would technically be living in. We’d brought the girls with us this time, to see where they’d be living and to visit their new school. My parents also met us up there. All of us piled in the rental for a tour of Columbia. Then we decided to head 30 mins south to Jefferson City, the state capitol, and V back up to Rocheport along the Missouri River. It was February, probably as uninviting as the place will ever be, and yet we were thrilled with the landscape. Nothing dramatic like Colorado, but a quiet, lolling beauty. We followed the winding, sparsely populated road all the way up to I-70, where we crossed the interstate and went another mile into Rocheport.

We were stunned. The town of 200 sits on the Missouri River, a trailhead for the The Katy Trail. The over 200 mile long rails to trails path on which you can hike or bike, crosses the state. It links Rocheport to Columbia. The tiny town center features several bed and breakfasts, gourmet restaurants, a winery, galleries, antique shops, and even a blacksmith shop. An old pharmacy is being renovated as a coffee shop and is slated to open just as we are due to arrive, complete with internet hookup. The town was voted the favorite day trip destination for people from St. Louis to the east and Kansas City to the west. Frommers named Rocheport “one of the ten coolest towns in America” the following month. We are moving to a postcard town! Accidentally.

In the meantime, I’ve come to realize that Houston has gotten under my skin. Leaving will not be as easy as I had imagined. In spite of the man made eye sore the city must endure, the scents of jasmine and magnolia blossoms, the hot pinks to reds of the hibiscus and bouganvillea, the pastels of the crepe myrtles, break out everywhere; the Art Cars parade, the traffic bleats, the patios and plazas fill. Somewhere along the way, this place became home. A home made beautiful with family, friends and neighbors. And I now know I will always love Houston.

I’d mentioned in Tuesday’s post the myriad events and decisions that must conspire to bring about any wonderful thing in your life. This next move has been a long time coming. I think the last domino just got in line.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Joie de vivre

Last Saturday I posted on the contemplative artistic/spiritual experience I’d had at the Friends Meeting House/James Turrell installation. This morning, the artistic extravaganza I participated in originated at the extreme other end of the spectrum–it was as vibrant, loud, rollicking, celebratory and giddy as the FMH experience was profound, quiet, awe-inducing, ancient. Several hundred grade schoolers were let loose to discharge their creative impulses. This art was all about the means, the joy of making. At one point, a preview of Art Cars from Saturday’s upcoming Art Car Parade (another favorite Houston event) rolled through with horn blasts and smoke and mirrors. Wayne led Samantha’s second grade class in reproducing a rendering of a Jean-Michel Basquait while I helped Hayley’s kindergarten class draw crowned kings (I think. They might have been jokers). Free of any considerations other than what they could bring forth in color and chalk on a sidewalk, they freely inhabited the space that now, as adults, we go to all sorts of exotic lengths to recover. That time-stopped, innocent, safe, thrilling, wondrous and, dare I say, spiritual place. I couldn’t help but imagine God smiling and remembering how much fun it was to get His hands in some clay. Which must be why we get such great sunsets.

Clouds chalking the sky to kids chalking the ground. And to think, it’s all in a week’s work. Or make that 6 days.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A Leap of Love

Think of any wonderful thing that has happened to you. Then think of all the decisions that were made, by how many people, the logistics involved, the transactions that had to take place in what order, like dominoes falling in a one of those Guinness World record set ups, so to make what happened happen. Think of how if even one domino had been moved an inch it would have missed the next and everything else would have been altered and you might have taken a different path in life, might have had a different family, a different home, possibly even different health. Possibly undesirable things had to take place, too. And as the story unfolded, so did you, for better and for worse, and now here you are.

My father took a job transfer when I was ten that rescued me from the New Jersey neighborhood where I was on the fast track to juvenile delinquency. Actually, the true delinquent was my friend Lucy, two years older, who wielded an uncanny ability to manuever me to her bidding as surely as if she had a remote control hidden in her pocket. It was Lucy who taught me, her 8 year old apprentice, to cover up my cigarette breath with Cheerios, to whisk baseball cards, earrings and tubes of white lipstick into my purse without being seen in the drugstore, to set trees on fire. The week we were leaving town, she introduced me to “this stuff called hash”.

But then we arrived in a small town outside of Dallas, Texas, where we enrolled in new schools and I encountered Baptists. And more Baptists. Which may be why Texas was well behind New Jersey in delinquency. They were all waiting for the Rapture. So my life went very differently than it would have though I have no way to compare the difference, and I think about this when I consider how we are about to move our 1st and 3rd graders-to-be across the country. In the end, will it have been a good choice? And how will we know if it was for better or for worse? We won’t.

The handprints the girls made on our front path will remain here. The prints made inside them by having been in this place will go with them. And so will our hope that things will be good enough there to have us believe this must have been the better choice.

Fourth Week of Easter Benediction

You who have known the unsparing love of God
are now called to share this love
with those who do not yet know it;
to let those unable to hear His words
recognize His love in the work of your hands
in the paths of your feet
and the light that shines on you
as you go in His name,
called by His name,
in the confidence of children loved of their Father
and loved by their brothers and sisters in Christ,
as witness that the Savior
the world did not recognize,
the perfect Son of God
that the world scorned and betrayed,
still walks among us,
still works within us,
still loves through us
and continues His quest
to carry every lost child of His Father
Go in peace.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

At the Canvas of Infinity

When Wayne and I want to treat good friends or guests to a memorable night out in Houston, our venue of choice is the Live Oak Friends Meeting House Skyscape designed by James Turrell. I was adamant that this was one place that was not going to be neglected on my “one last time before we leave” list. It had been awhile since I’d last visited: the Meeting House is a house of worship, the skyscape is only made available for public viewing on Friday evenings at sunset when the weather cooperates. Last night it did.

I’d scheduled a babysitter, made dinner reservations, and to make my cup truly run over, I had invited my writing comrades, Mark Bertrand and Deeanne Gist, to come along with their spouses, Laurie and Greg. To make matters even better, it was to be their first visit. We’ve been reading, critiquing, recommending, inspiring, encouraging, linking, joking, scheming, sharing couch space and the occasional dessert at Taft for awhile now. It’s been a deep privilege to work with writers as devoted as they are to their craft and as generous with they are with their gifts. I owe them many thanks. We arranged to meet outside the space around 7:30. Sunset was scheduled for 8:03.

There is not really an accurate way to describe to someone what they’re coming to “see”. This Quaker Meeting House is a wholly unique space: to my mind, a perfectly designed convergence of art and worship, of the man made and the God made, a fully human structure as conduit for awe. We enter a square room. People are scattered among the pews, four-squared to the center, heads tilted skyward. 30 minutes before sunset, the roof retracts and exposes a perfect square cut into the center of the roof of the slightly arced ceiling. Over the course of the next hour or so, we will witness every subtle blend and nuance of color and cloud highlighted in that seamless aperature until we are mesmerized by its slightest shift. Though it’s the very same sky we just relinquished outside without a thought, it has now become a compelling canvas, never the same from visit to visit, or even from moment to moment. Small, dark birds pass overhead. A contrail chalks a tiny streak in the bottom right corner. A dog barks.

It takes awhile for the fidgeting, rustling and murmuring of the viewers to calm. We are not used to stillness, to waiting, to looking. To seeing. We’re conditioned to action, “What does it do?” When we begin watching the sky, it is brighter than the ceiling that frames it. Clouds slowly shift past, now darker,now lighter, than the sky they move in. As the sun lowers and the sky darkens, ever so gradually, the values of the ceiling come closer to those of the sky until the sky becomes darker than the ceiling. Suddenly we can’t tell if we are looking out or looking in, which plane, ceiling or sky, is nearer or further, which the chasm and which the surface. The sounds in the room have hushed. One tiny star flicks on and I feel the urge to clap. We’ve succumbed to the awe, our eyes going again and again to the edges where ceiling and sky meet in an Escher-like illusion. The blue is electric, vibrating, too vivid for our spectrum, and how had we ever not noticed? Infinite depth, infinite emptiness, the other side of the looking glass. Where does the sky end? It’s not even the whole big sky, it’s just a tiny a piece of it, but it’s bigger and deeper than any sky we’ve ever seen. Presented to us as a gift, a masterpiece— and ours all along, had we ever looked to see it.

And so it is this that I leave my good friends, knowing them enough to know that when they look up into the sky, they see, and will keep on seeing.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Ten Thousand Things

Charles Wright has a book of poetry I admire entitled, The World of The Ten Thousand Things. Currently, it feels like The Month of Ten Thousand Things and they are all staring at me from my to-do list. It seems the universe should be generous at such times: that on a Wednesday evening with less than a month left to disassemble our lives in Houston while still running our business at full capacity, teachers would lighten up on homework assignments demanding parental participation, at least the ones that require building mobiles with found metal objects, which first need to be found, violin practice would be cancelled rather than ramped up for the end of year recital, the Girl Scouts could postpone earning another patch. Instead of inventorying our goods for the movers, I find myself scanning poetry books as I prepare a presentation on poetry for my second grader’s class tomorrow morning. I’m negotiating with Samantha to substitute Edgar Allen Poe’s poem Annabel Lee for The Raven, in spite of the fact that the elementary school is named for him and their mascot is a raven. It’s all about time. The Raven way longer.

And then Hayley comes in asking me to pull her tooth. I’ve put it off the last night or two, trying to get the girls in bed on time so I can attack my mounting tasks. The tooth is hanging sideways. I relent and tell her to get a paper towel. It comes off on the first tug. We’re doing good: only a little past bedtime. I tell Hayley to wrap the tooth in a tissue and casually inquire, “So how much did the Tooth Fairy leave you last time?” She’s given up her idea of saving all her teeth for one big pay off after our neighbor suggested the tooth fairy might only pay per trip, not per tooth. I’ve almost gotten her into bed when she reminds me she has to write her questions for the Tooth Fairy. In our house, the Tooth Fairy doesn’t get off light. She must respond to a series of questions worthy of Barbara Walters: her name, how old she is, what color her dress is, how many teeth she’s collected, what she keeps them in, what her favorite color is, etc. I start bargaining on how many questions she can ask her this time. I’ll write them down. There is still so much to do. I promise to leave the notebook and a pen by her bed before I go to sleep, well before the Tooth Fairy would be showing up. Her tongue plays with the newly excavated gum. What if my tissue falls out of my pillow? Will the Tooth Fairy know where to look? She’s almost as giddy as the night before Christmas. She’s six years old and she’s lost her front tooth. One milestone in a life of finite milestones. And it eventually occurs to the too busy Tooth Fairy that there are not many things as deserving of her time and attention as this.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Sunrise is becoming a habit.

In exactly one month from today, the movers will arrive to begin packing boxes and my Houston sojourn will come to an end. Time commitments for these last days are filling quickly. Already it’s become evident that some of the things I had hoped to do before we leave will not happen: roadtrips to Marfa in West Texas (see Sean Wilsey’s Republic of Marfa in The Better of McSweeneys Vol. One) and “one last” trips to Austin, San Antonio and Galveston. So I was very happy to hit I-10 west one last time this weekend, headed west to Laity Lodge outside of Kerrville, in a part of the Texas Hill Country I’d never been to. We were joining ecclesia for a family retreat. Preplanners that we are, we left town at the hour most conducive to prompting the refrain, “Thank God we’ll never have to do this again!”—5 pm on a Friday via a major artery, a portion of which narrowed to two lanes inside the Loop due Houston’s ubiquitous road construction.

Wayne knew an opportunity when he saw one and dove in the back for a nap. When we got beyond the Houston area, which is now approximately halfway to San Antonio, the traffic thinned and I made good time to Seguin, where we exited the interstate. Once I conceded my Ipod to Hayley, her complaints of carsickness evaporated and I was left in peace with my thoughts and the sound of whirring tires. And there it was: the vast, open Texas sky. All mine.

After a quick and unremarkable dinner at the county’s Chili’s, we got back on the road with Wayne at the wheel just as the sun signed off for the evening. Realizing we’d be getting in quite late, I called the cell number of the camp contact to find out where to go on arrival so we wouldn’t have to wake anyone up. I got his mail box and had to leave a message. “OK, I’ll try again later if I don’t hear back from you.” I had neglected to turn in my camp registration forms ahead of time and therefore only knew generally where to go. We drove in the dark to Kerrville where we had been warned to fill up as gas stations, or anything else for that matter, beyond that point would be scarce. I was disappointed that our entry into this part of the Hill Country was in pitch blackness, like the episode of the old Night Gallery show in which the blind woman who bought eye transplants has her bandages removed just as the city experiences a total black out which lasts until sunrise, as do her new eyes.

At the small gas station we stopped at on the outskirts of Kerrville, Wayne overheard some storm talk. Seems that exactly between the forty mile stretch between where we were and where we were headed was a line of severe weather involving tornadoes, 70 mph winds, baseball sized hail, dangerous lightning: the works, Texas style. We stood in the store for another round of updates. Another phone call to the unanswering cell number to ask about the weather on that end. The attendant advised us, before we turned off on to 41, just a few miles ahead, to pull under an overpass and wait it out. Which, with two already freaked out kids, we did. We rode out the storm for a good hour or so, shouting back and forth with a local on the opposite lane of the underpass who had sustained hail damage a few weeks before and wasn’t up for another battering.

Then the rain, cascading down the embankment in scalloped sheets, subsided and we cautiously proceeded. Now watching out for flash flooding and the many deer crossing the road. When we got to the entrance of the ranch, we found a map with directions to our camp and continued up and down the winding, gravel roads, imagining the possible fall off from the shoulder of the road and the panoramas we were missing. Our cell phones no longer had reception. Finally, after midnight, we rolled into Singing Hills to find everything shut up and quiet. We tiptoed around the cabins but found none with our name listed. My bad. Why should we knock on the door of some peacefully slumbering family, possibly waking infants and toddlers, to inquire on our housing and thus potentially wreak havoc on the idyllic days ahead? We put the seats down in the truck, unfurled sleeping bags and waited for the next round of storms to blow over so we could open the breath fogged windows for some cool air. I slept like a princess, the one of pea fame, and woke to my second sunrise in a week. Only to find out later that day that the parking spot we’d squatted on was directly in front of the cabin we would occupy, which had stood empty and waiting for us, all night long.