In the Rockies

In the Rockies
Butler Gulch

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Blessings -- Thanksgiving


                                    Ducks on a Boulder Reservoir Inlet taken a couple of days ago.

t is a bright sunny morning here in Colorado.  Our intense cold and snow has moved on to the part of the country where some of you reading this live, and I'm hopeful that my son and his family have a safe drive from Nashville to Asheville, NC, where they will be spending Thanksgiving with his Dad's extended family. Grandson Sam (flying with his Mom and Dad from Colorado) told me Monday that he was excited about going to a state he hadn't visited and seeing all the people.  He hasn't gone with his Mother to Nashville for some time and doesn't remember all of those he will see in Asheville.  It will be odd in some ways not to be there and normal in others as Thanksgiving has been a hit and miss holiday with family for me for years.

I find much for which to be thankful as always, but want to focus on my recent visit to St. Benedict's Monastery in Old Snowmass (near Aspen) for a silent retreat.  It wasn't long planned nor was it a retreat that I knew that I needed until after the scholarships fell into place so I could go.  We were fortunate to arrive at the Monastery on Monday, November 4th before snow began to fall in the valley.  The next morning we awoke to softly falling snow covering the ground and accenting the quiet.

                                        An earlier photo of the Retreat House where we stayed.

Shortly after we arrived the first blessing of my retreat appeared when a young woman got up and walked toward me saying she believed we were acquainted and she was Sarah.  Sarah had been one of the bright spots in my early days in Boulder and at St. John's, but we had lost touch several years ago.  She now lives above Lyons and is a free-lance editor, with lots of professional editing experience behind her.  We were both delighted to connect and met last Thursday to catch up and talk about working together on my memoir manuscript which I had already planned to work on again.  Sarah said she hoped to accompany and support me as I work to hone the manuscript once again.  I'm hopeful that the material that I gave her won't be too difficult for her.

My roommate Mary Ann was making a diet test during our time there so she prepared and ate her meals in our room--an unusual way of retreat participation and a big unsettling for room silence at times.  She is, however, an excellent roommate as far as not talking goes and very considerate in so many ways.  I do, however, go as a support for her--driving (her Subaru) and providing a hiking/walking companion.

Silence at these retreats includes no eye contact, which is hard at meals and not always possible with a roommate.  The Benedictine monks are gracious (quietly) about those of us of other faiths participating in their communion services, but I choose to attend the first morning, the Thursday evening, and the Sunday services while Mary Ann goes most mornings.  I especially enjoy the evening Vespers which I attended regularly.  The monks' chants, the silence and the candlelight with the lighted stained glass window of Mary holding the babe lighted make for a lovely way to end the day.

Walks and talks with the three people who staff the retreat are offered each afternoon.  All the times with Mary Ann from New Mexico, who has staffed these retreats for years, were quickly filled with me in one of her slots.  When talking with her for my 30-minute allotment, I said that I felt drawn to the young monk who was one of the three staff members, but didn't know what we would talk about or why I felt that way.  She suggested that I sign up and tell him that I didn't know why.

As he and I walked down the road on a pleasant afternoon, it became apparent that we were destined to meet.  He had walked, talked and held a friend during the trying months when she had remembered the terror of childhood experiences similar to mine--a much younger woman living in affluence in a northeastern city--parents with a second home in a much-desired resort community.  Her group too was multi-generational.  Sharing experiences was healing and inspiring for both of us, and he is willing to read the manuscript in the near future.  (I started to post a photo of him, but then realized that it might violate his privacy and as well as using his name would.)

There are others too whose presence, sharing at the ending circle and brief visits during the last dinner and breakfast, made a difference.  I think of the Monks and their daily lives of work and prayer with Thanksgiving, especially for my young monk friend and his faith.

Blessings, peace and love from my home to yours.

PS:  Son Mike just phoned from the side of the Interstate in Nashville, waiting for a tow truck as his tuned-up ready-to-go car had slipped a belt.  He said it would only delay them for a couple of hours as they could drive another vehicle and glad to have the break-down occur locally rather than on the Interstate between cities.  


Plans -- and Mesa Verde National Park

                                       Cliff Palace -- the largest dwelling ruins in Mesa Verde

This morning I was reminded of all the planning that went on for our trip to Mesa Verde National Park in mid-September and the plans for events to take place after we returned.  I had saved today as a writing day, intending to write this blog early this morning.

When I awakened, it was dark and cold in my little place.  The electricity was off and the heating, though gas, doesn't work in a useful way without the electric blowers.  It was 60 degrees and dark.  After checking to be sure that Xcel, the power company, knew about the outage, I snuggled under my comforter and went back to sleep.  It was light outside when I woke up--a beautiful chilly bright day.  Whatever could have caused a power outage on such a day?  The original estimated time for the power to return had been 9:15 am--not bad.  However, the phone calls kept coming, and the delays mounting.  When the Xcel trucks appeared in the parking lot, I went out to see what was happening.  A station wagon was parked right over the spot where the underground break was, and the owner was unavailable.  One of the Xcel men helped me open my garage, and when I left at 11:30, they still hadn't towed the vehicle and begun the work.

Now, I'm at a coffee shop with lots of others, drinking coffee, using the computer and charging my phone (and getting warm).  I am more aware of the effects of the flood on those who were without power for days and I had water and no flooding in my home so only had a small taste of their difficulties.  We take so much comfort for granted!

Mesa Verde -- an amazing place.  It looks so barren and yet people farmed those ridges above their homes carved into the canyons.

Much later--I was called out of the coffee shop to assist with some work at church so didn't get his finished. Now, re-reading it, I think of how the people who lived in these cliff dwellings must have kept warm in the winter.  Right now there is at least a couple of feet of snow in the Mesa Verde area.  I forgot when we were there that the Sangre de Cristo mountain area is that which usually has the most snow of any part of Colorado, and it's on the edge of that mountain range where Mesa Verde is located.

We were amazed as the rangers who led hikes into two of the ruins and the one who led the hike we took shared their thoughts about how these dwellers lived--different theories about how they arrived and when they left.  All agreed that it was a hard life.

This ladder at Balcony House (36 ft. I believe) wasn't there for the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived in these cliff dwellings.  We all marveled at how they must have climbed the rock faces of the canyons to reach the mesas where they grew corn, grain and squash--and from looking at those "fields" now, we wondered how they grew anything edible.  (The ladder is secure though I was slow climbing to the top. It's done two at a time with a little space between the pairs.  My friend moved quickly up the ladder so I climbed alone with those behind me wondering if I was okay.)

It seems long ago--that trip in mid-September, but the evidence of the Boulder and Front Range floods are still with us.  The last of the highways up the various canyons opened yesterday morning--temporary but adequate until next spring when permanent rebuilding will begin.  The county roads that are passable are dirt and won't make for good winter driving.  My friend who had been evacuated twice by fires and again with the flooding and with dirt to drive on through the winter showed off her new Subaru 4-wheel drive vehicle yesterday.

I'll sign off of this mixed post and write one for Thanksgiving now.