Wood You Believe It?
I am completely in love with Santa Cruz –at least what I’ve seen of it. What follows is actually a brief summary of my time here. There’s too much to tell, and I’ll probably revisit it from time to time, but for now, it’ll be an incomplete account.
Winding highways and hairpin turns led us up into the mountainous forest (or maybe forested mountain?) where St. Clare’s Retreat center is nestled far away from the casual traffic of everyday life. We’re about three miles deep into the woods here, where no cell reception is able the permeate the walls of redwood trees and thick rock that surrounds us.
I was in awe from the moment I stepped out of the mini van and onto the grounds. Here the silence has a feeling that comes with it; a sense that it is not so much silence as it is stillness. Here mists float from the sky –feather light– a graceful rain. Here, it is easy to believe there’s little wrong with anything in life. You see the sublimity of nature around you, you take a solid breath of truly fresh air, and you feel completely unaffected by whatever internal baggage you brought with you. I can see why people happily flee to places such as these. I can appreciate that now.
We had the special honor this weekend of having a guest priest, Fr. Larre, joining for this retreat. Fr. is an 80something year old man of God with a heart of gold. His penchant for stories and his sense of humor are gifts to anyone in his presence, and he comes across as the old, grandfatherly type who loves to sit around and tell of all his life adventures (he’s had some wonderful adventures).
I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve grown a soft spot for Fr. Larre. He walks with crutches because he was stricken with polio as a child, and his left leg is completely defunct as a result. But he’s got a good humor about it. I appreciate the fact that he punctuates all of his conversations with expressions like “golly” and “would you believe it” and “can you imagine” and “stupid” (that one is my favorite). He’s a gem, and he’ll be with us in Canada for a stint, as well.
Over time, the rain dissipated, the thick, grey fog that adorned the hillside giving way to a transparently blue sky –not a cloud for miles– and I think I experienced the true strength of the sun for the first time in my life. The irony that I’m saying that as a born and bred Sunshine State girl does not escape me. There’s so much to see here; so much to take in. There are moments I sit here, looking and looking and looking, and I feel as if I’ll never be done looking. Not that there’s anything new to see, but that every time it’s seen, it seems new.
That’s a little bit, I figure, of how eternity will feel with the Lord: to gaze and gaze and never be done gazing, because every look will be the first time. Maybe I finally understand how it is that the heavens tell the glory of God. Being out here helped me get it.
This is all well and good. It’s always good after the fact of traveling and dealing with plane rides and terminals and luggage. It’s funny. I’m sitting outside the retreat center; it’s 3:30 in the morning, 50-someodd degrees, and we’re waiting for our ride to come get us for our unreasonably early flight. I’m thinking about the ordeal of getting here four days ago. We flew Delta instead of Southwest this time, and I wasn’t happy about it. Mostly because Delta charges exorbitant fees for checked baggage –and I travel with my 88-key, weighted keyboard.
You can imagine the look on the agent’s face when I rolled that 64 inch long, military-grade armored travel case up to the counter. She didn’t even try to hide how completely fed up she was going to be with this transaction. For the record, I was fed up with her fed up-ness.
Long story short, Delta charged me $400 to put my keyboard on the plane, making the biggest deal in the world about wondering whether it would actually fit in the cargo hold, which wasn’t at all necessary. Southwest carried the keyboard for a flat rate of $75 every time I flew, never gave me a hassle about it, AND their planes are smaller than Delta’s. I was not happy. I’m not looking forward to traveling again this morning and having to deal with the California attitude on top of everything else. Here’s to keeping my head down and trying to get through this travel day.
We’ll lose all of Monday because of the time change going east, even though our travel time will only be around 10 hours or so –what with a connecting flight that we’ll have to run through all of Hatsfield-Jackson airport to catch in The ATL. Definitely looking forward to that.
Anyways. Being up here in the mountains was an experience I’ll never forget, and I hope to be back here next year (when, I’m sure, I’ll actually pack appropriate attire –another story entirely).
Next weekend, we’ll be hailing from Vancouver, BC, which should be another adventure. We’ll be out there for almost two weeks, so we’ll definitely have more time for actual adventures.
Until then, good people.