Teri Orr: Red rock religion (part two)
I only had one full day in Moab last week to catch up with dear friends who haven’t all been together (other than cyber space) in 25 years. So when I woke up inside a rock house with red rock formations patiently waiting for exploration outside my window, I sat up with a joyful heart.
There was snow last week on the La Sal mountains even though the cottonwoods were slow to change along the Colorado River. The sky was a bright, heart-stopping blue, that comes on rare days in Southern Utah. My friends who live outside Boulder, Colorado had spent the night in Grand Junction and now were headed to a spot called Big Bend, down river from the guest house I was staying in. So I drove to meet them as they settled into their campground with dogs and a truck and a trailer.
Their spot was right on the river bank and they were already settled in camp chairs when I arrived. And except for a few physical changes, we turned out to be the same People curious, involved, readers, thinkers, and ready to talk about the state of the planet (and our place on it). Over lunch we caught up on our children and their trajectories. We shared some plans and dreams for next steps when working fulltime would be of choice, not necessity, in fields we had dreamed about. The minister has been a mandolin player and in these past few years had become a mandolin maker, crafting beautiful instruments out of polished woods. I encouraged him to bring his mandolin to dinner that night at the ranch house.
The three women from three different states, all therapists, staying up river from our friend, would be joining us for dinner again, along with the new ranch hand /grandson, 22, from South Dakota and our hosts, who own a trail riding business and would be working until suppertime. Collectively, we decided after only minor discussion, a frozen lasagna and leftovers from the other ranch would be fine for dinner. We had wine, whiskey and a dining room table we could all fit around.
And it turns out we had a gift of an evening. A full moon that kept popping up over different red cliff horizons depending upon your vantage point. Set against an indigo sky with twinkling stars (and maybe satellites). Warm enough to be outdoors for a spell with a light jacket. I grabbed a flashlight, walked up to the Big House , maybe half a mile from my guest house. The night was still. And quiet down by the river. And I remember thinking how grateful I was to live long enough to appreciate the moment with old friends and good health.
Up at the ranch house we all seemed to arrive at once and make introductions and head out on the back porch where a little fire of juniper branches burned in a free standing tiny round Indian-style chimney. The cedar tree held birdfeeders and the open land led to rock formations starting to look like hoodoo characters against the night sky. The only noise was our own. When we finally sat down to dinner there were stories all around. With a touch of encouragement, the minister told a racy joke which had us all in stitches. Which was followed by some cowboy humor by the host it was loud and comfortable and our friend, the hostess, looked at the minister and asked if he would perform a blessing on her marriage. None of us had been at their wedding years ago, which had been held out of state. It was a joyful, playful mood and it seemed just right.
So the minister grabbed his mandolin and we proceeded out to the porch with the fire. First, he played a bluegrass-y version of "Here Comes the Bride" and all our giggles subsided. Because our friend is named SenaJane he proceeded with a stylized version of Liza Jane. Then, in the glow of the fire, under the star-filled giant sky, he had them repeat vows he/we knew by heart. They held hands and looked into each other’s eyes with such love, and a kind of wild-west devotion, you couldn’t help but sigh in that deep way of understanding and a tinge of envy. Then the minister issued The Blessing which, he said, came from the God above us, the God around us and the God within us. And like the stars on the cloudless night, that God seemed within reach in the moment.
There were gentle tears and full-breasted hugs and we knew the tender moment was the most magical ending to the perfect reunion.
Because the hour was late, the host suggested he drive me back to my guest house but I insisted on walking. I needed to stay in the night, outdoors, for as long as I could. I had my flashlight and headed down the hill. Something rustled in the bushes and then the coyotes started singing down by the river. I turned off my light and the moon lit the way and I tried hard to just be part of the night scape.
Feeling love, seeing love, being part of a group sharing love, is something timeless. And sacred. And precious to hold close any day, any place, any Sunday in (or out of) the Park
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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