On March 4, I flew out of Binghamton in the dark, paused in Detroit, spent three hours making a new friend in Row 11, seat B from Detroit to San Antonio, forgot to be tough with a stranger on his way to a big-game hunting expedition and who took advantage of my gullibility in the San Antonio baggage claim, stood in line for at least a half an hour at the Enterprise counter and, blinking like a mole walking into daylight, rolled my bags into the Texas spring. Thankfully the kind shuttle bus driver helped me lift my suitcase; I had worried more about that one task with my still-healing surgery incisions than any other part of this trip. (Well, that and missing my sweet family.)
With that part of the trip over, I began to realize the full delight of my circumstances: I was alone with the Texas sky, a brand-spankin'-new Hyundai Santa Fe and a two-hour drive to Laity Lodge. Did I mention that the sun was shining? And it was seventy-five degrees? First things first before studying a map: digging through my luggage for the pair of flip-flops I'd thrown into the suitcase with great hope and faith before leaving home.
There is no question: I am wired for road trips. Part of me gets all dingy and shriveled up when I go too long without one. Same thing happens when I don't get some quality time to myself. Plus when I don't see or feel the sunshine for too long. I used to be a sales trainer and traveled all over nine Northeastern states for about half the days of every month. That was a bit much, but every Spring I got to travel somewhere balmy. That never got old.
I honestly didn't have much desire to explore Texas. I guess I've bought into a whole bunch of big-haired, gun-in-the-back-window-of-the-pickup caricatures. I saw a few of both, but what caught me by surprise was the beauty of the place. Well, once I got out of the strip-mall, big-box-store sections and hit Highway 10 into the hill country. I'm not sure what it would have looked like in the autumn or summer, but in the scraggly branch Springtime, I was captivated. And maybe it's because the Readers Guild is reading The Violent Bear It Away this month, but I found myself thinking as I drove through the jagged-edged allure: If Flannery O'Connor was a place, she would be Texas' hill country.
Well, I went between thinking that thought and also wanting to burst out singing Desperado.
I've learned something about myself in my reaction to various contexts: I'm less turned off by different styles and more turned off by falsities. In that light, if I'd switched on the radio and heard Lady Gaga, I might have turned around and gone home.
I love places that know themselves well. That's the vibe I got driving up Highway 10. The hill country is comfortable in its own skin. In hindsight, this couldn't have been a more appropriate call to worship for the retreat.