Saturday, March 27, 2010

Liturgy of a Laity Lodge retreat [the gathering]

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.

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