For the first part of this post, click here.
Down the back roads and by-ways of Texas hill country you continue to roll. As you head slightly south, the roadside grasses shift from brown to light green, signaling a shift in terrain to match the shift in the temperature.
It is still hot.
But it is no longer beastly hot.
The directions to your next location - the last of this particular journey - are both clear and puzzling:
“Follow the interstate to Texas Highway 41.
Go 23 miles to Highway 83.
Look for the sign to ‘Foundation Camps’ on the right side at the 15- mile point.
Turn left onto a steep gravel road
and continue traveling about 1.5 miles to the river road.”
The river road - sounds innocent enough.
What you don’t yet fully realize is that the river IS the road.
Yes, you read that right.
You drive on the limestone bottom of a shallow river for about 1/3 mile and then turn sharply up to the left.
“Nowhere else but Texas,” you softly whisper.
The Laity Lodge hangs over the cliff of a small canyon carved into the rock by the Frio River.
Beautiful, clearly marked pathways, hand-laid stone walls, delicately worked wooden doors, oversized wrought iron hardware,
lovely, creaking wooden swings hanging from tree limbs all around the grounds.
You’ve come to a place where beauty and excellence are prized, celebrated, encouraged. The shade of a thousand trees, the gentle sounds of the river, the babble of excited conversations echoing in every corner - each of these does wonders for the knotted muscles along the left side of your neck and back. You can almost hear them un-kinking as you move into your room.
Your home for the next three nights is clean and welcoming, with care taken to provide comfort. You are late, but just squeak in a partial un-packing, a change of clothes and a hasty arrival at the opening reception.
And then - there they are.
All these ‘friends’ you’ve been making over the cyber waves these months. Smiling, offering hugs, making warm eye contact, seeing you, really seeing you.
A few more muscles un-kink and you begin to believe you’ve come to the right place as you move into the dining room - and find tables set with candles and real linen napkins and of course, the food!
Home-made bread, a fully loaded salad, pasta tossed with chicken and fresh veggies, the moistest chocolate bundt cake you’ve had in a long while.
The richness, warmth and attention to detail bring you to the edge of tears as you settle in for the evening session. Yet, still you wonder…why are you here?
This is a writer’s retreat - yet you don’t consider yourself much of a writer. A learner, perhaps, an admirer of the words and works of others.
So... why are you here?
It takes a while to realize it - most of the weekend, in truth. But slowly - in morning worship,
at workshops, during meals, in the art center,
on the dock,
watching the play of leaves and sky across the waters of the Frio,
walking in the early morning or late afternoon -
you begin to see that what you’re doing here...
is finding a community of kindred spirits.
People who wrestle like you do, articulate people who help you put words to some of your own struggles, your own questions, your own experience.
Because one of the things you’ve become painfully aware of during this first year of retirement is that you need this. You need it in all kinds of ways you cannot yet name. Just like the spiritual direction training you walked through in July, this is a brief taste of the heavenly table. A chance to be with fellow travelers on the way, many of whom have taken very different roads to get where you all end up. And that is a very, very good thing. A good thing, indeed.
"Many will come from east and west and from north and south and sit at table in the kingdom of God..."- from Rite 1, Holy Communion, Covenant Book of Worship, 2003.
A few snapshots of some old/new friends from this weekend away.
Sharing with Jen at "Finding Heaven" and the soli deo gloria sisterhood
and with Laura at The Wellspring and her wonderful "Playdates with God" series.