Friday, July 10, 2009

Dragon's Breath

As I drive to Twin Rocks Trading Post each work day, I am forever looking forward to the view from atop White Mesa Hill. On first inspection, the land from this vantage point appears sparse and unappealing. Upon close investigation, however, there is a genuine depth of character. The vista is always magnificent and the landscape's composition varies each and every time. The diversity arises from variations in cloud patterns, angles of sunlight, precipitation, mist and any number of other contrasting natural phenomenon. The land itself never really changes, but my view of it is regularly modified.

White Mesa Sunset
White Mesa Sunset

The same is true on my drives home in the evening. I have seen the land and stark vegetation painted in dazzling coats of hoarfrost, over-laid with icy drifts of winter snow; dripping wet in a hundred shades of green with nourishing moisture; and baked to a red and gray/green dust by the summer sun. It has been my pleasure to witness magnificent thunderstorms and displays of ragged lightning that are at the same time frantically riveting and breathtakingly enchanting. There have also been the most spectacular sunsets from that unobstructed vantage point one can imagine. One such experience brought back a terribly fond memory.

Lately I have been spending a great deal of time thinking of my son Spenser, who has decided to serve a two year mission for his church. He has been assigned to the other side of the country, aka the Richmond, Virginia mission. Enduring two years without hugging and spending time with any of my three children seems a daunting challenge. Spenser, however, has decided this is his destiny so I have committed to support him.

Just before sunset on this particular evening I was driving north, en route to Blanding. I could tell the sky was edging towards the spectacular, so I paced myself to catch the view at full exposure as I crested White Mesa Hill. The fates were with me that evening, because I hit the top just as an amazing representation of refracted light painted itself across the rolling, wave-like cloud formations resting just above the western horizon. It looked as if the hand of God had struck a match and lit the furnace of life. An eruption of emotional energy and visual stimulation moved across my senses as the scene rippled along the canyon rims and mesa tops spread out before me.

I was instantaneously transported back to a time to when Spenser was a young lad of about eight years. Laurie, the kids and I were preparing to barbecue some steaks for dinner. Spens, thinking of doing a good deed, went outside and turned on the gas grill. I walked out on the back porch a few minutes later with the fresh meat on a platter and strolled up to the grill. As I reached for the knobs to turn on the propane, Spenser, who was playing nearby, said, "I just turned them on Dad." I could tell by the lack of sound that the flame was not lit, so, thinking a few seconds of extra gas would not make much of a difference, punched the ignition switch.

In a flash of light and a "whoof" of sound, the barbecue lid blew open and a rush of dragon's breath streamed forth. The eruption was over in the flash of an eye and the lid banged shut. In that instant, I lost my lashes, brows, forearm hair and the thatch above my brow. My eyes teared up in an effort to cool my scorched corneas, and I knew I would never see things quite the same. There was an instant of pure, unadulterated horror, because I believed I was a dead man, then incredible ecstasy when I realized I had survived the blast. Spenser and I must have screamed out loud, because Laurie came sprinting out the back door with McKale on her hip and Alyssa in tow.

Standing there with a giant, pronged fork in one hand and a plate of red meat in the other, I must have looked like the Devil himself. I had been scoured clean of exposed body hair, had a pink pallor due to the blast, my forelocks were smoking, my face was smudged coal-black and tears ran down my face. Spenser was jumping up and down, yelling repeatedly "Daddy blew-up!" Laurie looked my direction, did a quick mental evaluation, decided I would live and turned to comfort our son. I re-opened the lid, placed the meat on the now warm grill and went inside to wash my face. It was a Vesuvius-like experience to be sure.

Tears welled-up and I smiled to myself as I recalled that precious moment and relived the wide-ranging emotion. As I review my life's experiences, I have a tendency to see them as a scene from the crest of that mesa; at first glance, sparse and unappealing, but upon closer investigation a genuine wonder and amazement. To take the time and make the effort, to look closer, is to unveil a life blessed and made wealthy with the love and companionship of an inspiring family. To be impacted by subtle yet striking beauty and occasional moments of near tragedy is to truly live. I have been cleansed by the breath of the dragon and lived to tell the tale. Good luck son and be well!

With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

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