Friday, April 11, 2014

Divine Conversations

Last Sunday I found myself in Bluff bright and early. I was managing Twin Rocks Cafe, covering the shift for Steve because earlier in the week he had covered for me. On Thursday Laurie and I had made a mad dash to Provo to be there when McKale opened her mission call for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. California, Bakersfield is where our dear daughter will serve. We are both excited and frightened by the prospect of her being out of personal touch for 18 months. Steve and I have been covering manager shifts at the cafe while our new, very dedicated GM, Marc Hodge, trains more managerial support staff. Since Craig and Kathy moved on we have struggled to find people who really want to work and focus on business. As of late Steve has been burdened with the majority of the extra load, so I really wanted to make sure he had a day off. My primary goal was to steer our ship and crew along a calm and peaceful course until Marc came on board to take the helm at 3:00 p.m. I would then disembark and hustle to Monticello to share a bountiful meal with Laurie's side of the family.
Navajo Mother Earth & Father Sky Rug Set - Luana Tso (#51)

It was still early in the day, and I was standing at the front desk visiting with my young niece, Kira, who was cashiering. Just then a man walked-up and asked if I could run next door to the trading post and fetch him a jar of pinion salve. I assured him I would and headed in that direction. As I exited the glass doors of the cafe I was struck by the beauty of the day. The air was cool but not cold; golden light filtered down from the sun, which slowly tracked across our sapphire skies. The scene reminded me that the Navajo believe sunlight is the personification of drifting corn pollen, which is associated with prayer. The red rock bowl in which our businesses rests and the accompanying monolithic twin towers that rise above our unworthy heads seemed to emanate strength and power. The cottonwood trees across the road were pushing forth-green growth and there were weeds of every denomination forcing their unwanted leaves up through the sandy soil. I thought how wonderful and beautiful Bluff can be, and wondered at how accepting and hospitable Bakersfield, California might be to my precious child.

As I rounded the Sunbonnet Rock, which stands between the cafe and trading post, I came upon a slight wisp of a woman sitting on one of the stone benches smoking a cigarette. I was so caught-up in thinking of McKale and her upcoming spiritual adventure that I nearly stumbled over the waif. I came up short and apologized for my clumsy approach. She nodded as if to accept my apology and smiled with unreasonably yellowed teeth. Because she had such an unusual appearance, I caught myself staring and had to look away so I did not seem rude. She was skinny, emaciated in a way. I doubt she was more than eighty pounds. Her face was deeply tanned and mightily wrinkled, her eyes a piercing blue. She had her shoulder-length, yellow tinged salt and pepper hair pulled severely back in a tight bunch at the back of her head. The tiny Munchkin wore a plain, rumpled, dark grey t-shirt; less than clean straight legged Levi's 501 jeans; and yellow flip flops over hoary, sunburned toes with scraggly nails. I stepped back and attempted to cover my surprise at her appearance by commenting on the glorious, almost divine, nature of the day.

She thought about my comment and asked me in a matter of fact fashion, "Do you know your Bible?" I was a bit taken aback by this 70 something year old woman's directness and replied, "Barely, I guess." "Well you should", she said blowing smoke in my direction, "it is the single most important book in the world." "Without religion", she followed, "this old world would be so bleak that your heart would sink to limitless depths." I wondered to myself just how we had come to such a deep and abiding conversation in such a short period of time. The gnome looked at me closely as if anticipating a reply. "It is one of my many shortcomings," I blurted out searching for a good comeback. "It is our faults that make us most interesting", was her philosophical reply. Since I am extremely cautious with whom I speak of religion or politics, and I did not have a clue as to which group this woman belonged to, I simply smiled, as did the Cheshire Cat, and held my tongue.

The smokey woman and I smiled expectantly at each other far too long before I excused myself to continue my quest for Nellie's Everything Cream. As I walked off she left me with a softly spoken and heartfelt comment, "Spread the faith little brother." As I made my way across the porch of the trading post to the side door I thought of the wizened woman's approach to religious discourse and pondered just how McKale might discover a successful introduction and approach of her own. I entered the trading post, sought out the pinion cream and made my way back out. As I went, I decided to seek out more conversation with this quasi prophet of God. As I emerged from the store, I noticed a ratty old, chalky blue 1970 something, 4x4 Datsun truck rolling out of the parking lot with smoke pouring from the driver's side window. I had certainly missed my chance at a premier discussion regarding one of the most controversial topics on this good earth. I was feeling a bit slow on the uptake concerning the leathery priestess, but I was also certain McKale would seek me out for similar conversations in the near future.

With warm regards,
Barry and the team; Steve, Priscilla and Danny.

No comments: