God knew each of us needs just the right balance of the seasons, to experience this life cycle as a lesson, to keep us centered in His Will and Purpose, or we would get full of ourselves and become selfish, worthless, thankless whelps.
He knew we need down time, a season of reflection. A time for the planet to rest. Of course, while half the planet sleeps, the other rages. When autumn throws her pall over Texas, spring explodes in New Zealand. Only in Heaven and California do people enjoy perfect weather and constant sunshine, but the rest of us are blessed to see the mystery of this planet unfold every day. And even when it is gray and depressing, we know, the sun still shines above the clouds, and God is in His Heaven, and somewhere there is spring...
Friday, winter blew in with tiny, swirly snowballs and the atmosphere was like one of those plastic domed snow villages that you tip and everything goes crazy. Geese from thousands of feet above the mist honked a Canadian hello ( “Eh Eh, Eh Eh!”) on their way to the rice fields, and everyone wished the snow would stick… of course it was not cold enough… yet. By the next morning we watched as the trees literally sloughed off their leaves, still green, and in minutes they were all on the ground. It was paranormal as the trees simultaneously just gave up the ghost. The town had obligingly defoliated as if it was quickly putting on its winter face for the day’s Christmas activities.
But it was this scene above, I had photographed just a few days before which really spoke to me. Right across from Cow Talk, The deep steel blue clouds seemed to want to obliterate the salmon sunrise burning underneath, as if to say, “you’re outa here.” Two forces of nature battled for the plain below. It was as if God put his hands over the landscape, determined that we feel the cold, which is merely the absence of warmth, so that we might sense the very pulse of the earth. All this, right here at the old Camp Inn ruins.
The old Camp Inn site east of town has always been a source of mystery and confusion. Now just a sandstone ruins, I’m told the part we see today is what is left of the Camp family cemetery mausoleum. Today cows wander the grounds and graze on grass fed by the bones of these pioneer innkeepers.
Some might want to restore it, others doze it down. I like it just like it is… an old deteriorating landmark, one of the last we have, speaking of those who have gone before… for one hundred and fifty years.
The mammoth cactus near the fence line caught my eye, sporting those chubby purple tunas that fed the Indians and made dye for their artisans. For perhaps ten thousand years they might have come to this area from the east and the south to gather the tunas as an annual pilgrimage. (If you have read my exhausting essay about the name Navasota, you already know that the Yoeme words Nava-Sote mean prickly pears & pottery, two natural resources available here). Long gone, the only evidence of them after so many eons are a few chert arrowheads laying around. If you look all your life, you might find a few. Neither they nor the Camps left very lasting impressions. The stark scene looked a little like old Mexico to me… And then I remembered this WAS once old Mexico. It could be the Hill Country… or parts of New Mexico for that matter.
This hill, and its solemn appearance, seemed almost universal in its message. For a moment it became the hallowed burial ground of summer, and men and all living things. A place to remind us of death; the downside of the cycle of life… Beautiful and essential, reminding us that prosperity and fruit are seasonal, and our own lives are short.
It was a dark moment on that hill, across from my breakfast hangout, where the sunrise turned and ran. And the cactus offered me a taste of crimson a la micro needles. And the cows turned and sauntered away, to leave me with the spirits of my own kind. And in an instant, a wide open dream, I saw all that I ever did, end up like a gray abandoned ruins, standing silently, invisibly by the highway, slowly melting into the ground… ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
But as winter chases the lifeblood out of the native flora, little green rosettes are forming underneath the dying ground-cover that will blossom into next spring’s bluebonnets. They are full of the life force. They will endure the winter. They will be there to celebrate the renewal in the spring.
And without these gray hill moments, we would never appreciate the wonder of their survival and glory.