I set out this morning throwing books and bags and breakfast into the cab of the truck like a Ponzi schemer the day after the cheques bounced.
I knew I needed to work today. I mean really work. The kind of work that sheeptenders are to do. Not just the public work of preaching and meddling. But the solo work. They pray, read, write, preach to themselves and pray some more. I knew I needed to get away from the crowds for a bit just like Jesus did. I needed to be free from my phone, my email and even for a few hours, my family. My wife (wise woman she is) agreed to this adventure and commissioned me with a protein smoothie and a Stanley thermos full of bulletproof coffee– two spoons of butter, one of coconut oil and a strong batch of Kicking Horse.
I knew that I wanted to work. And part of that work is writing. So I sized up the endgate of the F-350 for a desktop. Then I grabbed the faded green plastic stacking chair and tossed it in the truck bed. Instantly I had a universally mobile work station equipped with four wheel drive. Who needs ergonomics when you’ve got diesel.
I threw in my tin plate Macbook, a commentary on the book of Genesis, a gilded edge leather bible, a Walmart Moleskine knockoff and my possibles bag. I piled them all together inside an old plastic milk crate. It was faded green to match the green chair, though not by design. And sure, it wasn’t a trendy backpack, but at least it had handles.
So I kissed my wife and hugged my boys and rolled through the ranch gate headed for the hills. Johnny Cash reverberated in the cab with the diesel engine cracking and wheezing and I broke West for Longview and beyond. I stopped in at the store to buy some famous Longview beef jerky from the Korean lady but I saw no need to buy fireworks. I pedalled the Ford until it wheezed on towards the valley and past the cowboy aristocracies. The Rio Alto was there, much the same as it was in 1883 before the rails came. I kept going past other places I’d seen or known. I saw another ranch belonging to the family of a high school buddy. I had branded cattle there many moons ago. We were quick and the days were slow then. Now it’s the other way.
I drove on towards the Eden Valley Native reserve where the descendants of the first nations continue to fight the old demons while scraping a living in the new world. There must be a parable there somewhere from another Eden’s valley, ancestors and the consequence of the past. I recalled the report that the name of the Nazarene is known there, offering hope and healing from the oppression of the past, and the present. I hear more parables.
Near the reserve I pulled into an abandoned campsite on the floodplain of the Upper Highwood. I backed up to a picnic table that had been upside down in the flood a year ago. I dropped the tailgate, unpacked the milk crate and set up my field office like a colonel on campaign. With my Steve Jobs typewriter unfolded and my steel green thermos I felt like there was something of Hemingway in it, but there was nothing courageous or concise to make it so.
I found some certainties there as I settled into camp. One bit of clarity concluded is that the steady splash of the river relaxes and readies the mind in a way that no coffee shop or Feng Shui office could. The other certainty came to me as I went to work, praying and writing and praying. I was busy like the water yet alone with the disturbance of the Creator whose significance of glory gives the elasticity of peace. I was alone with God outside Eden Valley, a wonderfully and terribly impelling solitude for a non-nine-to-fiver like me.