End of June 2017: I knew it was going to be a fantastic three-week road trip/retreat/vacay when the Literary Gods blessed me with Sherman Alexi’s new tell-all memoir. A poverty infused Mommie Dearest tome with heartbreaking poetry and just enough comedic relief. For us Indians (my humble opinion) when Mr. Alexi publishes a book it’s like having a birthday, Christmas morning and a magical pow wow all rolled into one mind-bending experience.
For our impending departure, my husband Chris prepared Jewel our silver, 2008 Subaru Legacy with an oil and lube job. We’d be amazed at the gas mileage and resiliency in 110-degree weather during the Mojave Desert drive on the way home. I’m a scaredy-cat front-seat rider pumping my imaginary brake and jumpy at sudden movements. So, I made a cozy bed in the spacious backseat with Diet Coke, I-Pad, notebook and Sherman Alexi’s book.
In March I learned that mystic Franciscan priest Richard Rohr O.F.M. founder of The Center for Action and Contemplation was hosting the fifth Conspire Conference in Old Town Albuquerque, New Mexico after the Fourth of July holiday.
The master plan was to stop in Grand Junction, Colorado to visit a high school girlfriend – Eve Balerio and husband, Don. Next stop, a visit with our friends Danny and Sandy Veatch at their lovely cabin at Blue Mesa Reservoir near Gunnison, Colorado. Then, the pièce de résistance a birthday bash on the Fourth of July for my sister Barbie in Cañon City, Colorado held at my heart sis/cousin Juli’s house. Then on to Sante Fe, New Mexico, can’t miss The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and The Plaza. Our final destination: Albuquerque for the July 8-10 Conspire Conference.
Itinerary finalized, we set off with a cooler full of Monster Energy drink, sandwiches and my infamous homemade oatmeal chocolate chip, walnut, and boysenberry cookies. And a case of California wine… Oh yeah!
Awww… Grand Junction was mesmerizing. Eve and Don Balerio’s grand adobe house is set back from the road; our hosts welcomed us warmly. We climbed up to the roof to see the breathtaking view of the huge flat-topped mountain called Grand Mesa. It’s part of the majestic Colorado National Monument which is minutes from their house. We drove up Rim Rock Drive taking in the holy presence of the beautiful high desert vistas and plateaus, sheer-walled red canyons and rock sculptures. We dined on delicious pasta con queso paired with Zinfandel from my neighbor’s winery. Both Eve and Don are artists, so the house is decorated with colorful artwork.
Next morning we’re off to Blue Mesa Reservoir about a two-hour drive. During our stay, my husband Chris and our capable hosts Danny & Sandy Veatch would catch 16 silvery Kokanee Salmon. We took a day trip and journeyed over Silver Jack Reservoir pass to Telluride. An eagle elegantly soared above us. We ate lunch in the quaint town of Ridgway where the film “True Grit” was shot. In Telluride, we drove by a large group of elk laying in a meadow.
Blue Mesa is synonymous with The Good – the True and the Beautiful. Our friends are blessed and generous with their cabin and the resources they extend to family and friends. I felt a prickle of excitement watching the sunrise over the large body of water. I sat on the large deck serenely sipped my tea and listened to the birdsongs. In less than an hour, we skimmed across the water of glass aware the Kokanee frolicked below us. When the wind kicked up around 11 a.m., we raced over the whitecaps and returned to the marina. A couple of days later while driving away from Blue Mesa Reservoir, we saw eating on the side of the highway a mama and two baby bighorn sheep.
We arrived road weary in my hometown of Cañon City, Colorado. We stayed at my deceased Mother’s home. I relaxed on a walk along the Arkansas River that initially inspired the idea that led to writing my book, River of Love. During my stroll, I even saw a Great Blue Heron. Hmmm… A doe and her two fawns have the run of my mother’s park-like double lot yard. They eat the apricots and crab apples dripping from the trees. I think they intuitively know it’s safe at Emma’s casa.
I promised my sister to participate in Florence Colorado’s Fourth of July Wet Parade. It consisted of a free-for-all water fight complete with getting hosed down by the local fire department. I got armed with a super-soaker water gun. It felt refreshing in the almost 100-degree weather. We were crazed and blasted everything in sight. She said it was the best birthday ever…
At the Fourth of July Birthday Bash, Juli’s husband Vinny barbecued thick, juicy elk burgers. Other’s brought salads, guacamole and the hit of the evening: smoked Kokanee Salmon with crackers. The festivities were topped off with ice-cream cake and fireworks launched from an empty field. Friend’s from high school, and Juli’s gal pals and families came and celebrated under the stars. The soundtrack for the evening was a CD of my son Chris’s reggae band Ancestree. Everyone received a copy. The best of memories happened. Good times that are True and Beautiful.
Onward to Santa Fe to visit New Mexico’s Patron Saint of Art – Georgia O’Keeffe. The museum is a must. We breezed through and took tons of pictures and ended up in a coffee shop next door. The Plaza area is another favorite destination.
Old Town Albuquerque with its colorful red adobe buildings, a beautiful Catholic church, park with picturesque gazebo and the friendliest people. We enjoyed Mexican cuisine that is so authentic it feels like being in old Méjico.
Conspire: to act in harmony toward a common end. Franciscan priest Fr. Richard Rohr O.F.M. and the Center for Action and Contemplation based in Albuquerque put on a conference for 1000 people that came from all corners of the earth. The three-day conference ended, but then we kicked it up a notch with a visit by the effervescent jazz singer Patty Stephens. Yes, we must toast with a bottle of Cali Chardonnay to River of Love and our forty plus years friendship. I’m grateful and awed by her support, Love, and friendship.
Fr. Richard is Good and True and Beautiful – these are his actual words. We’ve followed him and his teachings since the mid-nineties. It’s taken years to rewire brain hardware but if you listen, read, and are present eventually osmosis happens. I’m still not there.
It’s difficult to capsulize a three-day contemplation conference but here are a few highlights. Other participants were Ken Wilber, (taped) Maribai Starr, and Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams.
The conference was the quintessential experience to have after writing my book. It was a dark night of the soul kind experience, but I made it through to the other side. Richard tells via Ken Wilber – to look past illusions and to Cleanup, Grow up and Wake up! Learn and trust your experience, more so from the bad ones than from the good. Wounds and failures teach us to let go. God, Holy Mystery or whatever you want to call the Sacred is more a verb than a noun.
The sin of certitude. We don’t like to live with ambiguity and paradox, but we must learn to live with our shadow. The unconscious and shadow are the same things. We ignore and have the inability to see certain things. Infinite darkness fused with light.
Love is an endless sea, let go and get out of the way. Let go of preferences and needs. Flow into the deeper stream, not steering the ship. Enter the Love force field of the Holy Spirit. Grace itself expands and opens the heart.
God comes to us as our life. Not my will but his. Contemplation practice opens us up to change. Don’t view interruptions as impediments. Collective consciousness (Carl Jung!) we are all related and connected. Don’t look up or down. Look across horizontally at the world.
Slow down… be less critical, judgemental, be aware – sit in the mystery of it all. Know that you are Loved even when you fail. Do you want to live in abundance and infinity, or in a world of not enoughness? Move out of the tribal and into the mystical.
Update on my book River of Love. Before leaving on vacation, I sent out numerous queries to publishers and had received several positive responses. Stay tuned… A very special thanks to Iver Arnegard of Hope Action.org Journal for publishing a chapter from my book. Please check it out and support a good cause. http://www.hopeaction.org/
Infinite Love eternally shapes our lives. Love is what we’re made for, and Love is who we are.
We’re only as great as the double doors we blast open.
The Story is the Glory