Beauty, Reality… and Beauty

I will never forget visiting this place.

On our recent vacation to the Enchanted Circle area of northern New Mexico, we revisited the amazing Rio Grande Gorge again after more than twenty years.  This area is actually a state park now, but it is still mostly just a natural scenic area, spanned by an amazing bridge.

Just prior to our visit to the Rio Grande Gorge, our first stop that Tuesday afternoon was a brief hour-long visit to Old Town in Taos, where we walked with the dogs and met so many nice people there who spoke to us and petted them.

Dogs are the perfect ice breaker when meeting new people, and even though we only went in a few stores while alternating outside with the dogs, we had a great time.  We would never have met so many nice people and chatted with them without having the dogs along, and the dogs relished every moment of the attention while getting some good exercise in this unique and historic place.  Big Red is such a people person, offering his paw to shake hands with pretty much everyone that spoke to him, and Girly Girl sat reasonably still when kids came up to pet her, wagging her long, fluffy tail as fast as she could.

Fun times, nice memories and lovely people, and I’m thinking a girls trip here sometime in the future would be so much fun!  It would be fun to spend a long weekend here sometime, for sure.

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The square in historic Old Town in Taos

 

After our quick visit to Old Town, we then headed out of town toward the Rio Grande Gorge.

In the remainder of this post, I want to share two aspects of this place that seem to stand in stark contradiction to each other.  Sometimes life sends an unexpected dose of reality my way when I least suspect it, and such was the case on the day we visited this park.

First… the beauty.

The Rio Grande Gorge is a beautiful, magnificent sight to see.  I vaguely remembered it from our quick visit many years ago, but seeing it again made me realize that it was truly more beautiful than I remembered it to be.

2016-09-06-16-13-54smfsAs we drove out from Taos to Rio Grande Gorge State Park, we would never guess such an amazing sight existed in the flat land just ten miles from town if we didn’t already know it was there.  The delightful thing about canyons is how they sneak up on you and thrust their beauty right in your face all at once, unlike mountains that you see coming at you for hours ahead of time.  We couldn’t see anything about this famous place in advance, and I happily savored the “shock” factor when I saw it.

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As you approach the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, you would never suspect such a magnificent sight existed below the bridge, but the many visitors are a quick hint to the existence of that sight.
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Rio Grande Gorge State Park
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Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

This was our first real sightseeing excursion on our trip to the Enchanted Circle area.  The lighting that afternoon was a bit challenging to capture both the canyon and the sky in a decent manner, but I’m pleased with the photos, given that no photo can actually do justice to a place like this anyway.  There is no way to capture such massive three-dimensional beauty in a small, two-dimensional photo, but I gave it my best “shot.”

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A small herd of elk was grazing near the bridge, but they never would turn around to capture a better photo.  This was the best I could do… elk behinds!

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Now… onto the reality of this place.

In my previous Wordless Wednesday post, I shared a photo that I took at a lookout spot on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.  It is a photo of a suicide crisis call unit, and these units are now pretty much everywhere on the bridge.  I certainly did not remember seeing those units on our previous visit.

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I am going to freely admit that seeing these units everywhere on the bridge really affected me deeply, and seeing them also left a huge impression on my take-away feeling from seeing this beautiful natural sight.  I initially left this area with a heavy and conflicted heart, seeing such magnificent beauty while witnessing the evidence of a hard reality of the struggles that apparently have brought far too many people here in recent years for a vastly different reason.

It is unsettling times like these that cause me to dig deeper until I find something I’m looking for.  While we were enjoying a lovely getaway in the mountains for a week of vacation together, someone else was going through their own personal hell.  I confess that I personally cannot relate to something like this, even though I have a close family member who has attempted suicide twice via drug overdose.  Thankfully, there are others that relate to these situations and are gifted to do something to make a real difference.

As I continued to ponder this dichotomy of life, a quote literally came my way in a Facebook post by a friend…

“Beauty is simply reality seen with the eyes of love.”

And it hit me like a ton of bricks… the beauty of what was happening in the placement of those call units.  The sight that initially unsettled me terribly and caused me to dig deeper for a few days, is now a thing of beauty itself.

I have a long-time friend that lives near this area, and subsequent to our visit, she told me that the units are making a difference in the lives of the courageous people that push those buttons and make those calls.  For this outcome, I find myself with such admiration and gratitude for the people that have devoted themselves and their time to try to save others and help them at the most dire time in their life.

Seeing people through the eyes of love changes everything, and those call units and the people that staff the phones 24/7 on the other end are truly beautiful… far more beautiful than even this magnificent canyon.  These people have already seen in advance the beauty of the lives of the hurting people on the other end, and they are determined to make a difference.  God bless them for their significant efforts and life-saving impact in these beautiful lives.

This is truly, truly a beautiful place.

 

A Piano in Heaven

We’ve lost a true treasure.

The water has been flowing freely in Texas over the past few days from the rain clouds, but today, the water is coming from the tears of many fellow West Texans over the loss of one of our true treasures, pianist and composer Doug Smith, who died in his sleep this week(A complete list of Doug’s albums can be found at the end of the linked article.)

My family heard Doug play in person on several occasions, usually at church, and I also heard him in concert on another occasion, too.  I’m not sure if any music has ever moved me so much as Doug’s music did over the years, and I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, especially today.

The news of his death also hit me yesterday as I remembered what a fan my mother was of Doug and his music.  I remember taking her to buy some of his CDs at a local store here a few years ago and remember how thrilled she was to have them and listened to them so often.  People young and old alike loved Doug and his music, it seems.

As an avid lover of both music and photography, I found his artistic collaboration with Texas State Photographer, Wyman Meinzer, to be a truly rare work of art that I probably won’t see again in my lifetime, and I think it will go down as one of the best representations of my West Texas home that will ever be created.  Any visitor to our area can benefit from first watching this magnificent video to try to first understand the soul of the area and its people that these two gentlemen managed to capture so beautifully.

Often, when we go camping, we listen to Doug’s music.  It is such a perfect fit when out in our beautiful Texas State Parks.  Many scenes in the “West Texas” video are from those state parks that we visit so often, too.  Today, I broke down in tears watching the video again and knowing that half of the artistic duo that created it is now gone from us.  That speaks to the impact Doug and his music had on so many of us.

Please take a few minutes today or sometime soon to watch the two videos below.  One is the video I spoke of above, the famous “West Texas” video, and the other is an eight minute documentary by Doug himself following his tragic car wreck in 2007 that paralyzed him and took away his ability to play the piano… temporarily.  It is an epic story of overcoming adversity and is one that I think you will remember going forward, too.

You will see the West Texas video in its best quality by watching it in full screen mode.

Wyman Meinzer’s West Texas from Wyman Meinzer on Vimeo.

I’m going to listen to Doug’s music this week as I go about my daily chores, and I will pray for his family and all that loved him.  They are legion, and some of us feel that we’ve lost part of ourselves in his passing.  We mourn both the man and his music today.

Today, it gives me comfort to know that the hands that Doug said he missed a few years ago are once again restored and that there is a piano in Heaven that is once again singing the tunes of the soul of West Texas at the hands of a master with a true gift from God who learned to play the piano by ear.  And for all the many, many hours of enjoyment Doug’s music has brought to me, and will continue to do in years to come, I wanted to offer my own little tribute today in gratitude.

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Reconnecting With Friends

Once again, life seems to be in just a bit of upheaval here again, but thankfully, it is nothing like we had back in the winter when my mom fell and broke her hip.  It is more a confluence of little things and slightly larger things that are taking my precious personal time that I try to guard as much as possible until circumstances demand some of it.  I am missing my quieter mornings right now, for sure, but hopefully things will return to normal soon, too.

I managed to take some time off earlier today to reconnect personally with a high school friend who is in town for a couple of weeks to see her elderly parents.  We have not seen each other in person since 1976, although we reconnected a few years ago on Facebook.  My friend and I met for a tentatively scheduled two-hour coffee visit at Starbucks, and four and a half hours later, we had to finally cut off our visit with the hope that we will be able to get together one more time before she leaves to return to North Carolina.

On my drive home, I felt especially blessed to have been able to reconnect recently with so many long-lost friends from my younger days, and I have been truly amazed at how we have all been able to pick right up where we left off.  The love and caring concern is still there in every reunion, and I realized that I have so many dear friends, even though we have been apart for decades.  I have also been amazed at how similar a path many of us have walked in our respective lives as far as life challenges, too.

Today, my friend and I discovered that we share several similar family struggles, including one that is quite unique.  This certainly helped to fuel the discussion for our extra long visit, but we also found that the friendship that we enjoyed in high school was founded on such a solid foundation that we will likely be dear friends the rest of our lives, despite the fact that we live hundreds of miles apart.

There are days that God sends such a special treat my way when I need it most, and this was one of those days, a special reunion with a dear friend that blessed me in such a wonderful way!  I am especially grateful today, and I have cried tears of joy… always a good thing.

This beautiful song has been a favorite of mine for decades, and it expresses my heart so perfectly today where my friends, both new and old, are concerned.  May it bless you richly today.

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Found

What I am sharing today is probably more for me personally than for you, dear reader. I was a part of this wonderful conference this past weekend, and I want to share it here for keeps.

We laughed together, especially about salsa.

We cried together, when many women accepted Jesus Christ.

We worshiped together, in loud and perfect harmony.

We prayed together.  I will never forget Mary’s prayer.

We hugged together. A total stranger totally blessed me.

I fell in love with Jesus all over again, and I have been powerfully reminded once again of whose I am. God works in mysterious and not-so-mysterious ways each and every day, and my cup of gratitude absolutely overflows once again today.  I can only imagine what Heaven will be like one day, after singing along with 7000 other women in unison praise this past weekend.

Our lesson for these two days was based on the first chapter of John, and it was a timely one for me.  May it never leave my mind or my heart.

“You’re all I need to feel alive.  This heart has FOUND its’ home.”
— “Found” by Travis Cottrell

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Wordless Wednesday – Summer Bible Study

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“When I am writing, I am trying to find out who I am.”

To my fellow bloggers/writers, I hope this inspires you as much as it inspired me today. RIP, Maya.

The Daily Post

Maya Angelou by Spanglej, CC BY-SA 2.0.Maya Angelou by Spanglej, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.

Find a beautiful piece of art. If you fall in love with Van Gogh or Matisse or John Oliver Killens, or if you fall love with the music of Coltrane, the music of Aretha Franklin, or the music of Chopin — find some beautiful art and admire it, and realize that it was created by human beings just like you, no more human, no less.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.

When I am writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how…

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Am I Prepared for Thanksgiving?

Before I move on with today’s topic, I wanted to express my thanks to those that are coming to my site to read my various Thanksgiving related posts.  As I looked through the search terms yesterday, there is no doubt what is on the minds of so many right now, and that is Thanksgiving food preparations.

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I hope that my ideas have been helpful to those of you that have read them.  It seems that I will be taking my own advice this year, too, as we have decided to dine at home again instead of dining out, and I’m quite happy about that, too.

I started my own food preparations yesterday and baked a big pan of cornbread for the dressing last night so that it would have time to thoroughly dry out by Thursday morning.  As it baked, I decided to quickly check my Facebook page to see how my friends were faring with their own holiday preparations.

The first post that showed up, however, was anything but fun holiday happenings.  It was an update post from a friend’s page concerning her little grandson that is extremely ill and has recently been transferred to a large hospital in another city for more specialized treatment.  I think it is safe to say that while so many of us are supporting this precious little one with our prayers, he may not make it.  We’re going to keep bombarding God with our prayers anyway.  He is in very capable medical hands now as well.

What has struck me and literally brings tears to my eyes every time I read a new update from the family is how faithful they are and how willingly they are opening up and sharing their heart with hundreds of us each day.  Thanksgiving meal preparations are not on their agenda right now, but Thanksgiving has been in their hearts every single day from the very beginning.

Let me just say that one more time… mostly for my own benefit… because it hit me like a ton of bricks last night.

Thanksgiving has been in their hearts every single day from the very beginning.

God never ceases to amaze me how he speaks at times.  My friends are already prepared for Thanksgiving.  They are living it on a daily basis in the midst of a struggle that few of us can even imagine.  I am so humbled by their faith, and now I must ask myself if I am also prepared for Thanksgiving, not only this week but every single day in the future.

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. — 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

“…give thanks *in* *all* *circumstances*…

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