Thursday, June 23, 2005

North Towards Home

This weekend El Jefe and I are attending his high school class reunion in Baja Oklahoma. That's the area of the Texas Panhandle north of Amarillo. It's big sky country, a part of the world described so well by Kathleen Norris in Dakota: A Spiritual Geography: " the High Plains, the beginning of the desert west, often acts as a crucible for those who inhabit them..." Although Norris' High Plains are several states north of El Jefe's, in South Dakota instead of Texas, it is the same kind of area. They say there's nothing between you and the North Pole but a barbed wire fence.

I don't attend my high school reunions. I don't even remember the last time one was held. My high school was a large suburban high school in a big city. El Jefe's high school was the only one in the town. Everyone who attended had known each other and their families from birth--they lived, played, attended school and church together all their lives. The town existed to serve an oil refinery and carbon black plant. Today it is much diminished from the days of my husband's youth. Almost none of his classmates remained in the area after graduation but moved to areas of more opportunity in Texas and Oklahoma. So for them a class reunion is more like a family reunion--a real homecoming.

The first visit I ever made to this area was to meet my prospective in-laws. I remember driving from the airport in Amarillo as my mother-in-law apologized for the flat uninteresting landscape and assured me that soon we would be seeing "pretty hills". To my surprise, her idea of pretty hills were little mounds of only a few feet in height sporadically covered with tumbleweeds and some kind of vegetation. That was a hill to someone who lived in an area so flat that the land was overwhelmed by the sky.

I'll never forget the time we first brought Portia to see her Panhandle relatives. I was about 6 months pregnant with Babs. The plane encountered one of the fierce Panhandle electrical storms and was diverted to Kansas where we circled for a while, lurching up and down in the air while my nausea rose. El Jefe was calm and Portia, only about a year old, was oblivious. When we finally landed I wanted to kiss the solid ground. However as my in-laws drove us away from the airport, the storm continued hurling big bolts of lightning on either side of our car which turned into lightning balls (yes -- great balls of fire!) that rolled across the highway and the fields like neon tumbleweeds. I have never seen anything like that before or since. On the High Plains you quickly learn to respect the power of the weather and are awed by its majesty and force.

The big sky of the Texas Panhandle simultaneously makes you feel insignificant : "what are human beings that you are mindful of them?", and full of possibilities: "for you have made them a little lower than God and ...given them dominion over the works of your hands". I'm looking forward to it: "O majestic is your name in all the earth!" (Psalm 8).

1 comment:

St. Casserole said...

You write very well. Thanks for this piece. Have a wonderful time with your sweetheart's people.