Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Sabbatical Journal - Cody, Wyoming - Wednesday, September 8

Susan and I arrived safely at the Thomas the Apostle Retreat Center in Cody, Wyoming on Labor Day, Monday, September 6 after a long, but uneventful travel day. During our travel we spoke several times of what a wonderful Kick-off/Send-off Sunday it had been at St. Paul's. A huge thank you to all who volunteered and made it a great day!

We flew from West Palm Beach to Dallas, from Dallas to Denver and from Denver to Cody. The Cody airport is the smallest airport we have ever arrived in and we have arrived in some pretty small one's before! The airport is only 3 miles from the Thomas the Apostle Retreat Center. We got here at about 5 PM Cody time (Mountain Time) and were cordially welcomed by Jay and Connie Moody who are the Directors. We are staying in the West House which has 6 bedrooms; a comfortable living room; full kitchen and an especially beautiful back porch and garden area that is peaceful and overlooks the surrounding hills and mountains. No one else is here and we have it all to ourselves which is an unanticipated blessing, giving us real space and quiet time. Jay was especially helpful in letting us know where to eat and shop.

After dumping our bags we went to downtown Cody to go to the Rib and Chop Restaurant. There was quite a crowd, the last fling of the summer we guess, and we had to wait about 45 minutes for a table, so we walked around for a awhile, exhausting the downtown in that time (the population of Cody, is about 8,600 people!) After dinner, we shopped at the local Albertsons (they did not close their stores here) and bought coffee, tea and breakfast items. By the time we got back to the center, we were pretty tired and went to bed, but not before taking notice of the star-filled sky; something we don't really get to see in our part of Florida.

We woke up early on Tuesday, about 6 AM (8 AM Florida time) and had a very leisurely morning. We have decided to read Morning Prayer together each morning and did so outside where it was sunny and cool. There is a bubbling fountain and some beautiful flora, fauna, and sage brush in that outside area and it has the feel of a Japanese garden (see picture). Wyoming combines the wilderness of the desert with evergreens and sage. It is quite striking. We also began reading Thomas Keating's Open Heart, Open Mind out-loud. One of our goals in this sabbatical time is to work on being more open to the contemplative side of prayer and life and in this phase of our sabbatical journey I thought Keating would be a great place to get us started.

About 10 AM we headed out and following a quick stop at the local Walmart for a couple of things, we headed for Yellowstone National Park, the East entrance of which is 49 miles from the retreat center. The drive was spectacular! Much of the drive was through the Soshone National Forest. The vistas were incredible and each time we came around a bend, there was a view fit for a postcard or painting.

When we got to the gate of Yellowstone, I was surprised to discover how emotionally overwhelming it was to be there and to realize how blessed we were to have this opportunity. Yellowstone is such a core part of our American identity and I had heard about it all my life. To be there was extraordinarily special and I found myself speechless and just let Susan drive us in as I looked and took it all in. It is holy ground and a place where the veil between heaven and earth is very thin indeed. It was a stunningly beautiful day, and it was not especially crowded.

The highlight of the day was visiting Old Faithful and walking around the other geysers nearby. Seeing them, and realizing how thin the earth's crust is in this place is both an awesome and humbling thing.

We saw herds of bison and even got stopped in traffic so that bison could cross the road. The bison was bigger than our rental car. We stopped and said Evening Prayer by Yellowstone Lake. As a part of this, I decided to read the Creation story from Genesis. At the mention of God creating every "swarming thing" a swarm of mosquitoes began to harass Susan -- God's sense of humor she decided, and so we retreated to car and finished Evening Prayer there. The drive back to Cody was exceedingly beautiful as the "evening shadows lengthened and the day was hushed" and we were both most grateful for the gift of this incredible opportunity. We returned to Cody, ate at a local Italian restaurant Jay had told us about, went back to our quarters and said Compline. Before we went to bed, we stood outside in the garden and looked up at the night sky filled with stars. As God said, "It is good!" It is very good.