A woman can say more in a sigh than a man can say in a sermon. — Arnold Haultain
Many years ago when I served as the piano accompanist at a nearby church, there was a family who prepared lunch for me each Sunday. The generosity of my friends George and Sharla was apparent not only by the wonderful meal, but by the laughter and place of rest each Sunday afternoon.
When we had our very last meal together, we held hands and made a covenant that we would never lose touch. Life happened and over the last decade, we have crossed paths only once or twice in an email and once again in a phone call after a chance meeting just last year with their now grown nephew David. I smiled when I heard that they are retired and living their dream of operating a recreational campground in Branson, Missouri.
Recently, I remembered George and Sharla when I had an opportunity to take a camping trip of my own at Isle du Bois under the tutelage of my new friend Ranger Rose of Texas Outdoor Families. Why not sleep under the stars and rough it for once? Do I really need the Great Wolf Lodge to reacquaint myself with the two Rs? What’s one night without a flat iron? These are just some of the pertinent questions that flooded my brain as I stuff my backpack with everything from a first aid kit to my favorite blue hoodie.
In spite of some last minute thoughts of perhaps grabbing my passport and zipping over to, say, the Cannes Film Festival, I bypass my beaded gown for a sleeping bag and entertain visions of roasting marshmallows and singing Allison Krauss songs into the night–this, just before telling ghost stories and drifting off to sleep in a bug-free zone.
I’m so exhausted by the time my campsite is built that I gobble up a Mediterranean kabob, inhale a couple of custom-built s’mores, hit the hay, and begin to wait on the rain. With the exception of my gourmet flame-roasted concoctions, this was no Troop Beverly Hills. I left the soap at home on purpose. Word of the day: Primitive.
When I realize that dawn has averted rainfall, I imagine hearing three of the best words known to womankind since John 21 was penned: “Come have breakfast!” I snap back into reality, whip out the eggs, berries, and French-pressed coffee. I have found that life is generally pretty good as long as there’s caffeine involved. Having every intention of catching my lunch right out of Lake Ray Roberts, I rest easy knowing if my catch is meager, miracles are documented where small fish and loaves are concerned.
Making my way through the forest, I find the perfect edge of the lake to throw my first cast. When I counted something like 153 carp near the shoreline, I further understood the inception of net-fishing altogether since they weren’t very fond of the fat brown worm on my hook. In spite of my South Louisiana roots and the innate ability of my people to eat just about anything as long as it’s fried or covered in gravy that’s not white, I’m still not convinced that carp are the kind of fish I want to eat, though I am told they are the most popular fish in Lake Galilee so I figured if Jesus ate them they are good enough for me. I wondered if I caught one of them might there be a large wad of cash in its mouth. My vision began to blur and I couldn’t stop thinking, “Fish, fish everywhere and not a carp for me.”
My trusty water shoes give me the confidence to wade over the carp while continuing to fish for just one ichthus that actually likes the taste of worms, hopes held high that lunch is on the way. Once my shoulders have browned under the overcast sky and my hair has curled up to the Heavens, I realize I’VE HAD IT with the fish-snobbery. There’s only one plausible option unless I hear a lone audible voice calling out within the next three seconds telling me EXACTLY where to toss my “net”.
Rather than pitching my line in the usual direction, I cast the entire rod back to the bank and shed every possible garment within decency, taking one giant frog leap through the air into the glassy depths. When my head pops up and I begin to belly-laugh in the icy cold waters, my son makes the same decision as his Mama without even asking, “Mother, may I?” What a testament to human nature when the aftershock of the cold water was not enough to overcome the thrill of jumping in!
Somewhat blinded by the glare, I was able to see a figure that in my current hypoglycemic state was easily mistaken for Michael Douglas, beachside, along the French Riviera calling out, “Greed is good”, but it was only my husband saying, “I brought you some food!”
Having spent some time nestled in the heart of the woodlands, not only did I wonder if Robin Hood really existed, but I headed toward home fishless yet peaceful within my own heart, knowing that I do not hold the master plan for my life any more than that black bird singing in the dead of night. Why labor or spin over the details of life especially on a day like today?
With a long yawn and subsequent sigh, I knew that Cannes was not the place for me that weekend. It was not meant to be. I turned up the music and begin to sing the words to an age old hymn. Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love. Take my heart, it is Thine own. It shall be Thy royal throne. Take myself and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.
Remembering George and Sharla again, I felt a heart of love and gratitude for all of the blessings of my life and the people God has put in my pathway…..and I didn’t need to go all the way to the Mediterranean to find it…I didn’t need to go very far at all. When I pulled into my driveway I might as well have been to Cannes and back, refreshed by my Isle du Bois weekend getaway. I heated up the leftover kabobs, took a shower, and fell into my own bed with a head full of wet curls. Nighty nite black bird. I’m finally home.
Originally published in the June 2010 edition of The Cross Timbers Gazette.