The First Fire

It was a full moon night when the whole Gator family walked to the new prayer cabin on the west end of their property. A bit over 1/8th of a mile uphill and then a steep drop down. The cabin was cold. The old wood stove, looking a lot like the Arc of the Covenant in shape and ornate scenes. The final pipes and thimble (look it up, we had to) and Mrs. Gator lit the paper under the kindling. After communion with bread and wine, it began to heat up a bit and Gator could barely see his breath now.

It is a real beauty of a cabin and the view resembles the boundary waters. A small lake in front, rolling hills on the other side with hardwoods and nothing else in sight. A dream of a retreat and now, we were taking off our jackets and hats and the family dog finally settled down and snuggled Greta on the small love seat with Jack on it too. The boys reminisced about the building of it and everyone was checking the heat from the wood stove. Drowsy now with the warmth and realizing it was late, Jack and the boys walked back to the ranch house. Jack turned for a glimpse and knew immediately his mind would be the camera he needed. The soft white wood smoke floated in the moonlight through the branches of a nearby white pine and it was suddenly hard to leave. A full moon and upon turning around to go back, Jack saw the hoarfrost of sparkling jewels, tens of thousands of them spread before on his path. Jack knew now the blessing of revealed beauty once again had begun to overwhelm him. He knew Greta would see it too and that the boys who left earlier had seen these things as well.

The house drew him down the hill, stumbling a bit on gopher mounds. Electric candles in all the windows pulled him in and there was nothing more to do except write before his wandering mind would tone it down to a ‘nice time’ It was the stars song and the galaxy swirling to the beat of those stars. Just for Jack, just for all that bother to look. Once in a while Jack will experience timelessness and beauty unbound. It was one of those time markers that are planted firmly in our minds. The dream that you never forget and you try to remember that beauty you saw. The beauty of events and visions.

Jack and the Gators were all together in that little cabin. The first time at night. The last day of a year of incredible challenges. We all have had them strongly, especially this year. Deaths and arrangements for both sides of Greta’s parents. Father-in-law and beloved Grandma. The liquidation of two estates, far away and with eager relatives claiming certain ‘items’ before the auctions. Gator’s family got a few precious things as well. Memories and markers. Watching precious Grandma die hundreds of miles away on Christmas day.

Moving Grandpa into a home so he would be cared for with his dementia. The veritable boatload of projects at the ranch. A big new building with a wood-shop and storage, a sidewalk dreamed of for decades, and topped off with the world-wide plague that the Gators dealt with when they fell ill. Most of the rest was the usual: Garden and canning, property maintenance and firewood. On premises business’ new equipment and expenses. More room with the old wood-shop moved out to the new building. Cleaning and painting and siding for the main house. A few more things that got done into one years time. There was emotional growth through it all. Gator himself maturing along with the rest of the Gator family. Closer knit than ever. Actually, perhaps a world-wide growth because of isolation. All in one year. Casting off and loss combined. Fulfilling an ache for reasons and finding Jesus with us, all of us. He is Strong in the midst of the masks and isolation. Indeed, ‘the times they are a changin’.1 It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

1. Bob Dylan

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