There were rumors of a religious enclave in the high desert–a “city of refuge” built to protect its residents from the invading “army from the North.” Goliath with an A-bomb. It would also serve as a spiritual sanctuary for Gospel-abiding followers of Christ. Or so their preacher said.
I knew nothing of this place until about three weeks ago. Suddenly a relative (and a former resident of this religious enclave) spoke openly of it. He was willing to share pictures and personal anecdotes, but at the last minute, that opportunity was snatched away by someone who wanted control over the story–my story.
Undeterred, I climbed into my Nancy Drew roadster and headed to the hinterlands, with a trusted friend riding shotgun. A week later, I’m still trying to absorb the full significance of my/our discoveries.
If you twist the lens just right– and tune your ears just so–you might be made to believe you’re entering the Garden of Eden.
But on the other side of the stucco archway, beyond the stone fences…truth becomes evident. The hardscrabble earth is almost barren, pockmarked by chapparal and the occasional cactus. And along a thin stream of water, sparse outcroppings of sycamore and cottonwood trees. (By adjusting the lens again, I still managed to find beauty.)
The remains of a one-time “bomb shelter” is tucked into a distant hillside. There’s room inside for people, plus food, water, and other supplies.
This next photograph speaks to the residents’ Grapes of Wrath-like existence. My mother is clinging to the rusted farm truck, and the petite woman in the dark-colored dress? That’s my beloved Nana, tending a field of corn. Corn!! Smack-dab in the middle of the hard-packed, sun-baked desert! Miracle or hard labor? You decide.
Through a glass darkly…So many questions came to mind as we passed through the hollowed-out remains of my relatives’ hopes and dreams.
Strewn across the desert floor, we saw the bleached architectural bones of a livestock pen. The current owner of the property, so generous with his time, offered me the window frame in the center of this photograph.
Someone else might have passed it by without so much as a sidelong glance. Justifiably so. It’s rough-hewn and unremarkable–about 2 feet by 3 feet of paint-chipped lumber, held together with rusted nails. But it’s borne witness to my family’s secrets, so I think it’s beautiful.
So…How can I repurpose this window frame for my own home, in a way that enhances its beauty and honors its significance? I’d love to hear your creative ideas!
P.S. You know that saying, “You can’t push the river”? It applies so much to this situation. At times, I’ve fretted about being a turtle-slow writer. But in truth, my memoir wouldn’t have been complete without this fresh discovery.