Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
There is poetry in the name - Ten Sleep, Wyoming. The story goes that it was the winter camp for one of the Sioux bands - years ago. It was a ten-day trip from Summer Camp. It took ten sleeps. A small town, it nestles up against the western edge of the Big Horn Mountains. And the day we drove through, it was snowing.
"We" was a small caravan made up of my husband-at-the-time, our two-year-old daughter, and me. We had four vehicles between us, and I'm sure we were a colorful, if not slightly ragtag sight to see. He was driving a small dump truck he had fixed up and painted turquoise, lift-bed loaded with tools. Hooked to the massive bumper was a primer-gray bread truck. Another one of his projects - when he'd had a mechanic's shop. He liked it because of its rust-free aluminum body. It was stuffed with household goods and mattresses that threatened to erupt from the cramped space every time the door was opened. He was in the lead. I followed in a little 4-cylinder, manual pick-up truck. A single bench in the front with my daughter strapped in next to me. The bed was loaded, tarped, and strapped. I was hauling a 20-foot, dual-axle trailer, also loaded and covered with a multitude of tarps and tape - robin's egg and camouflage - in a patchwork over the lumps of the rest of our worldly possessions. Can you picture us? We were a sight to see. A dump truck, a bread truck, a little Isuzu p'up, and a trailer.
It was snowing. It was beautiful. The air was crisp and refreshing. I remembered ice skating on a frozen lake in my childhood in air like that. The kind of air we used to gulp in and expel in little clouds of condensation - little engines that could - skating on solid ice.
He was in the lead - my husband-at-the-time. His tires, his power, drew him farther and farther in front of us - my daughter and me. We were singing, cocooned in the front seat, warm and dry. The road was gray, and wet as we drove through the little town with the old-fashioned storefronts, leftover from a busier life. Now it was home to ranchers - by the looks of the post-and-rail fences, the wide-open rolls of land that were slowly narrowing and folding themselves into a protected canyon with great lodgepole pines and steep, rocky sides.
My daughter and I were singing - silly Barney songs and nursery rhymes and the road stretched and then switched back as it took us higher and higher into the mountains. I could see him leading, the blue and gray, through the snow, ahead of us.
And then I couldn't.
And the road, the gray road, had turned white. And the snow, the beautiful flakes of snow, had thickened and were falling now with purpose, and there was wind. We came to a long, straight stretch of road, no drop-off here, a white path through the tall trees, and I could feel the weight of the load behind me. No one in sight. The snow fell. We sang.
When the load felt different, I looked in my side mirror and saw that the trailer wasn't following me. It had begun to slide next to me. In my mind, I knew what this was. In my mind, I knew what I was supposed to do. I was jackknifing and I needed my truck to move - a little faster, just a little, to straighten us out. Thank God I was in a four-cylinder. Too much power and we would have gone off the road. Thank God there wasn't too much power in that little truck. But by the time I got the trailer back in line, there was no more traction between the tires and the now icy road. We were not going anywhere.
Do you believe that God watches out for us, even when we don't believe in him? I do. God is bigger than my beliefs. He existed before I was ever born. He will continue to exist long after I'm gone. You would think that my tiny life would be pretty darned insignificant to him - Creator of the Universe. And I used to think so. But I've learned. And I continue to learn. He has a plan for us - even when we've run from him and hidden our silly heads in the sand. Sometimes it takes finding ourselves in the belly of a whale to wake up. Or the belly of a blizzard in Wyoming.
Hindsight. My daughter was traveling with me. No joke, getting stuck on the ice in the middle of the Big Horn Mountains, was pretty serious. But we were on a fairly flat stretch of road; the trees and canyon walls were protecting us from the wind; we were warm, and we were safe. We may have been sitting for an hour and a half when a car came riding rescue from the other direction - from the up-side of the road. My husband-at-the-time jumped out, let some of the air out of my tires, and managed to drive us to a lodge about ten miles up the road.
Hindsight. His truck had failed about ten miles from the pass. His truck started to slide backwards on the icy road, zig-zagging backwards with the bread truck behind. He'd had to jump out of the driver's seat and run alongside the sliding vehicles until he could throw something under the wheels - to stop them.
Hindsight. If my daughter had been with him, he would have stayed with her in the cab. He would not have gotten out of the truck. Would they have stopped on their own?
Hindsight. He was in a place where the slide was slow and he was able to stop it with his temporary block. Would it have kept going?
Hindsight. There was a lodge - open with a vacancy for us.
We ate in the dining room of the lodge, sharing stories with others who had been caught in this storm. One family was making arrangements to have their vehicle recovered from where it had gone off the road and down an embankment. They hadn't been hurt, but feared the vehicle had been totaled.
Hindsight. Was God on the mountain that night?
Thank you for being always present, always caring, always loving - even when we don't believe, even when we run away. Even when I ran away. Thank you for having the faith in me to know that I would eventually come around - come back to you. And I'm so glad that I did! You have blessed my life in so many ways, help me to bless the lives of those around me - through you.