Saturday, February 23, 2013


A few weeks ago a friend told me there would be a big dance down at the Stillwell Ranch.  On a Monday night.  Almost an hour and a half from our home in Alpine.

I immediately jumped at the idea! N. and her girls, and I and Rose and Nora rounded up picnic supplies, put on our jeans and boots and hopped in our vehicles after school.  The drive in itself was spectacular as we headed east, flanked on the north by the Glass Mountains, shining in the late afternoon sun.  Nora was a bit bored on our drive and decided to see how many creatures she could find in the huge banks of clouds.

We made it to the Stillwell Ranch before sunset.  Had a fabulous picnic supper, then we were drawn to the dance area by sound of music, guitars, classic country music, performed by a local guy, Craig Carter and the Spur of the Moment Band, a fellow whose music drew us out to the dance floor back twenty five years ago, when we were all young, carefree, and full of energy!

Christmas lights were strung on old adobe building and agave.  The Hallie Stillwell Museum wall was one border of the dance floor.  A big pile of boulders was another.  The starry, moonlit sky was most adequate for the ceiling.  Slightly cool temperature was welcome and we jumped out there to swing, polka, two-step and schottische.  I danced with Raymond and Mark and mostly Nora and Rose.  Which felt like the best gift I had received in a very long time.

I started this post a couple of weeks ago, and wanted to write to you all about Hallie Stillwell, an amazing pioneer woman, a strong woman, who came out to this remote land and survived and thrived, and has been written about in the NY Times, and many other publications.

But I got distracted.

So I suppose what I really want to write about is the gift of the dance.  Live music.  Fresh air.  Cowboy hats (not on any of us, but on many of the other dancers!), smiles, laughter as we would occasionally swing the wrong way and once I accidently bumped Rose on the face with my elbow and thank goodness didn't leave a black eye!

As many of you long-time blog friends know, this is not my favorite time of year.  Well, actually, a better thing to say is that this time of year is very painful for me.  Sometimes it feels so painful I think I can't go on, it hurts so badly.  Everything is a reminder to me of our deep loss, on Feb. 25th, three years ago, when Philip died.  It makes my body hurt, my heart hurt, and what I would prefer to do is go hide under my pillow for a few weeks.

But thankfully, the children and the bills and the mortgage all give me more than adequate reason to keep getting up, milling the grains, baking the breads.  Don't get me wrong.  I love my job.  I give thanks to God daily for my customers, for the mill, for the livelihood I make via the bakery.

But there are times when it is done by rote instead of happy, creative energy.  Done because I have to, not because I want to.  Which is okay, because that's life, right?

But when the opportunity came up awhile back, to go down to Stillwell for that dance, I jumped on it.  Not because I felt a light happy spirit, but because I was desperately hungry for good medicine.

You know what?

It was very good medicine.  The drive down, the big sky, the mountains that border the Rio Grande and Mexico all filled me up as with an elixir.  And dancing around the moonlit dancefloor with my dear man, and my dear children was about the best thing ever.  To familiar music that swung us around over twenty years ago.  I felt a lovely sense of full circle.  Of completeness.

On the drive, Nora mentioned Philip, and wondered what he would think of our life now.  I told her that I know in my heart that he would be so very proud of us, and glad for us, and thankful for R, who is so good to us.  Who brings delight and joy into our life.  When we met, Philip tried to learn the two-step, and did pretty well for a Jersey boy, but most of our dancing over the years took place in the dining room, after dinner, with lots of laughs and not so much at a real dance floor.

I still feel pretty sad, deep down inside.  Grief hurts more than you can imagine.  But the sun shines, we get up and bit by bit, we continue to live.  This weekend we have a dear dear friend visiting us from Virginia, and   several of us are hoping to take him to a southwest Texas dance tonight.  Same group, Craig Carter and the Spur of the Moment Band, this time here in Alpine, playing at the Civic Center.  For a good cause.  All the proceeds go to the Family Crisis Center.  This time I think I will try to get Maggie and Patrick to go with us. They need a safe place to be silly and learn and to see how important it is to learn how to dance.  Its a part of their heritage!  


CountryDew said...

Dancing is always very good for the soul. Thinking of you today.

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

It's been almost three years since we lost my mother too. Right after Philip. I remember hearing about Philip. I think Jeff, one of our blog buddies, was the one who told me. That morning Kurt and I were going up to a horse auction in Lexington because I wanted to buy a horse to make myself feel better because my mother was so sick. Now I know that's why I did it. It was like a drug. Some kind of comfort. But back then I thought I just needed another horse. We passed where you lived and I thought about what you must be going through. I remember feeling shock. I wanted to stop but we never even met each other in real life. But you were in my heart.