Another Ghost (Ranch) Story

Ghost Ranch

On the way out of Ghost Ranch, we explored the Agape Center, a bright, meditative room.

In the center of the circular room, memorial symbols of a gentleman who had died were spread around the table. In the center, taped to a candle, was the gent’s quote, something like: “When I die, dry your tears before the sun sets and replace the tears with happy memories for the sunrise.”

My sister-in-law, E., drove us out of Ghost Ranch towards Abibuque on the Old Taos Highway. We talked about my father-in-law, our husbands’ father, Taid, who had died about five years ago. E. said she was glad that Taid, a Welsh name for father, had visited New Mexico from New York years back. She had always been glad to see him, she said.

At that moment, E.’s phone buzzed with an incoming text. “See who it is, please,” she said, handing me her phone.

I flipped open her phone and no one was there — only the image of Taid, my father-in-law.

Turns out my nephew had seen a big oil portrait of his grandfather and texted the picture of Taid, whom we were just talking about, to his mother’s phone.

We felt it was synchronicity — a sign of the importance of family and father, maybe of travel, most definitely, a sign of happy memories and not tears, dried before the sunset.

Ghost Ranch

I’ve wanted to visit Ghost Ranch forever. I’ve heard it’s a wonderful retreat. I’ve wondered if they need writers in residence. I could report on what goes on there.

Here are a couple of things I would report on from this weekend:

A Men’s Wellness Group

There was an Iron John feeling when we pulled into the retreat center. Maybe 10 men sat in about six circles talking. And it looked, from a distance, although it’s hard to tell, that they were talking about their feelings. Love it! Men talking about feelings. Go figure. So cool and sexy.

The group meets annually, one of the women told us. A previous topic had been Fathers (capital F). This weekend’s session was on Women (capital W). So, for the first time, the men had invited the women to the Men’s Wellness Group to discuss relationships, sexuality and expectations. I would’ve liked to be a part of those conversations.

A Funeral

Another group was leaving. They were dressed in western wear. Yes, this was New Mexico but it was dressy western wear. There was a lot of hugging too. They seemed more familial than the Men’s Wellness group.

It turns out the dozens of dressy/casual folks were attending a memorial.

“I’m sorry,” I told the woman who was loading a saddle into her car.

“No,” she said. “It was his time. He’s in a better place. We’re going now to spread his ashes on the bluffs.”

The Meditative Path

My sister in law and brother in law and I talked about death as we walked down a sandy path.

We walked the labyrinth. At the center of the labyrinth, you can leave a talisman or a symbol. There was a feather, a pin, a tea bag, a rock. I searched my pockets, thinking I had nothing on me.

But then from my back pocket, I pulled out a scrap I had ripped out of the New York Times a few days earlier. I’d been carrying this quote around with me.

If there is any positive message at all in the narrative it is that life is a tragedy filled with suffering and despair and yet some people do manage to avoid jury duty. – Woody Allen

I left Woody Allen in the center of the labyrinth at Ghost Ranch.

***

The sky was brilliant blue in Abiquiu, New Mexico. The one narrow cloud might have been the cloud stream from a high-flying jet. One of my daughters calls that white line in the sky, a skyscraper. I don’t have the heart to correct her. That trail of white cloud looked exactly like it’d been scraped into the sky.