A few years ago, like almost 20, I spent my summers working in the kitchen at a well know youth ministy\’s Colorado Ranch. It was at the time, a perfect life. I worked in the summers and avoided the scorching Texas heat. My regular job was only budgeted for nine months a year, except I could pay a little extra for health insurance for the other three month. So, I had insurance, no expenses, use of a vehicle and a home nestled in the valley of the San Isabel National Forrest. Doesn\’t get much better.
I thought about this today when I started reading Through Painted Deserts : Light, God, and Beauty on the Open Road by Donald Miller. I love it and hate it right now. I love it because Miller notices everyting, from the traffic in Houston at 2am to the different species of trees on Interstate 45 from Houston to Dallas and how they hide everything at night. I hate it because it is a testament to my stupid fears.
The camp photographer Deb and I, spent our off days traveling Colorado, back roads and old mining towns. She\’d snap rolls and rolls of film, I\’d scribble really bad poetry into old lab notebooks. I did that back then, write really bad poetry. I was a lousy poet, because I didn\’t like to read poetry. If you don\’t like reading it, you don\’t need to be writing it. But I wasn\’t smart enough to know that back then. I wrote about her photographs, mourning that the black and white prints we developed in the camp darkroom didn\’t capture the differences in the green of the trees and the green of the grasses. They couldn\’t give the sound, the whisper, of the July wind in the Aspens.
After our adventures, we\’d take the prints and the notebooks of bad poems and sit in laundry room, waiting for the industrial washers to finish our week\’s worth of dirty shorts and wool socks and plot the next adventure. It didn\’t take to long to realize that we would soon run out of places within a couple hours of the camp, and we never could get two consecutive days off. So we started devising Plan B. A summer of cruising. A cross country trip in her Subaru. We\’d start in California, where she lived the rest of the year, and end up in New Jersey, at my grandparents. We\’d take pictures, write stories of the people and places in the pictures.
We never went. Wasn\’t money, we could\’ve worked it out. For me, it was fear. Don\’t know what I was afraid of, maybe the unknown. But it kept me from what could have been the best summer. But those silly voices, saying it was a stupid plan, it was irresponsible *(if you cna\’t be irresponsible when you\’re 23 and single, when can you be?) It was scary. I don\’t know if Deb ever went. I hope she did.
And now I read this stupid book and wonder what could have been.