Yearly, we travel to Missouri to stay with our friends. It is a vacation that is inspiring and restful, mostly because it is so rare to have a whole week to sit and talk with a woman I so admire for a whole week. I eat up all of my friend Courtney’s parenting insight as well as all the food she prepares for our arrival. She has an incredible knack for discovering dishes that can be made ahead and then presented as though it was easy. She has a knack for having double the number of people in her home and having it look easy. I always leave with a pile of recipes to try and thoughts on what it means to be a graceful host. I also, therefore, think alot on what it means to be a decent house guest. That is something we could all practice a little more. I suppose if all house guests entered a home with a very humble acknowledgement of all the work that goes into stopping the host’s family’s life for a whole week to make room for the noise, hunger, messes and presence of an extra family, we would all get invited into more homes. And hosts wouldn’t need vacations after their guests leave. Court, how was your trip to Tulsa? Thank you note is in the mail, I promise.
So, I show up in Missouri and plop my rear down on the patio sofa, and scarcely move. I said I’m practicing.
But when we are driving about, Missouri is a wonder. I don’t think the state gets nearly enough attention for its beauty. Pastoral farmlands mottled with thick woods. Rivers and streams give way to verdant pastures. Because of the cold and long winter, Missouri was just warming up when we arrived and the flowers were putting on a visual symphony. Wild orange lilies were growing out of the bar ditches and the scene of purples, blues and yellows would make Lady Bird Johnson gasp.
All of the land that had been devoted to cultivating grass for hay was being cleared. Hay bales are one of my favorite visual treats. I love the cylinders dotting the clean cut fields. It is beautiful to me. I wanted to take a million photos of hay bales but we were often whizzing by at 75 miles per hour on the highway, or all of the bales were facing the wrong direction from the road, or the ditch was too wild. In short, I was there on vacation and photos weren’t my absolute priority. But I caught a few photos of flowers and barns and plants and fields, enough to make me happy.
Most of my photos are of my family and our hosts, doing what we do. Those, I’m keeping to myself for once.
Our girls were going to sleep away camp in Missouri. Mine was going for the first time. That is a big deal, in case you weren’t aware. The preparation, the drop off, the separation anxiety…for both of us…was a growing moment. This camp is called College for Kids and it is on the campus of William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri. Pitts went to college at Westminster in Fulton, so this was a somewhat known commodity for us. But dropping your 10 year old off at a college dormitory is a real glimpse of what is to come. It is a window on the future.
This, of course, left us at home with our boys. Removing the girls from the home for a spell changed the dynamic considerably and our two game-addled sons had a camp of their own, perfecting their Minecraft and HALO moves. One (I) should not let the games babysit the kids, but every once in awhile, especially in the summer, it is so very nice to know that the kids are all safe and happy…leaving actual whole hours to sit on the screened in porch and sip coffee and talk with a friend.
We also had the pleasure of visiting our friends Joe and Julie Wayman. To be precise, they are the parents of our dear friend Steave, who passed away several years ago. He had spent so many years telling me stories of growing up in Missouri (Missour-ah) that I felt like I had been to his home many times over. But this was the first time.
Julie treated us to a lunch on the patio, with all of the things that make a “simple” lunch memorable. By the way, never believe a woman when she says “Oh, it was nothing…really, I just threw some simple dishes together.” There is always effort and love in every offering. Deviled eggs, potato salad, fruit salad, smoked pork chops, homemade brownies…some with pecans and some without…in case my son, Ford, didn’t like pecans. You know that you are in the presence of a mother who raised a son to a man when your own eight-year-old is practically juggling every fragile treasure in her house and she doesn’t bat an eye, but instead tells him the stories behind each one. She was also a school librarian, and that probably explains a lot, too.
The visit was so meaningful to me because I felt like I saw and felt my friend at every turn. I felt like I was seeing a glimpse of how he grew up as I watched my son splash in the pool or climb the big trees in the yard. It was a beautiful day and beautiful meal and an incredibly beautiful place.
Excuse the photographic embellishment. Caught without the right lens, we took rather imperfect photos of the dozens of hummingbirds buzzing around the Wayman’s porch. But you must at least TRY to take photos of hummingbirds. They are too appealing a subject. And it is too fun to try to sit so still that they will ignore you and fly onto the feeder that is three feet from your own perch. So this photo is cut from a much larger photo. The image was a bit grainy from the excessive cropping and so I just went into Photoshop and had a field day with it. I kind of like it. I wish I had painted it. I wish I could paint. Someday.
When these college mates go driving about the world around the Fulton area, they simply call it going on a country cruise. Our friend, Sean, joined us from Denver for a few days of passing the time. And so we go around in the car, with the windows down, looking at lovely old barns, and abandoned dairies, and fields and trees, and whatever the countryside serves up to us. We drove into Columbia and ate fantastic cheeseburgers at Booches, a truly iconic old pool hall. We drove back, slowly, sipping a coffee. We drove on a little further. We took some photos. We told some stories. We went to a movie.
I love old red barns. This is one of the loveliest ones I saw on our trip.
And finally, another profusion of wild something or other. Everywhere I looked on this cool evening by the pond, there were little jewels dotting the side of the road. And this is before the fireflies started up. It was dreamy. And then it was dark.
Of all the reasons I love my husband, here are some others…Missouri…Doug and Courtney Mertens and their kids, Karen Mertens, Mitch…Steave, Joe, Julie, and Karen Wayman….places and people I would never have met. Missouri is a country cruise. It is worth getting to know if you have not. Then again, our country is full of jewels like this. Little places and big places alike, full of spirit and beauty and nice people and unexpected vistas. Summer is such a gift when it allows you to get out of your own space. Thanks Missouri friends…I hope we haven’t worn out our welcome.