There we stood on the tarmac having just de-boarded the 19 passenger prop plane in Riverton, Wyoming. We quickly scooped up our bags checked at the gate and headed inside where Sr. Teresa was waiting with open arms. Teresa, more or less, single-handedly runs two parishes located on the Wind River Indian Reservation. She is a do it all sort of woman! Everything from Sacramental Preparation classes, to taking pledges from recovering alcoholics, to vacuuming the church, to feeding the neighborhood strays, and yes, even patching leaky hot water heaters! She does it all!
It was good to be with her! A little less wonderful, however, was discovering that the checked bag that Pat and I shared didn't quite make it to our final destination. This was the bag that contained my hair mousse! What is a girl to do? We were assured that the likelihood of the bag arriving on the next incoming flight due in later that afternoon was high, and so we made our way to Teresa's home on the range in Ethete.
Much to our delight we received word at 5 pm that night that our bag had indeed finally made it to Wyoming! Bad news? We couldn't pick it up because the airport was "closing for dinner." This is the reality of small town America--a reality of which east coasters are unaware. This meant I was going to go a day without hair mousse.
The simplicity of going a day without my self-proclaimed "necessities" became a freeing experience for the week. On our flight later in the week Pat and I had a very intriguing conversation concerning the vow of poverty, lived as simplicity, which has opened my heart to new possibilities of letting go. While I don't have any desire to give up my hair mousse I do think there are times I could obsess a little less!
These few days in Wyoming have opened my heart to the beauty of creation not often witnessed by the masses. The first full day on the reservation Teresa took me to a home Mass. During the consecration I could not help but be slightly distracted by the clanging of glass in the kitchen where someone engaged in final preparation of the dinner to follow. My distraction, however, quickly melted into reflection. Suddenly the melody of rattling dishes replaced the bells of the altar server and the realization of the reality of the Body of Christ became clear. We the people have become the consecrated Body of Christ, and as I sat pondering this I suddenly felt like Thomas Merton on the street corner of Fourth and Walnut, I "suddenly realized that I loved all the people and that none of them were, or, could be totally alien to me."
We have moved on from buffalo and prairies where cattle were herded to the fast-paced freeways of the city where people are herded. My time in Wyoming will not soon leave me, I just got off the phone with Teresa who called to share that she was going through a little withdraw. I too feel that loss. But the beauty of community is that no matter how many miles span the land between us we are bound by our sisterhood! And it is this thought that keeps a smile on my heart.