It’s good to get out of town sometimes. Last weekend, Becky and I took off for Colorado Springs, which, if you haven’t been there, is a fantastic little city, surrounded by incredible natural beauty (especially if you’ve been living in the Oklahoma Panhandle). I highly recommend the Garden of the Gods, which is just stunning. We saw it in twilight in between rainstorms–just fantastic. The price is right, too, as in free. Expensive but also worth it was the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park in Canon City, about 45 minutes from Colorado Springs. I was surprised at the price, $24 a person, but it gets you in for the day and includes the incline (Pittsburgh-style!) to the bottom of the gorge and the cable-car (think James Bond with the creepy guy with the special cut-through-cable-car-cables braces on top) across to the other side. Very good for the soul that has been in the High Plains. We also visited the US Air Force Academy for their church service on Sunday morning, which also happened to be their baccalaureate service. The chapel is, of course, iconic, and is more beautiful inside than outside. I’m a firm believer that the practice of architecture can be a form of worship. Becky and I used to attend a wonderful church that, unfortunately, had chosen to build a “worship activities center.” I never got used to the basketball hoops hanging from the ceiling that were a major distraction for me on Sunday mornings. It is probably too “Western” of me to need a holy place to be constructed by human hands, and I don’t mean to make it sound that way… certainly Colorado Springs and the Pike’s Peak region abound with examples of perfectly holy places in which the work of human hands is, if not negligible, certainly not the dominant theme. I worry that many of the churches of the last quarter century were built as though they were just other buildings, without a sense of holiness. If you play basketball in the same place you worship, it doesn’t make your worship any less relevant to God, but it might make your worship less relevant to you.
So then, on Wednesday, I drove to Las Cruces, New Mexico. The drive is about nine hours from Guymon, Oklahoma, including stops. That means that because of the difference in time zones it takes eight hours to get there and ten to get back. I welcome a long, lonely drive, although not on a regular basis. There is no interstate; mostly US 54 to Alamogordo, where you pick up US 70. Until you get to Tucumcari, there is almost unmitigated flatness–just like the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles, but south of I-40, you cross ridge after ridge of mountains, and the two hours before Alamogordo are wonderful–the San Angelo range to the west and the Sacramento range to the east, with the White Sands dunes in between, always looming ahead. Then US 70 takes you west to Las Cruces over a fantastic pass.
I had a great rehearsal there with Nancy Joy and Fred Bugbee, the horn and marimba players (respectively) who are going to premiere my piece South Africa at the International Horn Symposium next week. The piece wasn’t perfect when they played it for me, but I learned a great deal about what works and what doesn’t work on marimba, and I know from what I heard that the premiere will be fantastic–Thursday, June 4 at 1:30pm at Western Illinois University, if you’re in the area.
Then it was off to dinner at Fred’s house with his charming and lovely family. We ate on their patio, and I started to understand why anyone would move the middle of the desert. I only wish Becky had been along!
So, next week I’m off on another trip, to Illinois for the premiere. Flying this time, but then in Chicago I’m going to pick up the train to Macomb. I hope that Obama’s plan to promote high-speed rail gets going–if you’re not in a hurry, the train is a great deal more comfortable than flying, as long as it goes where you want to go.
From that point on, I should more or less be home for the summer. I’ll be teaching Fundamentals of Music, which I always enjoy, and we’ll be looking for a new choir director–speaking of trips, our current director, Matthew Howell, is packing up his family for a move to Hawaii. Congrats, Matt!