I guess early April is too cold for crickets or frogs on the Clear Creek Family Ranch, but if it were summer, I imagine there would have been evening serenades of croaks and chirps. And if the moon had not been so round and bright that it outshined most of the stars, perhaps if it had been a fingernail, the night sky would have looked like a piece of heavily perforated black tissue paper with the beams of a flashlight pouring through its holes. The setting was a perfectly pristine backdrop for an almost perfectly executed family reunion. I hardly wanted to shower for fear that I'd miss a sliver of the action, but I did slip away for one hour of solitude. I walked around the perimeter of the ranch twice and all I heard, when I stood perfectly still, was the arhythmical breath of the wind. It has been a long time--a very long time--since my ears have been filled with something other than sounds generated by electricity or petroleum-powered machinery. I sponged up the sounds and smells of the ranch, but the company and the craziness of the reunion are lingering as the loveliest sensory experiences of the trip--of all my recent memories, really.
The celebration of family-hood sounded like thirty very different voices of varying musical ability singing the orchestra song. The teenaged girls and my ruggedest cowboy of an uncle, John, were "the clarinet, the clarinet," that "goes deedle deelde deedle deedle det!" And the drum part rumbled up from uncle Scott's toes, through his barrel-esque belly, and out into the air with perfect pitch and fervor. It sounded like the blended laughter of cousins and siblings as grandma Nan's 72 year old, (but still very cute and nimble,) legs slowly emerged from behind the wavey blue butcher paper, several beats behind the other performers', to do “crossies” during the synchronized swimming number in the family variety show. (This was hilarious. Even funnier than it looks in these pictures.) It sounded like a charming recitation of one of the greatest stories ever told about The Crooked Mouth Family, (who could not blow out the candles on their birthday cake for obvious reasons.)
It smelled like Aunt Martha's breakfast quiche, Aunt Fran's famous southern-style chili, and Sister Costco's devilishly delicious triple chocolate chunk brownies in the evening. On a few unfortunate occasions it smelled like the gaseous aftereffects of the digestive processes of those sumptuous foods. It smelled like a void of pollution and smog, like the nothingness of perfectly fresh air. It smelled like smoke in the threads of our clothes after a night of marshmallow roasting and guitar picking and singing around the campfire at the edge of the pond where the reflection of the full moon floated on an uninterrupted sheet of motionless glass.
It tasted like Red Vines, gummi bears and peanuts mixed with M&M's for snacks. It tasted like the indulgence of marinated artichoke hearts atop cheesy ravioli on Italian feast night. It tasted like water with no taste, which is most refreshing after drinking and brushing our teeth and bathing in water that tastes like it's been running through rusty aquaducts since it left the reservoir.
And it felt like...well, it felt so good that words break down in the description. It felt like the soft, comfy, familiarity of old sweats, like everything that's ever been familiar all rolled up into three days of togetherness. It felt like goosebumps and faith thick enough to touch as we stood and sang High on a Mountain Top with the saints during General Conference. It felt like we threatened the integrity of the walls of that rented lodge; they bulged with kindness, giddiness and comraderie that swelled inside until heart-shaped byproducts of love oozed from the doorjams and window caulking. It felt like an intense sense of belonging and the most durable and wholesome sense of self I've ever been able to find. It felt like home. It felt like happiness. It felt, if you can excuse the cliche, like my kind of heaven.
Here are a few visuals to help you imagine what it looked like. Family Reunion Album.