The Sojourn Diary

The Stone Man

The Stone Man

I needed a break…mostly from routine. But I also needed a break from a world that has flat-out stopped making sense to me. I asked and God answered. I requested and God delivered…way more than I had ever even dreamed to ask for!

There was this kid I grew up with whose teenage life revolved around guitars and girls pretty much the same as mine. We listened to the same records, struggled with the same chords and even dated the same girls…at different times of course. We did a few “coffee-house” gigs together, but I think our biggest rock & roll moment was playing Louie Louie in front of a thousand screaming boy scouts at some jamboree…God knows where. I lost complete contact with John after graduating high school 42 years ago…(That makes me a somewhat educated fossil 😦)…until 2011 when a friend got us all together at the Barn in Wyckoff for a mini reunion. We connected this past September at the Barn again, only this time he planted a seed. “Come on out to Santa Fe for a visit!” he said. “Sure!” I replied as if having just been invited to the moon. As great as it was to see my old buddy again, I really didn’t give it another thought…


(Whisper) Now I’m not sure how or why the thought popped back into my head three months later, but it did and it actually felt placed there as if I was being directed or pulled somehow. I knew I was supposed to go and I was looking for something different and fun to do with my wife as it so happened…he said, remembering a previous spontaneous adventure-turned-disastrous trip to Schroon River, NY that was also supposed to be “different” and “fun”.


The Sangre de Cristo Mountains

We landed at the Santa Fe Municipal Airport…formally a stagecoach stop I think…at 1:20pm on Friday…we’re talking small people! John was there to greet us and found us quite easily in the bustling throng of six people. It’s about a forty minute ride from the Santa Fe Airport into the center of Santa Fe (population- 69,000). Our natural-born host never stopped introducing us to the people, places and things of his world from the time we said hello till the time we said goodbye this past Tuesday evening! On the way into town, it was the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) Mountains, which derived their name from their colorful ability to catch the sunsets on their way out of town and hold them for just a little while longer…

…just as they held my friend some forty years ago. We were all hippies and peaceniks in those days it seemed…but as John laid out his story I realized he was truly your “walk the walk” hipster. He actually built his home out of the earth with the dirt, stone, sand, water and trees he chopped by hand without power tools…and then raised a family who pretty much lived like Indians there without electricity or running water. But that is only half of the story, and it was as you would certainly imagine the hardest half. You can see the character that half has chiseled into his leather face, and almost know.

So after picking up some things in town we drove the half hour to what would be our home for the next four days…the last 6 miles of which was a gnarly dirt road. It’s hard to imagine a better host than John, but he found Barb and married her 25 years ago. What a wonderfully gracious soul…it was family at first sight! After unloading our things in the guest house, we settled in for an evening of margaritas, prayer, green chili, tamales, tortillas, story-telling, music and more than a few laughs.

We started Saturday off with a perfectly typical New Mexican breakfast in town where the entire restaurant staff were under strictest orders to refuse any and all manners of currency from us whatsoever! From one of the oldest buildings in town, we departed for the even older Pueblo ruins at Bandelier National Monument, created after a huge volcano blew her top thousands of years earlier. On this ride, which took us through Los Alamos, we were treated to the other half of the story…

Barely able to keep his children clothed and fed thirty-five years ago, and after a series of odd jobs…he spotted an older man who happened to be a WW ll veteran building a stone wall and grew fascinated. His fascination then grew into this thirty-five years later! The Stone Man was taking us to see the habitat of the original Stone People! It was clear to us where he had inherited his reverence for the earth…and the earth has rewarded him rightly for his steadfastness.

Here’s where the plot thickens in a somewhat humorous way. Desperate to repay them somehow for all they were doing to show us a great time, we insisted on taking them to dinner that evening. What began as a wonderful meal turned into political poisoning for John after my review of Obama’s unsavory cookbook, and actual food poisoning for Barb after a bad enchilada! Ouch!

What is fascinating about all of this is that as I was discovering this political impasse with my long-lost amigo, I am concurrently living through the end of John Adams’s Presidential term in the 1790’s via Jon Meacham’s Thomas Jefferson, The Art of Power. I guess we have always been a country of quarreling Federalists and Republicans and probably always will be…

“Being now advanced into the evening of my life, it is with particular gratitude I look back and reflect that I have been spared to see the human species improved, religious intolerance almost extinguished, the eyes of the lower ranks of men opened to see their rights; and nations panting for liberty that seemed to have lost the idea of it.”~ Thomas Jefferson

Everything Jefferson had been spared to not only see but improve, we have been spared to undo! And yet here I realized a new fence-mending hope in Meacham’s account of the painful bridge from Adams to Jefferson. We have been here before! But God help us, where is there another Jefferson to lead us across our great divide?

“To preserve the freedom of the human mind then and freedom of the press, every spirit should be ready to devote itself to martyrdom; for as long as we may think as we will, and speak as we think, the condition of man will proceed in improvement.”~ Thomas Jefferson during “the reign of witches”.

My friend and gracious host is every bit as fiercely loving of his liberty and independence as am I. We are on two separate paths to the same destination…of this I am convinced. His life is the true American Experience if ever there was one. Patience and faith are the twin lessons God brought me here to learn. And from the hand of a Native American I now wear the Cross of Calvary around my neck as a reminder of these lessons…as well as the savior of my life. 

Chip Murray: Wide Awake

About Chip Murray

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