I just had the BEST weekend. I traveled to California with my friend, Kelli, for a creative retreat. It was a small gathering: four writers and two photographers (check out the links to their sites to see what kind of talent I was surrounded by for four days). I was the only one who was neither there last year nor had a prior connection to anyone else, so I felt like something of a party crasher. I shouldn't have worried. From the beginning I realized that this was a group in which I could be myself and that would not only be fine but celebrated.
Wendy was our hostess and welcomed us with open arms and FABULOUS food at her lake house. I really would have been pretty content with Pop-Tarts, a map and three free days to wander around shooting, but Wendy made sure we had so much more than that.
Wendy connected Tammy and I to a local videographer who also happens to have been a White House correspondent for 35 years. Bill Groody took us to Ceago Vinegardens to shoot stills and video (stay tuned for my newbie attempt at a video documentary), but I kept stopping to just inhale the heady scent of lavender and listen to the bees. As great as the camera is, sometimes you have to step away from the viewfinder and really experience the view.
It didn't stop there. The following day Wendy had arranged for Tammy and I to meet up with a local photographic artist, Carolyn Marchetti, at her amazing home overlooking the Kelseyville area. To say my expectations were exceeded is like saying Category 5 hurricanes are windy. Again, it would have been lovely enough to sit and chat with Carolyn over a glass of local wine for an hour. But we were welcomed to an outdoor table dressed with a terrific lunch, a tour of the home and Carolyn's studio and freedom to wander about and take pictures to our heart's content. We stayed for 6 hours.
Carolyn's husband, Tony, joined us and at length the conversation drifted from photography and art to life and what we choose to make of it. We tried to absorb it all. Tammy took notes but I'm not sure she could write fast enough. I really can't describe our afternoon except to say that I KNOW I was in the presence of God. At one point Tony said, "It all happens around the table," and I almost jumped out of my chair.
He could not have known how right he was, that he had just summed up the entire weekend so beautifully. That I felt surrounded by God's love and presence every single time I sat down to a meal. I thought instantly of what awaits us in heaven for all eternity: the wedding feast of the Lamb. Where all pretense goes away and we get to be nothing more than who He made us to be. Where we will enjoy the company of others unrestrained by our sin and a broken world.
And how we will celebrate.
Tony and Carolyn chose to be available to a pair of strangers. They opened their home and best of all their hearts. They were real and joyful and edifying. They could have been merely cordial and open for an hour and again, I would have been content with such a gift of their time. They shared their dreams, their history, their love story.
Wendy could have provided a bed, sandwiches and some ideas for places to shoot and that would have made for a great weekend for this photographer, but she chose to give more than that.
Tammy, Bethany, Kelli, and Angie, all loved me from the start. They chose to offer hospitality that went above and beyond, and I have no words to describe where it left me. I'm still reeling.