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4. Touching the Clouds

We turned off the pavement onto sand. You could see where the road grader had smoothed the red earthy surface and it was very smooth except for the washboard rivets. Our car was sailing along on a bed that sat below the surrounding flat land. The roads weren't built up here with gravel and pavement. They were carved into the landscape and when they got too deep the road grader moved over and cut a fresh path in the sandy terrain. This was the high dessert in northern Arizona and the road into Navajoland.

I peered over the dashboard to see a herd of horses with one lonely rider. I wanted to get a closer look at them. They were multi-colored and all sizes but as we drove nearer the rider backed away from the road as if to say, "keep your distance."

Low shrubbery and tufts of grass dotted the scene. The horizon was sculpted with two or three mesas at all times. You could see only one in every direction except for East where the mountain range sat.

Clouds like puffy cotton balls rested in the bright turquoise sky. I felt I could reach up and touch them if I wanted to.

The 14 mile drive to Immanuel Mission took about 45 minutes. We saw only one other vehicle on the road ahead of us. We kept our distance because of the cloud of dust it kicked up. The truck veered off to the left eventually. There were lots of smaller roads that y'ed off the main road. The only real intersection was at the junction for Sweet Water, a small town that wasn't really a town but a trading post with a bunch of old satellite dishes in a fenced yard.

The mission was hidden behind a long gray rock formation that created a cliff. The road curved around and sloped down to the main entrance where a marker stood with a sign reading Immanuel Mission, est. 1924.  Off to the east the cliff rose up gradually to the plateau where we had just been.  It seemed like the end of the trail but the road meandered on through the dessert towards the west and a stately red mesa called Tsetse-uh (pronounced sessa-uh). Tsetse means rock in Navajo and maybe all mesas have that name to them but this was Immanuel Mission's Tsetse-uh. After that there was another mesa and the road continued on and eventually lead to many more.

We were home now. This is where we would make our new life together. Tim taught kindergarten to 10 little 4 and 5 year olds and I found paper and pencils and began to draw.


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