Wednesday, April 12, 2006


In the news the last month has been the grassfires in the Texas Panhandle. Conditions are just right for this kind of natural disaster - a naturally dry region, prolonged drought, and warmer than average temperatures, and naturally high winds. The count now is over one million acres scorched.

When we were in Amarillo a couple of weeks ago, we drove by the worst hit areas north of I-40 around McLean. Since we were in the RV, we did not try to stop and do photos. Since I knew we were coming back for the next cataract surgery for my mother-in-law, I was planning to do my fire photographs then. Little did I know that I would have the opportunity to photograph wildfire damage on my own property.

My grandad bought ranchland in the 60's. I remember when he bought it . . . . I remember when he had the fence put in . . .

how proud he was of that fence - large cedar posts - he said it would last 100 years . . . .

A week ago today, high winds blew a power line down about a mile from this ranch igniting a grassfire that spread for two miles.

The winds were blowing about 50 - 70 miles an hour spreading the fire rapidly.

I am grateful for the playa lake on my neighbor's property that channeled the fire north, limiting the damage on my property.

The playa lake also saved my neighbor's house.

I am also grateful for the Oldham county crews that fought the fire, built a firebreak, limiting my damage to about 1/3 of the property.

This is what the ranchland normally looks like (the side that was spared).

This is the aftermath.

We won't graze the north half, but the south half is fine . . . . if we get rain . . . . .

I went out there today to survey the damage. Wildlife to note - 2 coyotes, one cottontail, one jackrabbit, numerous meadow larks, a family of bobwhite quail, and 2 longbilled curlews. While some of the obnoxious challa cactus survived the fire, quite a bit of it looks dead. The smaller prickly pear cactus (which the ranchers don't like because the cows won't eat up the grass near it) looks very dead. I was also glad to note that this fire burned quickly and not nearly as hot as the fires near McLean. My grass is scorched and black, but not burned to gray ash. I'm not worried that the ground was sterilized as I am about areas around McLean. Because of the firebreak line, it will be easy to identify the area burned, and we plan to watch it over time and see if we can identify the benefits that the fire will bring. I say this because fire is a natural part of God's plan for caring for the earth. Scientists have learned that from Yellowstone's fires.

While I could wish that we had not had the fire, I lost a minimal amount of fence. There was no damage to the windmill area. And the natural terrain and the excellent work of the firefighters limited the damage.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Art of Hospitality

The Inn on the Creek - Salado

I'm convinced that hospitality is an art. The ability to create an environment that is pleasing and restful and the ability to make strangers feel at home do not come naturally to everyone.

Our stay at The Inn on the Creek has been a wonderful experience. It has given me an appreciation for the art of hospitality. I think there are three components that combine to create a sense of a hospitable place.

The first is to create a sense of place that is beautiful, relaxing and welcoming. The elegant Victorian house with its cheerful and beautiful rooms and serene creekside outdoor space provided a wonderful place to rest and relax.

Another aspect of hospitality involves making someone feel welcome and at ease. At the inn, we were greeted with a warm smile and made to feel at home. Every time Will saw us, he acknowledged our presence with a smile and a wave. There was no doubt in our mind that we were welcome guests! We were lucky enough to have the house to ourselves and we were encouraged to explore.

Finally, the ability and willingness to anticipate needs and the art of joyful service made our stay memorable. A bowl of chocolates was a treat in the common area. We were asked, "Did we want coffee in the morning?" It was ready on time. Did we have special food requirements? They were met. At breakfast, we never had to ask for more hot water for our tea, they were watching and alert for what we might need or want.

As Christians, we are encouraged to practice hospitality. Do I have all of these down to an art . . . . no, not at all. But what a privilege it was to experience this level of hospitality! And an encouragement to do what I can at my home to create a place where people can feel comfortable and at ease!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


America has a culture of productiveness. We value ourselves by what we accomplish. "Busy-ness" is part of our culture. Many things compete for our time.

My life has always had its hectic times. Currently trying to juggle starting a photography enterprise, the care for aging and ill relatives, finishing a Bible study book, and trying to attain and keep order in my home compete for my time. Stress is unavoidable.

But today, I have arrived at a life oasis. I left yesterday for the traditional birthday celebration with two of my closest friends. We are in Salado at a wonderful bed and breakfast on the creek.

This morning I got to spend time by the creek. Herons fished, birds sang, and little fish jumped out of the water. I closed my eyes for a different form of meditation and I felt the cool breeze on my face and even caught a whiff of the gentle smell of the creek.

My reading in my abundance book today:
"Take time to pamper yourself. This is especially important if you spend a great deal of time nurturing others. Your well will run dry if you don't give yourself permission to fill it. Your body needs rest."

I will have two days here in Salado. Time to sit by the creek, soak in the serenity, and center myself. A time to think of other things besides the things that are worthy of grief in my life right now.

Yes, I brought my computer and hard drive so that if I have some time, I can be "productive" while I am here.

But more important, is to fill the cups of serentity and peace - so that I will be ready to return both home and to Amarillo, re-equpped for the tasks God has laid out for me.