Tuesday, January 16, 2007

"Let This Day Be Remembered"

The Church of the Blessed Sacrament held its annual meeting on Sunday, January 14. During the course of the Rectors address, I said the following:

On Sunday, December 10, I began an announcement by saying, “Let this day be remembered as the day I call the parish to a process of discernment regarding our place in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.” I said that at the Annual Meeting I would ask for volunteers who were interested in serving on a committee that would be charged with doing a careful, thorough, and informed discernment on the issues facing the Episcopal Church and the place of our parish in it.

As Senior Warden Robert Bell said to me just a few days ago, “there is a storm coming. We need to decide whether we shall attempt to weather it or change course. But we can’t ignore it.”

In recent years, I have taught repeatedly that “you don’t change the faith, and you don’t break the Church.” Heresy and schism are both great wrongs—they always have been and always will be. But there is a storm coming. Indeed it has been blowing and growing for some time. As its intensity increases, I think that it is now beyond my ability and responsibility to decide alone what course we shall follow.

There are many times in a parish family when the father decides, and is charged to do so and has authority to do so. But there are other times when the family must come together. I believe we have come to that time. Many in this parish are concerned and affected by what is confronting worldwide Anglicanism. Though we cannot ever regard schism as acceptable, when, beyond our control, the Church itself is poised to fragment, one must choose a home. The primates of the Anglican Communion will meet next month and quite possibly take action on the status of the Episcopal Church within the rest of Anglicanism, and that action may well include serious discipline to the point of some measure of removal.

If we do nothing, then our individual members and families will decide on their own, and our parish leaders and I will have abdicated leadership and proper pastoral care. I know that there are some members who have been greatly alarmed and affected by recent events within the Episcopal Church; I ask all individuals and families to stay with us during this time of discernment. I realize that whatever decision the parish family comes to, it will likely not be unanimous, and that having raised the question, whatever happens the parish family will not be the same.

I think this parish has only two options, though discernment may look more thoroughly at what we face. Those choices are either to stay where we are or realign with an emerging, redefined worldwide Anglicanism. This redefinition is already occurring within Anglicanism. Realignment may be very costly to us in a number of ways.

I am well aware of the stresses this parish underwent in 1978 when a previous storm hit the Episcopal Church. Four parishes left the diocese at that time, and though this parish did not secede, half or more of its members did so. There are still many here that remember the stresses of that time. I do not raise the issue of discernment lightly.

But having raised the issue, we need people to serve on a Discernment Committee. Are you called? What kind of person should be on the committee? We need our past, our roots, our history, our experience. We need people who have been members here for 30-50 years. We also need our future, our hope, our upcoming leaders. We need young people who call this parish their home.

We need people who are open to the working of the Holy Spirit—that is, probably not those whose minds are already made up. One may certainly have a preference and even a firm commitment to one way or another, but discernment means seeking the will of God—not coming to the table with a mind already made up and hoping only to persuade others.

For discernment to be genuine, I believe that we must involve others beyond ourselves in our process, including the Bishop or his representatives, and members of the Episcopal Church who differ from the convictions of the majority of our own members. We have enormous support in these quarters, and they have much of value to contribute. I think that the Episcopal Church is in crisis now mostly because people—on both sides of the divide—stopped listening to those who disagree with them. We are not facing the issues alone, and genuine discernment will not happen if we try to do it alone. We have always listened to others, and now is not the time to stop doing so.

Some of those on the committee will need to do the research to get first-hand, verified information: documents, statements, guidance from others who are in leadership in the realignment.

There need to be people on the committee who are versed in theology, especially in understanding the meaning of family—who realize that the Church is not merely a loose confederation of individuals but a communion, a bonded family, as was taken for granted in the days of the Apostles.

We need people who know the Scriptures and can apply them to our situation. Indeed, the three young people who spoke at the forum on December 10 did an astonishingly good job of this.

I suggest also that a special Lenten program be devised and offered to the entire parish to work alongside the Discernment Committee: Fr. Earle wants to offer a program on apologetics, and I want to offer a program on the nature of Church and the Catholic Faith as held within Anglicanism: we will address history, theology, the strengths and weaknesses of Anglicanism, its traditions of liturgical and personal spirituality, and its deliberative or decision-making structure both past and potential. Before we can decide where we live, we need to know who we are.

I would charge the committee to reflect, discuss, pray, research, interview, consult. The work is to be done peacefully, without urgency, without acrimony, and not in secrecy. The charge and its conditions, as well as the membership of the committee, may be subject to refinement. The method I have in mind is deeper and more thorough than most, but not all, of such processes I am familiar with. At all times, they are to seek the will of God.

The committee will eventually give us a thorough picture of what is going on within Anglicanism, what are our options, and perhaps make a recommendation with solid reasoning behind it. Perhaps they will go to the Vestry when their work is finished, and then the Vestry will call a special meeting of the parish family for a time of prayerful discernment and finally a decision to be made by consensus.

Membership on this committee will likely be time-consuming but of critical importance. If you want to serve, let me know in any way that you want—just give it to me in writing. I want to have a working list of names by the end of this month. I will take counsel with our new Wardens, whoever they may be, to form the initial membership. It may be that not everyone who volunteers will be selected to serve, for I want to guarantee that we have a balance of membership and voices. The committee itself, once formed, will be given authority to chart its course, though I will reserve to myself certain givens.

About fifteen people signed up after the meeting to serve on the Discernment Committee. There will undoubtedly be others.

Monday, January 08, 2007

A Grain of Wheat

I don't know precisely when my fear of trying became fear of falling, but a few days ago when I realized that it was so, I knew that the transition had happened months earlier. It probably began last summer when I felt pressure inside my spiritual “receiver” to ask people to pray for me, and I put out an email request to those in my parish whose email addresses I have easiest access to—our many college students, grads, and professors. I only had a nebulous notion of why I needed prayer, but it had been revealed to me that it would have something to do with spiritual warfare, so I asked for support in a time of stress and oppression and approaching battle. I assumed that this would be connected mostly with the situation in the Episcopal Church—an obvious but, as it turned out, erroneous conclusion.

As time went on, I discovered that the battle was really about learning to love. I pray daily that I may be solely dedicated to growing in sanctity, refusing all evil, loving all people in all purity, and learning to receive love freely. Apparently last summer God chose to honor these requests with great force. I had no idea that doing so would ignite a spiritual battle, though I ought to have known better.

Growing in the knowledge of love has been indeed a time of embattlement. I do not think that this is just because of the emotional constriction in my background; I think it is so for most people, for all human beings fall short of walking truly in love, and striving to get it right does not come easily or automatically. The way to get it right, as in all things, is to follow Jesus and the example he set.

By faith I believe that the ultimate triumph is assured, and that God will guide and protect all those who truly seek to follow the way of love. But I have learned that that protection includes permitting a lot of challenge and risk and suffering. This also should be no surprise. The Son of God himself chose in immortal love to become born into this world, and was immediately hunted by murderous soldiers who came at the behest of Herod.

When he began his public ministry, Jesus took the way of risk and suffering from the day he first entered the desert to face his temptations to the day he entered the Garden of Gethsemane to prepare for his arrest. In both places he was alone, and in both places he was assaulted by the devil. The “opportune time” for which Satan began to wait after he was bested by Jesus in the desert was the time in Gethsemane. Clearly, whoever chooses to follow the way of godly love after Jesus’ example will be firmly resisted. Many of the great saints have written about this phenomenon, such as St. Anthony and St. Catherine of Siena. What is true of them must, to a lesser extent, be also true of the lesser followers of Jesus.

It should have been no surprise, therefore, that my decision to grow in love immediately plunged me into trials: fear, insecurity, abandonment issues, confusions, complexities, temptations, depression, discouragement, and darkness became part of my daily life. Even physical pain became commonplace. Often I was alone, or felt alone, but my trials also involved a dozen or two dozen others—sometimes by their choice and sometimes not. They prayed for me, advised me, spent time with me, and listened to me. Of course these others had limitations of their own, and therefore for us all matters of trust, vulnerability, showing and wanting affection or attention, and the use of time became matters of intense importance.

I learned that distortions and lying “spin” could rise easily at a moment’s notice, whether from my own internal dread of the call to love or from supernatural evil that sought to dissuade me from the right path. The source of the dissuasion was unimportant; what was important is what I did about it. I had to learn to accept this world’s imperfections and limitations, and realize that everyone has difficulty to some degree or other expressing love, receiving love, or maintaining love. Of course I knew that even what is very, very good in this world is mortal and flawed. I never expected perfection to come in this world.

I grew fearful of becoming a “high maintenance” friend—I who had not allowed anyone to provide much “maintenance” at all before. I was compelled to depend on others when I was in need, without being certain of their willingness or ability to support me. This also is normal; in spite of the disciples’ genuine love for Jesus and the best of intentions, when he was arrested they all forsook him and fled. Their flight was anticipated, and was even worked into God’s plan. The lesson I learned was to trust, for ultimate triumph, in God alone, and not look for flawless support in other people. It is not fair to them to do so, for only God can provide it. However, I did make advances in learning to accept such help as others were willing to offer. Although it made me acutely uncomfortable in the beginning, after two or three months it became easier.

I learned that I had to plunge ahead with full commitment to the course I desired, leaving the results to God. In this pattern I found that I actually had some resources I could draw upon, for it was like breaking a stack of bricks or speaking to a hostile or indifferent audience, both of which I had done successfully a good number of times.

I assume that in our unfallen world it was fully understood that in love giving and receiving are the same thing, but I have learned that when love is expressed in this fallen world, it takes the world’s flaws to itself and transforms them. In this world, therefore, love becomes sacrificial. That is, on Earth, love is not self-existent; by its very nature, it must pay a price for its own existence. One meaning of the Fall is that love has been rejected. “The world was made through him, yet the world did not recognize him. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not” (John 1:10-11). Surely, to love and not be loved back must be among this world’s greatest sources of anguish. Love, however, being the very nature of God, takes sin into itself and transforms it, creating the virtues of patience, trust, mercy, and renewal—virtues that do not exist in heaven since there is no need for them.

Though I was dedicated to turning neither to right nor left, I knew that I would move forward only by trusting the guidance God (Isaiah 30:21), and that whether I liked it or not I would drift from side to side like a car progressing on a freeway. Therefore I needed to trust others, including those close to me, to accept my stumbling. I knew that God allowed the stumbling—he allowed even the temptations and the risk or actual fact of sin. I learned that even the apparent abandonment of God is a part of his being present. So it was for Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus in Gethsemane, Jesus on the cross. It was the Son who cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) when God was most present.

Even worse than that apparent abandonment was the “eighth” word from the cross. Whenever I preach on the seven last words from the cross, I always point out that there was an eighth: “Jesus gave a loud cry and died” (Mark 15:37). The loud cry is the expression of utter desolation at the time of greatest need. Once or twice in this struggle I have felt so barren and derelict that I could hardly move. It was at those times that all I could do was choose whether or not to continue forward. That, clearly (in hindsight), was the purpose of the experience.

So I learned that depression, doubt, confusion, fear, weakness, etc. are all necessary parts of future blessing, making those blessings hard as iron rather than soft and insubstantial as foam. The desolations are among God’s building blocks for these blessings, just as necessary to the blessings as the consolations are. Where most of us want love because it makes us feel good, true divine love changes us in ways that are painful to undergo at the time. Perhaps this is part of what it means to be “baptized with fire” (Luke 3:16).

Though my trials seemed great to me, I believe that they are probably comparatively small. I am familiar with many others whose trials seem colossal to me, under which I would succumb with barely a fight. Yet God’s protection includes affording us only the trials that we can survive, under which we can grow.

The great master of divine love, the apostle John, wrote, “In love there is no room for fear; indeed, perfect love banishes fear... anyone who is afraid has not attained to love in its perfection” (1 John 4:18). This implies that imperfect love still has some fear in it; none of us loves perfectly, so for all of us there will be some fear. This is because, if there is no fear in perfect love, we know there is no safety either. Not in this life. So we hold back. I have learned that the way of love is, beyond expectation, very often a lonely way. At least it is in the beginning, which is where I am. It positively cannot be a lonely way to the end.

There is, however, a safety net. “What love means is to live according to the commands of God. This is the command that was given you from the beginning, to be your rule of life” (2 John 6). This “rule of life” is something tangible. It provides the guardrails for the mountain way of love. As I have moved forward, I have banged against these guardrails frequently—putting occasional strain on vital relationships, making errors of judgment, perhaps arousing doubt or apprehension in others, but mostly withdrawing into my own doubts and fears when the way forward was most laborious. But I have not given up.

So whatever it may be like for others, for me learning these things is like walking a tightrope across an abyss. Although I’ve never walked a tightrope, I know that to succeed one must keep one’s eyes ahead on the goal, not looking down at what makes one afraid. In Biblical terms, one must keep one’s eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). So when I realized that I had moved from fear of trying to fear of falling, I suddenly recognized that I had already long been committed to following the way of true love. It was unnerving, but it was good. “Underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).

Because this is what I want. I want to love perfectly, I want sanctity, I want to love without counting the cost or considering the consequences, I want to love without having to watch myself to see how I’m doing, I want to love lavishly, like water in desert, sunlight on landscape, ocean waves rushing to shore—like a kite that is suddenly caught by the wind and soars without the effort of trying.

There are a few times in these months when I think I have experienced it—during occasions of private prayer or being in the presence of another. How like fire it is, a burning without consuming, surrounded by angels that drive away all fear and imperfection, where no evil can enter. How like Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael, cast into fire because they declared adherence to God regardless of risk or price to be paid—and only after they were engulfed in the flame found that they were not only safe but in the presence of One “like a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:25).

It is like the “spontaneous combustion” that I mentioned in a previous post—humorously describing something that was more real than I thought at the time. With great surprise, I realized that I had even described this kind of love in a character in the Starman series whom love overwhelms in this way. I had written the passage in early 2005 before I knew what I was getting into—though I knew consciously that I was writing about myself. When I realized it, I recognized, with enormous and deep satisfaction, that I knew what I was talking about even before I made the commitment to walk that way last summer.

What is it like? Most people consider 1 Corinthians 13 to be the great “love” chapter in the New Testament—and it is. But I have long considered that another great “love” chapter was 1 John 4:7-21, in which the word “love” is used more often in a single place than in any other in the Bible. Both, of course, are true.

But if I had to put it into a single sentence, I think I would choose this, from the words of Jesus himself: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains that and nothing more; but if it dies, it bears a rich harvest” (John 12:24). Aha! This is what love means. It means to die—to die to safety, to self, to the old way. “The seed you sow does not come to life unless it has first died” (1 Corinthians 15:36). To love neighbor as self one must know how to love self. That means to allow that self to die, which is the requisite to resurrection. It means striving to know the heart of the life of Jesus, to go where he has led, to become as he is: a man who has died and now is alive forevermore.

So I have abandoned safety and strain forward “toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). I’m not going to make it in this life. But I’m not going to stay where I am, either. Following that way is excruciating, and it is incandescently golden. I know that there is no other way.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

“New and Improved”—Yeah, Right

With some trepidation, I switched over to an upgraded version of Blogger a few days ago, and found that my apprehensions were fulfilled. Often when the computer world (or elsewhere) promises something "new and improved", it's a time to worry.

Much of the worry is that, to make the new thing work, I'll have to learn some new skills. Another part of the worry is that very often whatever worked fine in the old version gets messed up in the new version. I've found that posting in the new version of Blogger has become exasperatingly more difficult. Fonts and font size don't obey commands to go to the desired state, extra paragraph marks and html notations appear out of nowhere and firmly resist being removed, and formatting (like underlines and placement on the page) disappears and I can't replace it. What used to take a minute now takes up to half an hour just to get some semblance of what I want—and even then I have to settle for something that is, at best, “readable”.

The big reason I switched is that the new version of Blogger promised that I will be able to list my archived material by theme, since it has become evident that I write blogposts in several categories. Some readers may be interested in only some of what I write. If they're interested in what I have to say about being orthodox in the Episcopal Church, they may be puzzled or bored by a post about a ruined adobe on a desert mountaintop.

So if Blogger can’t or won’t fix the problem, I will probably move this blog to another site which, I hope, will be more manageable. In the meantime, I’m sorry for formatting problems that may appear in these posts.

The Mud Caves

Eons ago a sea covered much of what is now southern California. Sediment covered its floor with mud. Then the sea evaporated and the land rose—or maybe it was the other way around. Either way, in a portion of the Anza-Borrego Desert there are now vast mud palisades that have been hardened by fierce sunlight into near brick-like consistency and are occasionally carved by heavy rains. Today caves and arroyos and slot canyons are found in abundance, presenting unusual formations in the starkness of the terrain.

The mud caves are located in Tapiado Canyon off a two-lane asphalt road at the end of seven miles of dirt roads covered with sand. By midday on that March day in 2000, after we had climbed Ghost Mountain in the morning Father Richard and Marge had brought me to the mud caves. In the last leg of the journey, one bounces as if driving on a large washboard, incessantly jerking the wheel to avoid rocks and ruts, and eventually comes into a narrow canyon. When I was taken there the first time, not being fully enamored of being jounced around in the back seat of a Suzuki, I was (at best) merely enduring the experience in spite of the lavish promises from the Averys. When we finally came to a place where the opening of a great cave appeared, I dropped my jaw, and breathed, “Wow!” and then stayed silent and stared.

A huge opening had appeared before me, shaped with graceful curves, swirling sharply off to the right with an entrance at foot level about eight feet wide, widening at the middle, then narrowing into closure at the top. As far as we could tell, we were at least ten miles from another living being.

We entered the great cave—technically a canyon since it was open to the sky in most places—and walked just a short distance before sitting down to picnic in the dimness a few turns from the entrance. After we’d cleaned up the lunch things, we traipsed the twisting passages throughout the length of the cave until it eventually widened out and all but disappeared.

I learned later that there are maybe two dozen mud caves in the area, several of which are easy to get to. In the company of others I have traversed several of these passageways and marveled at their graceful, water-carved contours. One has an incredible skylight thirty or forty feet above the floor of a sizable chamber. I have said Mass there on a Sunday morning for a small group.

Grateful to the Averys for revealing this wonder to me, I determined to return at the first opportunity, which turned out to be six or seven months later. The first time I had seen the cave it was a Friday, and we were utterly alone. This time it was a Saturday. When I arrived, there were about twenty Jeeps, Suzukis, Jimmys, Isuzus, etc., two tent cities, and a boy scout troop on hand. A good fifty people milled around. But when I entered the great cave, I found, surprisingly, that there was no one else there.

The previous March I had seen a small crevice on the left side of the path inside the great cave, but it was entirely dark and I didn’t go far into it. This time I planned to explore it and had intended to bring a flashlight, but realized when I was a few miles away from my destination that I had forgotten, so bought four house candles at a general store not far from the cutoff to Ghost Mountain.

This time I entered the small crevice, carrying a candle. Barely narrow enough to accommodate a human being and closed overhead with probably 40 feet of dried mud between the spelunker and the sky, I moved down the passage. It kept going, twisting and wrapping around beyond my ability to keep track of direction. I grew uncomfortable but continued. I wandered through the curves and passages, not seeing a straight line of any length anywhere.

It turned out to be a terrific passage, with skylights here and there, and a place or two where the explorers have to lift themselves up over shelves to continue the journey. This genuine cave eventually opened up on top of the palisade into a depressed place. Clearly the rainwater gathers there and over the years has carved out smaller caves on its journey to the main passage and eventually the main canyon.

It was a nearly unique place of marvelous beauty—with a smidgen of danger. Being made of mud (the technical name is “pseudokarst”), no matter how hard it may be, the walls and ceilings are subject to cave in. The floors are littered with small and sometimes alarmingly large chunks of extremely dense and heavy mud detritus that have fallen.

I have been back to Tapiado Canyon about a dozen times since 2000 and brought probably fifty people there during these visits. At the end of this month (January 2007) I will go again with about eight people to camp for two nights.

There is one last bit that may interest those who know that I wrote the nine-volume Starman series. Writing these books was a project that occupied me from 2000 to 2005. When I first saw the great mud cave, I immediately thought, “tint the soil with a little red and you’ve got Mars.” Right away I knew the scene must appear in the books of the Starman series, which I was just then beginning to write. In those books Mars is a dry planet, sun-baked for millennia, then experiencing heavy rains repeatedly for the first time in centuries. The mud palisade and the intricate mud cave system are featured in the first book of the Starman saga.

Here are two links that will provide a little more information about the mud caves, including photographs.



Monday, January 01, 2007

The Ruin on Ghost Mountain

“There’s a mountain not far from here where, many years ago, a man lived with his wife and children. He was a writer of some kind.”

My interest was piqued. This sounded a little familiar. I had heard a story something like this not too long before. “Do you know his name?” I asked.

“Hmmm, no. I could look it up.”

“Would you recognize it if you heard it?”


“Was it Marshal South?”

“That sounds familiar.” Marge opened a tour book, ruffled through a few pages, and said, “Yes. Marshal South.”

It was early in 2000. I was visiting the Anza-Borrego Desert wilderness in California, not far from the Mexican border. Father Richard and Marge had told me of the wonders of this particular desolate area, and then had invited me to join them for a couple of days there in their motor home. On our first morning, we were talking over the breakfast table after the dishes had been cleared, planning our escapades for the day. I asked if we could make the Marshal South home our first stop. As it was only a few miles away, they agreed.

Locking and leaving the motor home, we piled into the four-wheel drive Suzuki and found state road S-2. Six miles south of where it leaves Scissors Crossing at Little Pass, we turned onto a dirt road. Putting the Suzuki into four-wheel drive mode, we surged onward over corrugated roadway until we came, about two miles farther, to a dead end. A trail one mile long began there, leading to the top of Ghost Mountain and the site of the ruined abode built by author Marshal South and his wife Tanya.

Marshal South, described in our various tour guides as “interesting”, “audacious”, and “eccentric”, loved life in the desert, and most of his writings—magazine articles, poetry, and novels—are set in the stark southwest. His novels were published in England 1935-1944, during the years he was living on Ghost Mountain. They bore the intriguing titles of Child of Fire, Flame of Terrible Valley, Gunsight, Juanita of the Border Country, The Curse of the Sightless Fish, Gold of the Gods, Robbery Range, and Tiburon: The Isle of the Shark.

After years of effort, a friend of mine and I were able to locate all of South’s eight novels, which are extremely scarce. They are compact, action-packed, smoking stories of the American southwest or northern Mexico. One is set in Papua New Guinea. The connoisseur has to live on adrenaline to read them. One, Flame of Terrible Valley, compresses its entire 256 pages into about twelve hours of hair-raising action. Whew!

The Souths settled on the top of Ghost Mountain in February 1932. With his income markedly reduced in the early years of the Depression, Marshal and his wife Tanya decided to live off the land much like the early Indians. The setting and their way of life would provide unequaled inspiration for his writing. They lived there for sixteen years and raised three children, who were born during their sojourn on the mountaintop.

With their own hands, they built an adobe home, which they called Yaquitepec (YAH-kee-teh-PECK) a word in an Indian dialect which means “Ghost Mountain”). Yaquitepec had an ingenious system for collecting rain water in the arid desert region. The Souths grew much of their own food. A monthly trip to Julian, a beautiful village about twenty miles away and dating from the gold mining days, enabled them to procure the few necessities they couldn’t provide for themselves. Everything they bought had to be carried up the trail to the top of Ghost Mountain.

Debarking from the Averys’ Suzuki, Father Richard and I began to follow the same trail. Although the trail is only a mile long, I found it a bit of a challenge. It has several switchbacks as it rises steeply, quickly. The last two hundred yards cause the hiker to breathe very deeply indeed, with several areas where the trail consists of stones laid like stairs, and just as steep. As I wheezed over these chunks of flecked granite, I wondered if they had been placed by Marshal South. I found out later they hadn’t been.

The hike is well worth the effort, though the site was abandoned a little more than half a century ago. The hill is studded with boulders, and features stands of ocotillo and barrel cactus, clumps of agave and yucca, and scattered but plentiful creosote bushes. After stepping along for about half an hour, Father Richard and I came upon the ruins of the Souths’ home. It is rapidly eroding into the desert, but much still remains. The adobe walls were about two to three feet high, and the primary frames of the building stood at odd angles, dark and fiercely weathered. The bolts that held them together were rusted the color of very strong tea. A bed frame the same color, with a few springs, was situated inside the main room. Several cisterns were open to the sky to collect the rainwater. All were dry. A few feet away was a small pool I could imagine being used for bathing. The cisterns and pool were lined with a smooth layer of concrete about two inches thick, moderately cracked but still showing signs of the care with which it had been installed.

Fifty years can take a lot away from an abandoned home, even on the top of an isolated mountain. The view, however, both to east and west, was of rare beauty and far distance.

After the second World War, the Depression was over and life was better. Or perhaps it just got too hard for Tanya after living on a mountaintop for sixteen years, by that time raising three children. In 1946, she took the children and left Yaquitepec and her husband. Marshal abandoned the home to the elements and went to stay with friends in Julian. No more novels came after those years. He died two years later and is buried in the old Julian cemetery. His grave was unmarked until January 2005.

Toward the end of this month, with a group of eight or so friends, I plan to return to Ghost Mountain on the way to a two-day camping trip to the mud caves in the bleak Anza-Borrego Desert. I’ll write on this blog about the mud caves in a few days.