Our first day in Oklahoma City (OKC the locals call it). We roam the city streets in hot pursuit of a hot meal, and on the way notice something odd: Every block has a huge Self-Storage building. Garish orange buildings that house storage units for people without basements or attics, or for people in between homes. Within 10 blocks we count 12 storage buildings and six moving companies. Why such a demand for storage, boxes and moving vans? Does anyone actually live here, or do they just store things here?
Under the mistletoe
An after-dinner stroll takes us to Lake Overholser along a thin sliver of tree-lined land that extends a mile out over the shimmering water, which reflects bare tree limbs and warm hues of the setting sun. Walkers, joggers and canoeists pass us on either side of this finger of land. But what's this? What's wrong with these trees? A messy cluster of green high in the treetops catches our attention. All the trees have what looks like a huge "Ghia Pet" lodged among their upper branches. A closer look reveals it to be mistletoe. What a delightful surprise. Mistletoe. Just in time for Christmas. The urge to climb the trees (they do look climb-able) to grab some fresh mistletoe for the holidays, is strong. But caution restrains us. For if we should lose our footing, we would surely plunge into the water below. We evaluate every tree we pass to see if we can scale it and relieve it of its mistletoe. None promises safety. The mistletoe is too high, and so is the risk. I wonder why mistletoe only grows high up top. Ken quickly provides the answer. "Local crafters," he conjectures. "They must harvest the low-lying mistletoe as soon as it appears." Yes, of course, that's it. Reluctantly we resign ourselves to remain under the mistletoe.
Food for thought . . .
At the Oklahoma National Stock Exchange today I stand on the visitor's catwalk high above the cattle pens that imprison hundreds of Brown-eyed, Yellow-tagged cows, soon to become Blue plate specials. At the sound of my footsteps the cows look up at me with a dull, relentless, penetrating stare, "It's your fault I'm here you burger-eating bogey," they accuse with their eyes. (Guilty as charged.) Those sad brown eyes. Stop staring at me! Soon their lives will end and I am the reason. Gotta get outta here. Tell Ken I'll wait for him in the truck. Can't take it anymore. The walk back to the truck convinces me never to eat meat again. When Ken returns I explain my new conviction. "Yea. I know." He says sympathetically. "I thought that, too. But then I realized they wouldn't even be alive if not for me. They are bred for us, Priscilla. And aren't all animals food to another creature? That's what life is." Instantly I recall my tour of the "Birds of Prey" museum in Idaho a few states back. No creature can escape becoming food for another.
Gimme shelter . . .
Today is the day to tour the State Capitol. As Ruby rounds the corner of the RV Park, heading toward the highway, I gaze out the passenger window and spot a trail of trash by the side of the road. The wind has blown the trash into a neat pile. A long line of litter lying on the ground like a colorful snake, 6-inches in diameter. Intrigued, by the tidy line of litter, I follow its path, which leads directly to a small pup tent set up under a Weeping Willow tree alongside the Interstate. Evidently someone lives here. On the highway I notice a pregnant woman dressed in army fatigues walking aimlessly on the edge of the highway and I wonder if she is the one living in that tent. But I also see two bearded men who both look like Rip Van Winkle, also walking along the highway, and wonder if it is they who live in the tent. Perhaps they all do. None of them is very old, maybe early thirties. I wonder what has happened to them to lead them to this highway hovel.
Frequently Ken mentions that he wants to see the Oklahoma City bombing site. I wince whenever he mentions it and quickly change the subject. I don't want to see the site. Can't see it. Not after what happened to Karen. Losing her to a maniac with a gun -- a total stranger -- is the one thing in life from which I shall never recover. Never. How can I see the bombing site when the anniversary of Karen's death is only three days away. December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day. The "Day of Infamy" as FDR called it. It's just too close. Too close to my heart. Too close to the time of her death.
But God has other plans for me. For as much as I try to divert Ken's attention, hoping he'll forget all about it, we are soon lost in the city and end up smack in front of the bombing site. Can't miss its overwhelming sadness. A chain link fence surrounds the site and everywhere along the fence are messages to the deceased along with religious icons, articles of clothing and prayers pinned to the chain link. Momentos left by survivors who lost loved ones at the hand of a monster, the same way I lost my angel of a sister. It is a colossal monument to sadness, especially the desolation and the horribly cold metal fence. That alone is too much for me to bear. But the white statue. Oh, that pure white statue of the weeping Jesus sets me off. I go back to the truck, slam the door, and sob. I cry for Karen and for all the people who suffered under man's inhumanity to man. Evil is always with us. Always was. Always will be.
I know now why God has led me here. The bomb that went off at this site left a gaping hole in the ground and a chain link fence went up immediately to protect the area. Well, that's just what happened to me when I got that call at 3 AM, when I answered the phone and Andy said, "Priscilla, this is Andy. Karen's dead." The words went off like a bomb in my heart and left a gaping hole, around which I immediately erected a chain link fence. That was ten years ago. And from that day forward no one else was allowed in my heart. Oh, occasionally a brave soul climbed under the fence and sneaked into my heart, but as soon as he was discovered, the border guards would be doubled to make sure it couldn't happen again. Seeing this site, (Thank you, God) has made me realize the fence must come down. I need to let people into my heart again. In a way, that's what I've secretly been hoping will come from this journey Ken and I are taking. I want to see the beauty and the good in the world and share it with others.I want to come back from this trip with a new love for my country and the people in it. I want to be a whole person again.