SEDUCED


“Thus says the Lord: I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart” (Hosea 2:13).

Dateline: July 8, 2024: Quality Inn and Suites I-10, Indio, California

They don’t say what KIND of quality…and when they say I-10, turns out they don’t mean near the freeway, they mean ON the freeway…

Some people this time of year go to a refreshing beach, or a lake where they can fish and listen to the loons, or to a cabin in the piney mountains. I chose the Coachella Valley, which promises to top out each day this week at over 110 degrees. Yesterday the high was 115 and the low, which means around 4 a.m., 82.

Today will be high 120/low 88.

You know when you’re baking cookies or roasting a chicken and you open the oven door to check how things are coming along and the heat rises up to your face? That’s what it feels like in the desert, except the heat envelopes your entire body. And often there’s a wind.

Just try to get your mind around a wind that’s blowing 110-degree air.

It’s almost bizarrely entertaining, minus the awareness that after about five minutes of exposure you’d simply keel over and die.

Stopping for gas, you get to see some of your fellow travelers in the flesh. There they are, happily roaring along in their gigantic tank-like pickup trucks, scarfing down heat-lamped burritos, giant hanks of beef jerky, and bags of chemical-dusted taco chips. Gaily swilling Monster Energy drinks. Buying cigarettes, lotto tickets, condoms, bullets…

Aside: I get the distinct impression many of the large vehicle drivers dislike my little olive green Fiat! I am no slow-poke, trust me, but just the sight of my vehicle seems to incense them. They’re always scorching up on my rear, tail-gating when they could easily pass, and then clearing my back bumper by about two inches when they do pass.

God forbid I should pass one of them, which they take as a direct attack on their manhood, and which incites them to try to drag race. Please! No, be my guest. You go first. You can win. You win. No really, YOU win! Have another Red Bull!  

No but my heart goes out to la gente. If you stick to the main byways of life, there is so little beauty: No beauty in food, in architecture, in design. Thank heaven since no-one in their right mind would purposely travel to the desert this time of year the Quality Inn and Suites are mostly deserted. I asked for a room at the far end cause a guy was running what sounded like a pile driver at the other end (can you imagine using any kind of power tool in this heat?) and the back of the place is just piled with crap: pipes, old air conditioners, stray end tables.

THE VIEW FROM MY HOTEL ROOM WINDOW

Here’s the thing: the chambermaids were pushing their trolleys in this inferno and in the lobby an old lady was running a mop around the vending machines (you can buy a Dinty Moore beef stew in a cardboard container for $5.25 I noticed) and they both totally accommodated my request for ice and went out of their way to lead me down the right hall and the old lady whipped out a plastic bag to put it in. Just to walk an extra 15 feet in the blast furnace is a huge effort so I was touched to the core.

I used to spend tons of time researching and poking around and finding a charming little town in which to stay, or a little museum or a garden or Point of Interest, something of beauty, something to lighten the load of traveling. But these days—let’s just say I can relate ever more strongly to St. Thérèse of Lisieux who, when faced with the choice of a pretty pitcher or an ugly chipped one, chose the latter.

I used to think, Good Lord, what a masochist! Isn’t life hard enough without willfully insisting on the ugly thing?

But I’m not insisting on the ugly thing, and I don’t think Thérèse ever was either. It’s more that the hot, hard, ugly thing puts you in solidarity with everyone who doesn’t have a choice (and also is the path of least resistance as you get older and tireder and it’s all you can do to pack and drive).

I mean zillions of people, farmworkers, service people, live in the Coachella Valley and are keeping the place afloat and I like the idea of just being anonymously, quietly, hiddenly in the mix for the night. Setting up my little crucifix and praying and thinking of the people who work here at the hotel and the people who stay here, passing through, passing on, sojourners in this vale of tears (Indio is apparently home to Burning Man, a what sounds like infernal event involving tens of thousands of loud people): maybe at night looking up for a second and seeing the moon, or the stars. Wondering…

If I don’t get a walk in each day I kind of lose my mind so I set out at 5 this morning, which because of the heat is when you have to set out this time of year. An old guy was sitting on a bench in front of the Holiday Inn next door sucking on his morning cigarette in the semi-dark, and we gave each other the high sign. People up this early are either addicts of some kind needing their fix, weirdo loners, or dog walkers. We recognize and accommodate each other, and I love the feeling of being part of this particular little communion.   

It’s pretty hideous: Golf Course Drive, the traffic on the 10 vrooming by, the pesticide-laden smog. Then again, dawn was breaking over the mountains and that was beautiful even if the temp was already around 90. I headed toward what seemed a residential type street and happened upon banks of gated condos on both sides: Aliante, Tierra Tago, names like that.

A crow cawed from the top of a street lamp and I came across this desert creature who had probably been run over by a car and crawled up to the sidewalk to die. RIP.

Then I treated myself to a Starbucks to bring back to my air-conditioned room!

Where I will soon pack up and head to St. Andrew’s Abbey for a week-long retreat. The drive is 7-plus hours from Tucson and I stopped in Indio for the night to break up the trip and am glad I did. This way I can arrive in time for noon Mass at the monastery and not be frazzled and edgy and drained.

I had a thought about the Holy Trinity the other day: maybe there are three so they can spell each other. So they can sleep.

I’ve also been thinking about Jesus’s question to Philip, when he, Jesus, tells the disciples that he’s the Way, the Truth and the Life, and Philip says, “Show us the Father,” and Jesus replies, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9).

Genuinely wounded. Bewildered. How can you not know me, trust me, believe absolutely that you are loved?  That I am in the Father, and the Father is in me?

Of course he’s posing the question to each of us.

7 Replies to “SEDUCED”

  1. Alicia in Tampa. FL says: Reply

    Ah, Heather, you can make something holy out of the most mundane circumstance. And isn’t that the point, honoring the sacred moment, wherever it might be and whatever it may entail. I am reminded, be cause I just recently discovered them in your book, Fools for Christ, of your quotations of Threse of Lisieux and Brother Lawrence, respectively:
    – “ Each of us has no need to wonder about what God’s will must be for us; his will for us is clearly revealed in every situation of every day.”
    – “ The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.”
    Thank you!

  2. Paulette Renaudin says: Reply

    Hope the monastery provides all the peace you need after a night in that hotel! I’ll be praying for you on retreat.

  3. Anonymous says: Reply

    part of a prayer that seems appropriate for your musings:
    …Behold, O Lord, I offer your my entire being–in particular my thoughts, words and acts– together with such crosses and contradictions I may encounter during the course of this day; grant them ALL thy blessing. Animate them with thy divine love, that they may tend to the greater praise and glory of thy Sovereign Majesty.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Thank you all so much for these insights, prayers, quotes, for the support. The retreat I’m attending is on Benedictine hospitality and I’m sure will spur many more reflections down the line….

    2. How wonderful. Thank you, Anonymous.

  4. Your blog is a testament to your passion.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      I hope so…

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