Lee Stone opened the door and the sweet smell and the vibrant colors of the cherry blossoms greeted us. Lee Stone looked off dreamily as the song, “Like a Rock,” by Bob Segar transplanted us back to California and the beginning of Salvador. This is the story Lee Stone related to me.
I remember the winter cabin near Incline Village Nevada. There I was, a young man, sitting on the front porch. They called me Charles Liston back then. The main light in the living room glowed with the warmth of the fire in the fireplace. I sauntered into the living room and sat in my recliner. My wife, Virginia, sat in her back room meditating on her rosary as I meditated on my favorite song, “I am a Rock,” by Paul Simon.
When Virginia finished her rosary, she came out and began this angry discussion. “You need to stop feeling so sorry for yourself and meditate on the rosary. You are a successful hotshot with the Nevada Fish and Game.”
I put my part into the discussion with the words of Billy Joel, “Only the Good Die Young, “Come out Virginia, Don’t let me wait. You Catholic girls start much too late but sooner or later it comes down to fate. I might as well be the one.”
Virginia argued back, “I might as well be the one what? My Catholic faith is the ultimate reality. I am not late to anything!”
I retorted, “They showed you a statue and told you to pray. They built you a temple and locked you away. They never told you the price that you pay for the things that you might have done.”
Virginia fought back, “I pray to God and he does what I ask. I am not some bird in a cage. I choose to spend my time with God and not in the secular world.”
I asked, “Does your mother say a prayer for me?”
Virginia Liston gave the information, “There is an eccentric man in Sacramento who is the son of a deacon there, I want you to meet. He is not like the others. He spends most of his time out of doors, goes fishing, and hangs out with the working class folk. Go talk with him and see what he says.”
I said, “Done!”
I was talking with Curtis E. John by Christmas. First, I must tell you that before I arrived at the Folsom Lake on the American River I met some conservatives passing out pamphlets.
One person from their group came up informing me, “We are from the tea party up the street. Take a pamphlet; help stamp out abortion once and forever.”
I gave my opinion, “Where do you stand on the living wage and the right of all people to live life to its fullest in dignity?”
The man from the tea party presented his view, “We can’t stand up for all issues. I see you are passionate about yours. Join us in ours.”
I retorted, “We are a minority in support of our issue and need your help.”
The man argued, “We can’t stop abortion until people stop making excuses and join our cause.”
I chirped, “You say it well. We are each a minority. Neither of us can accomplish our goals as long as the other insists on making excuses for not participating. Let me know when you are ready for a true pro-life stand.”
I turned and faced them, “Let me know when you support a pro-life stand that begins at conception and ends at natural death. Let me know when you agree that true life is life lived to its fullest. Let me know when you agree that pro-life means pro-life for all people and not just a couple of rich guys from Texas.”
As we strode away, Curtis E. John told me, “There is no need to talk with that kind. They already have all the answers. They do not need to listen to the views, and the pains of others. They already have their solutions.”
I sighed as I thought, “You cannot hope to convert them to your way of thinking; you don’t want to give up your salvation by being converted to theirs. They bear the seeds of their destruction. There is nothing to do, but walk away and leave them to their own end.”
I must tell you that I was one argumentative cuss.
The first words out of my mouth when I met Curtis prove my point, “Just how is hiding in dark churches going to prepare me for a life in the light of Almighty God?”
Curtis just looked at the scenery around us and gave his view, “Look around. Are you in some darkened church?”
We were standing by Folsom Lake on a cold December day and it was very sunny.
Curtis continued, “Mass is a fancy Latin word and it means departure; in the Latin it ends with Mitte est. Go now to love and serve God. We, the people, you and I, are the Bride-of-Christ.”
Curtis looked at a young couple nearby, “Look at that couple and the park bench they sit on. Think of the pews at Mass.”
We were to meet that couple again. I noticed she wore a name badge from the place she worked at. It read “Anna Lynn.”
Curtis continued, “Mass is the romantic place where we learn about how God has reached out, touching us, the Bride-of-Christ. It is also about how we respond.”
Curtis looked at me. “You are right. If Mass is not romantic, we are not doing our part in presenting the groom, the Mighty Judge, to the people.”
By Easter, I was a regular at the outdoor meetings of this nice man named Curtis. Half a dozen moons came and went and summer arrived. With it came the High Holy Days, starting with the feast of Christ the King. I meandered down a long lonely highway, more into myself than what was coming out of the mouth of Curtis.
I thought about another image of my youth. It was a bright and beautiful fall day. That’s was me again, a young vibrant man, hiking down a long lonely road in the late afternoon on Highway 6. It is lovely near Folsom, California.
Just ahead, was my dog, Sam, running up and down the road, trying to get me to throw sticks for him to chase and taking time to smell the purple flowers.
I told myself, “This is communion, being in communion with God and nature.”
In my hand was a large piece of paper, a seemingly unused target, except for where a member of the staff stapled it to a board. There was the singing of the birds and there were frogs in the pond that seemed to be keeping time with the Tommy James song, “Draggin’ the Line.” There was a cross in the road. Coming from the main road, Natoma Street, was a very charitable and kind man, the cousin of Salvador.
As we hiked down the road, we must have been a sight; one of us had hair, old and gray. The other with blazing red hair resembled the fire of the late afternoon sun. One had cool green eyes that reminded one of a Nevada meadow. They gave warmth that never seemed to burn.
The other man, me, had warm eyes, those of a cat who had just found and lost its mouse, his dinner for the day. The personality of the older man, charitable and kind, came out in the way he moved down the road and held himself erect, as well as in the quiet smile upon his face.
He looked at me and the troubled look on my face seemed to talk on its own, “We are the wheat of the field. We are here today and gone tomorrow. We are the breath of the wind in the clear blue sky.”
Curtis added, “A Greater breath exists, one that lasts forever, a Mighty One who controls everything. We are like the grass, here, but for a very short time. We are like the frogs and the birds, the ants and the worms, and we are loved.”