Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Thoughts on Sky Mesa Journal

Sky Mesa Journal by Judith Deem Dupree, published by Wipf and Stock Publishers

FOR LOCAL READERS: Judith will be featured at an Author Talk at the Alpine Library (1752 Alpine Blvd.) this Thursday, October 20, from 6:00-8:00 PM. She will be reading from Sky Mesa Journal and discussing the genesis and the publication of the book. Judith will also have some books for sale, and she will happily sign copies.  

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"One could say Sky Mesa Ranch is a smallish noun, verbed out by the countryside around it. . . . 

"And, in a way, all that lies upon this small uplift, all that transpires, that respires here, is a microcosm of the Life beyond life that draws our eyes upward. A parable, something of a parallel. The mundane, the spiritual, nature in its every aspect." 

~from Sky Mesa Journal by Judith Deem Dupree

Sky Mesa consists of pale shades of brown, beige, and gray pierced by the vibrant blue skies of late summer in the arid hills of Alpine, east of San Diego.

Judith and I drove slowly through the remnants of Sky Mesa Ranch on a day in late August. Not much remains of the ranch that becomes yet another quirky character in Judith's nonfiction book, Sky Mesa Journal. In fact, the setting of Sky Mesa Ranch assumes a life of its own, complete with vagaries of mood, its ancient secrets wafting on dry puffs of breeze not at all refreshing. Just hot . . . breathlessly hot.

Houses that can best be described as cookie-cutter mansions, tall with pretension, perch on hillsides stripped of spicy-scented, pale green chaparral. Instead, manicured landscaping fills the empty spaces between newly-stamped luxury homes which stare down their long noses at us. Windows shimmer--empty eyes in empty neighborhoods--as we navigate Judith's Camry Hybrid through the narrow, winding streets, perfectly asphalted. The once expansive acres feel closed-in; I fight a swelling of claustrophobia rising in my throat.

The corner of Sky Mesa Road and LaForce Road in Alpine, California

Finally we find the corner we're looking for: Sky Mesa Road, named for the extensive ranch where Judith stayed the summer twenty-five years ago and wrote Sky Mesa Journal, meets LaForce Road, called after the former owner of the ranch, Bea LaForce.  Appearing from time to time in Judith's journal of that long-ago summer, Bea LaForce was truly a Force to be reckoned with in the village of Alpine. A town, still rather small, nestling into the nooks of hills, boulders, sharp-smelling chaparral, and wizened oaks.

But Judith describes more than the coming demise of Sky Mesa Ranch in her journal of memoir and meditation that she drafted that summer of 1991. Writing of far more than the ranch that outstripped Bea's ability to care for it, far more than the odd collection of critters at the ranch: Linda the donkey, Vesla the cat, Annie Goose, and Cockadoo the proud rooster with his bevy of hens, Judith ponders her spiritual life . . . and ours as well. How do we push forward into the places of God's richness and plenty when all seems arid, blowing further out of reach with every puff of heated wind?

Yet here at the ranch-that-was-no-longer-to-be, we can glimpse Truth with Judith through the wealth of solitude well-spent, alert with listening ear and rambling pen and eyes that see beyond hillside and boulder to the very Kingdom of God.

In Sky Mesa Journal, Judith invites us to journey with her through the hard, painful, dry places into the refreshment of spiritual oasis. Her poetic words and musical phrases mirror the rhythm of nature that surrounded her that summer a quarter century ago. Yet she revised this journal over the last few years as Writer-in-Residence for Ruminate Magazine, shaping and reshaping it with meditations on our modern world and its problems to be solved: Our crumbling environment. Our greed and covetousness. Global hunger and poverty. The "Mid-East mired in deeply and viciously in fratricide." The ever-present problem of evil and the sin in our own hearts.      

Near the end of Sky Mesa Journal, Judith writes:
You, each of you, need a Kingdom-of-God place--a Sky Mesa--some-Place to go to within when your soil is baked and cracked with drought and there is no water, no cloven clouds on your horizon. May you find your way to it. May he lead you there! For you it will be smaller or larger, greener or hillier or flatter, a back lot or back country or back bedroom, alone or not. But within its fluid borders lies your Promised Land. It's all there inside you, waiting.
That's where we want to go. That's where we need to go. We each need to find our Sky Mesa.

And may we do so.

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It has been my privilege to assist Judith with some of the proofreading and "techy" side of publishing Sky Mesa Journal. From employing my grammar-Nazi "skillz" to learning how to insert edits into the publisher's proofs to posting Judith's amazing blogged thoughts at This Higher Point of Land to assisting with social media promotion, it's been wonderful to come alongside Judith and be her "right-hand woman." And I was fortunately one of the first to read Sky Mesa Journal . . . which is a prize in and of itself.  

This is a book unlike most others. Yes, I can claim the cliche: "I laughed; I cried." And I did. But my heart also swelled with wonder and my soul somehow grew three sizes bigger as a result of reading and pondering this little book so chock-full of truly God-sized thoughts. 

It's the Kingdom, baby. That's what Sky Mesa is.  

Wishing you all a wonderful week,


Reina M. Williams said...

Thanks for sharing, Suzanne! Sounds like a wonderful read. I look forward to delving in.

Susanne Barrett said...

Thanks, Reina!! It's a marvelous book; I think you'll really enjoy it! :)

Susanne :)


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