The Church of Itinerant Musicians

itinerant musician
seek ye first

My home church has been welcoming itinerant musicians for as long as I can remember. St. Anne’s is a small mission church, 50 miles from everywhere in Northern Arizona. When I arrived here, there was a choir and an organist. Within a few years, that entire group had moved on and I became the organist and choir director. I was able to recruit a guitar player who handled the Spanish speaking music. We work well together. He holds the music together now, and graciously welcomes me to join him whenever I am back in town. For years, we have welcomed any musicians traveling through to join us. We have been blessed with some beautiful voices and instruments through the years. We are so hungry for beautiful music. Our pastors have graciously smiled upon this. In such a small community, we are totally dependent upon God’s merciful provision for our spiritual needs. There was even a period of a few years that we relied upon visiting priests only, as we didn’t have a pastor assigned to us. Even then, the Sunday without Mass was rare.

I miss my music ministry when I am on the road. So I am eternally grateful to join in whenever I can. And eternally grateful to step back in as though I never left, when I am home. There are times when I need to sit back and soak in the music ministry of others. But a musician sings and plays, a writer writes, an artist creates because they must. We are driven. It is life to us. We must share or die. And if we die sharing, then life has been good.

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Big Church Little Church

I have to admit, I am partial to little churches and missions. My “home” congregation consists of about 60 families. I like the intimacy, the colorful characters, even the feuding. To me, it is so much more like a family. Yes, we have our differences, we frequently do not get along, but we pull together in times of crisis and need. It is our Catholic life.

In a big church, I feel lost. There seem to be so many people and so much to do. I lose focus. I get complacent. There are too many choices. The children are sent out during Mass, not taught to sit quietly, participate fully and honor the Sacrament. The music is modernized to entertain and attract an audience. Just my take on things.

Inside tiny Stella Maris, Lamar, TX

I walk in to a big, modern Catholic church and I can’t find the holy water. I want to bless myself with it when I walk in and when I walk out. It is a sacramental reminder of my devotion. Now, there is usually one large font, instead of the small ones at each door. I feel funny walking up to that big baptismal pond to use the holy water, then find my way out.

St. Anne’s, Deming, NM


I still want to genuflect when I enter the pew where I am going to sit. I am here for Mass and I want to honor my Host. I want to put the kneeler down and spend some quiet time in prayer and thanksgiving before and after Mass.  Most often, now, the Blessed Sacrament is not even kept in the main part of the church, but in an attached adoration chapel. I guess that’s okay for big churches.

View from Lake Lodge rec room, Yellowstone NP, Wyoming

On this pilgrimage of slow travel, I have attended Mass in churches in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Texas. It is always an adventure, come Saturday, to find out where we will be attending Mass on Sunday. The Holy Eucharist is always nourishing and enriching. Small churches just ensnare my heart. St. Anne’s in Ash Fork and St. Francis in Seligman, Arizona, where I had the honor of leading the music for 15 years. The rec room of the Lake Lodge in Yellowstone NP, Wyoming, where we attended when we were there for my daughter’s wedding. St. Anne’s in Deming, NM, where we worshiped after a long night of trying to find a campsite in the dark. Stella Maris, outside of Goose Island SP, Texas, where we shivered on top of an AC vent, until someone realized it was cold outside and in and turned it off. The pastor there had recently been healed of stage 4 cancer and spoke confidently about God’s merciful love and healing. 

This week of our full-time rving life, this awesome road trip, we will be celebrating Ash Wednesday in a big church in Texas and we will be grateful to have found another spiritual home on the road.

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Surviving Slow Travel

Bluebird sitting atop beloved pet’s grave marker

I believe I have endured enough road hazards to my work in my slow-travel, full-time-rv life during the last six weeks. I am ready for some smooth sailing for awhile. My son’s other grandma died (my mom died 2 years ago) just before Easter. I posted on Facebook that I would be taking 2 weeks off to help the family with funeral arrangements and such. 

Quirky quail now populate the old homestead

As I geared up to get hard back to work, my computer crashed. So did my son’s. Then, for 2 weeks at the Northern Arizona homestead, we had no internet or cell phone service. Luckily, the local library (7 miles away from the house, 20 minute drive each way) had their internet up and their computers working. This was good for quick email and Facebook checks, ordering new (used) computers from ebay, and having them sent to our next stop – my dad’s. Not so good for keeping up with writing or posting blogs. Without a computer to get everything ready to post, it takes far longer than the librarians want a single patron to stay on the shared computers. Not to mention, I don’t want my son playing computer games all that time…

Ginormous jack-rabbits forage in front of the old chicken coop

Out here in sunny, warm California (did I mention it is sooo nice to be out of the cold?) we spent our first week getting ready for my son John’s wedding to his long-time sweetheart. Such a beautiful, wonderful time.


Now, having finished setting up, installing programs and testing our new computers, I can get back to work. I can’t wait to tell all about the Alligator Farm in Colorado, finding community on the road, and our visit to some shrines in Chimayo, New Mexico. But first, some much needed California relaxation at the beach


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Spooky Skate Park

 

So what about a break from all the sightseeing and touring? How about a place for the kids to blow off steam and work up a sweat? We’re here again, in the City of Williams, Arizona, enjoying an afternoon at the Recreation Center, which also has a separate Skate Park, designed by local youth. All activities are free, just sign a waiver, adult supervision is provided (although I tend to stay here and provide my own supervision for Yak). Unfortunately the swimming pool is not open during the winter. If you find yourself here during the summer, however, the cost is minimal, $4 adults, $2 children for the summer of 2013.

 

 

A play park is in the same complex, so there is a little bit of something for everybody. Yak and I enjoyed several games of ping-pong and a few rounds of pool in the rec center one day. For movie nights and other free and low cost family events put on by the City of Williams Parks and Recreation Department, visit the Williams Chamber of Commerce website and click on Events and Community Calendar. You can also find a list of parks at the City of Williams website.

 

 

One of the few things Yak and his friends like better than swimming is rollerblading. Since we live about 30 miles away from Williams, it gets inconvenient if we forget something we need there. Not to fear, “The Shed”, as the skate park is called, stocks free loaners of rollerblades, pads and helmets, as well as skateboards. The equipment is sprayed with disinfectant after each use, just like at roller and ice rinks. Still, we’re more comfortable with our own gear.

 

 

I hope you enjoy hearing about the offbeat things for kids and families to do on the road. As we prepare to hit the road full-time, I’ve begun to think about ways for my son to continue with his hobbies and interests, and these things will also help him to find new friends as we travel. If you would like to read more about our adventures in downsizing and preparing to homestead, homeschool and live simply while traveling slowly, head over to our sister blog Around the Homestead (by Mrs. D’s Homestead).

 

Meanwhile…

Happy Trails!

 
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Bill Williams Mountain Trail, Williams, Arizona

The perfect days of a Northern Arizona autumn are here, yet I am reflecting upon one of my favorite summer hikes. When the temperatures rise in Ash Fork, I take the boy up to Williams, where it’s 5-10 degrees cooler, with a lot more shade. Bill Williams Mountain Trail #21, is the main trailhead located at the Williams Ranger Station. Several other trails can be accessed from it, including Clover Spring and City of Williams Link Trail. Bill Williams Mountain is a great day hike, though there are some fairly steep patches on the way up. For a beginning to intermediate hiker, this will just mean a few extra rest stops and a reminder that the return trip is all downhill. 


This trail wanders through ponderosa pines, oak, aspen and fir, with a bit of rock climbing thrown in. Well, not actually climbing, but for a 10 year old boy, we call it that. There are dozens of small dens to observe, most will be empty during the day, but have caution lest you come upon a sleeping critter or a new mother with her litter. Several viewpoints offer a glimpse of the town of Williams. You will likely hear the train whistle at some point, if you make the entire 6 mile round trip. The Grand Canyon Railway leaves Williams for the Canyon at 9:30a.m. and returns at 5:45p.m. daily.


The reward at the top of the trail is the Bill Williams Lookout tower, still occasionally manned by the Forest Service. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll get invited up to take in the spectacular view, as a friend of mine did. One thing this same friend mentioned is that it is also possible to drive to the top on Forest Road 111, so if hiking is not for you, or if you just want to make the one way trip, you can still enjoy the mountain.


Though the trail is very clear, we still saw a few of these marking tapes (pink ribbon on the tree) along the way, hmm…
The yellow plate on this tree identifies it as a “bearing tree”, a part of the Public Lands Survey System, identifying land boundaries and locations long before the GPS was even conceived.


As you can see here, Yak is carrying his walking stick. We don’t always use them, but they are very helpful. He’s also got water and gatorade easily accessible from the outside pockets of his daypack. Inside, I happen to know, are an apple, chips, a granola bar and a camera, notebook and pen. He also has a hoodie and hat stowed in there. Even if you think you’re just going on a short hike, it’s a good idea to be prepared. You never know what’s up around the bend…

Happy Trails!

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