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It’s about this time of year I start wondering if I am going to Elk camp again. Understand, I am not supposed to go. Women aren’t invited. But since it’s the place of Jake’s homegoing and life has taken the uncles and friends to different starting points towards that Colorado mecca since Jake went to Heaven, their carpools aren’t what they used to be. It has been my choice to drive with my Silent Bob the last couple of years, to avoid him taking that long drive by himself, just about the time the aspens start turning in the Rocky mountains.

Now co-driving to Elk Camp shouldn’t necessarily involve me staying in Elk Camp, but the fact that I always convince myself I can find some one-way ticket back once I get there, or I underestimate how long it will take me to get to the last flight out, I have managed to wrangle, mostly unintentionally, an invite to camp until I can find my way home.

For some reason, on these hot days of Houston summer, I am remembering those trips, those stays, with a special kind of longing.

I guess it’s in part because my soul feels something when I kneel at that makeshift memorial, beneath the dying tree there on that mountain, the place where I have talked out loud to God, when the guys were out scouting.

I guess it’s because last year, wearing Jake’s old boots, I tramped around camp, with the snow lightly falling, flakes covering everything with a soft blanket including the toes of his boots, and as if the moisture laden air itself cocooned our camp, my heart too, blanketed by memory and emotion, had time to rest in the mountain air as nature, herself prepared for her own cold repose.

I guess it’s because my Josh, my youngest soldier son, will be going back to Iraq soon, a trip that forces familiar patterns of worry and pride and mother-missing-child, and long distance birthdays of Christ’s and sons.

Strange, really, the thoughts of this odd old woman who, having breathed the clean crisp air of snowy, Colorado autumns, amongst the ribald laughter of hunters and husband, finds remembered solace there.

There are places in our experience where the feelings of sadness run so deep that they make a sanctuary, a place where upon revisiting them, the perfectly distilled moments that brought us to our knees are balanced by the recognition that one day, some day, we have the promise of everlasting reunions and all tears wiped away.

It’s Christmas in July, this July, a Colorado Fall in the summer heat, because I have spent borrowed time in the cold and snow up on Electric Mountain.

I just may find an excuse to go there again this year, presumptuous of welcome, an interloper, in a place where I feel comfortable and sheltered by God, by snowy mountain air, and a group of men who do their best to pretend I am not a burden and in doing so, shelter me with an odd affection.

Did I mention they always dry out my (well Jake’s) boots for me? They do.