"For the long haul," the breakfast chef explained, sliding a mug toward me, steam poking its way past a happy mound of whipped cream.
"Oh, thank you!"
"Don't thank me until you've tried it," she ordered, smiling.
I sipped gently, wondering at the bits of spice flecking the cream.
I'd watched as this flavor-chantress spun together a potion of rich black coffee, brown sugar, a dash of salt, and a jolly hoard of other elements all drafted from cupboard and pantry in this wonderland called the Latigo kitchen.
I cradled the mug in my hands, suddenly warmed. I took another slow sip, wanting the goodness to continue, wishing to hold the day right where it was. It was a dreamy, impossible wish...because today was Saturday--the least favorite day of the week for Latigo housekeepers. Saturdays mean guest goodbyes, long hours, wading through knee-deep laundry, and a general havoc of chores--a bone wearying, endurance demanding day to close off a busy week. Saturdays simply aren't for faint hearts.
The day stretched before me, daunting. Morning mist was clinging to aspen tops and melting into gray skies. The mountains had vanished in their sheath of clouds. I love just-after-rain days when the air smells clean and wet and piney, and everything feels more than a bit enchanted. Today Robert Frost rings clear. The woods are lovely dark and deep. / But I have promises to keep. / And miles to go before I sleep.
Miles to go before I sleep. Well said, old chap. Another sip. This stuff is fortifying.
I had come to Latigo Ranch to be a housekeeper. One who had never stepped foot on a dude ranch in her life. Though there was much to learn, I figured something out very quickly: even the smallest act of service should be given as a gift.
There it was. Simple. Fifteen hundred miles west to learn it. Fifteen hundred miles worth it.
At Latigo, giving is part of every staff members' job description no matter what they do at the ranch. Helping a child mount a horse for the first time or learning new names by the stack, searching for a wayward cow or fixing a shower faucet, tackling a pile of dirty dishes with a will or simply smiling after a hard day--it's giving. Floor scrubbing, porch sweeping, Saturdays included. I’ve been surrounded by these gifts all summer.
Here, cupped in my hands, was yet another.
So what if there were days when I was tired of wet towels and muddy boots and hair in the drain? No one said giving was easy, but it is rewarding. If I could smile past the muddiness and wetness and hairiness - or better yet, in the midst of it--then that was a gift, too.
I'd read something recently. It was C.S. Lewis.
Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours.
Hmmmm, a puzzler but still ringing true. I would have to think on it...later. I looked into my empty mug, a smile brimming inside me. Right now there were goodbyes to say, cabins to clean, miles to go, gifts to give. It is still daunting, but today being Saturday and me a Latigo housekeeper, I feel nothing short of a veritable Santa.