Arthur and Phoebe Pack were remarkable people. In 1955 they donated a huge tract of land – about the size of the island of Manhattan – to the Presbyterian Church as an education and conference center.
It’s known as Ghost Ranch (www.ghostranch.org) and is located just outside the small northern New Mexico village of Abiquiu, where the wonderful artist Georgia O’Keeffe lived and painted. If I've remembered to put it on the page here today, you'll see a photo of Ghost Ranch I took a few years ago (so you don't have to look at me today). The ranch is about an hour north of Santa Fe. I teach at Ghost Ranch each summer. (When you’re at the ranch’s Web site, open up the catalogue and look for a class I’ll co-teach July 11-17 with my pastor, Dr. Edward Thompson.)
Recently, a retired Presbyterian minister who attends my church (www.secondpres.org) and knows of my love for Ghost Ranch loaned me a 64-page booklet, “The Ghost Ranch Story,” which I previously hadn’t known about. Arthur Pack wrote it, and it was published in 1960. I’ve known the name Pack ever since I started going to Ghost Ranch 10 years ago, but I didn’t have a sense of the man’s humor, faith and self-reliance until I read his little booklet.
Nor did I know about a part of his life before he met and married Phoebe. It’s a part that must have been exhaustively painful. Here’s the sort of cryptic way he tells it:
“Some months later it seemed that the Brujos (or evil spirits) had now turned against me. One day my wife set off for Santa Fe in her car. She never returned. For me there was no balm in Gilead, only the steely, hard outline of Pedernal – an inscrutable mountain against an unforgiving sky. Neither the children nor I could endure the adobe walls of a house that was no longer a home. I moved my little family over to the Ghost House, there to try to pick up the shattered pieces of life and seek a new beginning.”
Each of us gets wounded in different ways. Even if we don’t know the particulars of the injury, we must be sensitive to the times when something we say or do reopens those wounds in others. On no basis whatsoever, I’ve long assumed that Arthur and Phoebe Pack were married only once, and always to each other. I never knew about the wife who simply left for Santa Fe and never returned.
I need to remember that many of the people I meet every day could tell similarly painful stories about themselves – as could I.
To read my weekly column in the Faith section of The Kansas City Star and my other work, go to www.kansascity.com and click on “FYI” on the left side of the opening page. Then click on “Faith” or on my name.
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