FacebookTwitterGoogle+DiggPinterestBloggerWhat a business trip that was. And what a sight for sore eyes. Or wait. A sight for frostbitten eyes is what it was.
I nearly felt bad announcing it. Two weeks out, I’d posted a summer picture of the BOP (Bright Orange Purse) and me with this, “In two weeks, this girl and that purse will be headed to Florida. Now let the blocking, unfriending and general resentment begin.” And with that, I slunk off, waiting for the howls of frustration and growling to subside.
All at once, the days and weeks had flown, and we were leaving our parkas in the van, slip-sliding for a shuttle bus as fast as our suitcase wheels could go. We were flying on an airline named Spirit.
It was my very first time in the Sunshine State. Driving along the I-75 corridor, I took it all in, devouring the water and palm trees and green, growing grass with eyeballs that were, at last, thawing. Not a snowflake in sight; just tropical beauty as far as I could see.
Beneath Florida sun, I remembered the prayer I had prayed. “Lord, ordain all of my appointments.” How I’d learned to love that prayer. Living in dependence on the Holy Spirit made for the most fulfilling, exciting kind of life, and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen.
In reality, it was a divine appointment that took us there. Two years ago, my path had crossed with a cookbook author named Sherry Gore from the village of Pinecraft in Sarasota. She had just started a magazine, “Cooking & Such: Adventures in Plain Living.” Since then, Grounds for Insanity had run in this international magazine, and I was serving as the editor. Even better, we’d become very close friends. And so it was that when I contacted her about visiting, she said, “Come for the pie contest! You can be a judge.”
What an experience it is, just being in Pinecraft. A village only eight blocks wide, it’s a winter destination for thousands, mostly Amish and Mennonites, who pack houses, cottages and streets. Orange trees grow in tiny back yards, palm trees flourish, and everywhere, people.
Down at the park, serious men play checkers over by the pavilion. A fleet of two- and three-wheeled bikes sits by the shuffleboard courts, which are diligently cleaned and waxed in Pinecraft tradition. They are serious.
Over at the Tourist Mennonite Church, Pioneer Trails buses arrive, discharging rumpled passengers from Indiana and Ohio. The parking lot’s packed. Folks mill around, waiting to greet family and friends. It’s a circus. The bus finally comes, the crowd disperses and Mr. Schrock and I indulge in another Pinecraft tradition—Big Olaf’s ice cream.
On Friday, it’s pie. The third annual Pinecraft Pie Contest is being held in the parking lot of Everence bank. It sits across the street from another local landmark, Yoder’s Restaurant.
At Sherry’s suggestion, we arrive in style, chauffeured by Mr. Yoder in his solar-powered buggy. Already, a crowd has gathered. Area bakers have been up early, and pies of every description are rolling in.
It’s chilly today, although “chilly” is relative when at home we’ve got pipes that are freezing. The prospect of sampling all 29 pies takes my mind off the cold, and the judging starts up in earnest.
The three categories are fruit, one crust and cream. We inspect each one carefully before taking a bite, then score it carefully on paper. When the votes are all tallied, the winners are announced. Anna Short’s pear pie, Lou Emswiler’s pecan and Clara Miller’s strawberry key lime pie are the winners. They collect their prizes, and then it’s pie for everyone, along with cups of hot chili. Everyone leaves happy, especially the judges who are all, ahem, bigger people for having been there.
On Saturday, we leave the land of sun and sand. We board the plane, ready to fly on Spirit’s wings back to the snow and the cold. As the earth falls away, nose pointing to sky, I reflect on my prayer for appointments.
Like a patchwork quilt, pieces feather stitched with memories, pictures come. Here, a Bible School teacher I’d not seen for years, and his daughter who’d partnered in crime. We’d violated “lights out” at the school in the north, giving the matrons gray hairs.
There were locals from here transplanted to there, and we exchanged happy greetings and handshakes. From Nappanee and Missouri, column readers appeared, including one couple from Shipshewana.
From Kansas plains, a neighbor came by. I’d grown up with one of his sons, now a pediatrician with three special patients, my nephew and two of my nieces.
Other names, precious faces, sweet minutes together are playing before my mind’s eye. I reach into my pocket, find Siesta Key sand, fingers touching the texture of seashells. In my memory, a glorious sunset, ball of orange slipping down, caressing tide’s waves with fiery fingers.
The plane’s leveled out now. I look down. And see that we’re flying above clouds in full light of the sun, borne on the wings of the Spirit.