I love this time of year when the air is crisp and the sun is rising and setting on the centerline of east and west roads. Frank Phillips watched this same sky in the autumn as the moon rose over Woolaroc, thinking about life and time, how it flew by, and how he and Jane were once going to change the world once the world figured out how to use oil for purposes other than illumination.
My first visit to Woolaroc happened when a buddy invited me for a Phillips 66 company picnic. I was an outsider since my parents did not work for Phillips. Even though I’m not a “company man”, I feel a certain pride when I travel west on highway 60 and then drive back home, descending the hill overlooking the Bartlesville skyline. It is always good to come back home to this familiar place with its unique history and personality.
Frank Phillips embodied what exists in each of us. A love of creating and of creation. He created by building an empire from the rich oil fields of Oklahoma. But the Phillips family also enjoyed the created world, woods, water, hills, and rock. We enjoy the gift of Woolaroc with it’s exotic animals and beautiful natural setting. Our family is also fortunate to live on 12 acres south of town, on property once owned by L.E. Phillips son, Phil.
Land that Phil Phillips once used to graze herds of cattle and sheep and to support the 4-H program. I had many friends who were members of the 4-H club, and yet I never knew what 4-H stood for, so I looked it up. Each person pledges their head, heart, hands, and health to further the 4-H club, their community, their country and the world. We could all do well to embrace that notion.
Speaking of the land we live on called Philson Hollow, Karen and I have taken to sitting on the back veranda in the soft evening of late summer while we admire the waxing and waning of the moon over the pond and pastures once grazed by Phillips herds. There is something soothing about looking at the moon rather than a digital screen.
I once peered at the moon in 1969 as the evening sky gathered the fading day into it’s sulking gray dusk. Neil Armstrong was bouncing about the Sea of Tranquility planting the American flag and taking small steps and giant leaps and I thought I might see him if I squinted. Those days my parents worried about the world and all the rioting and rebellion and whether the next generation would amount to anything.
There is still rioting and a sense of worry over the world and the environment and pandemics. And yet the moon still rises above me. Karen and I stood and watched as the edge of the moon crested the horizon and then rose over the pond. The orange moon announced it’s rising with glowing enormity stealing the show until it grew weary of attention and rose beyond the atmospheric prism, diminishing into a perfectly round white ball through spreading limbs of the hackberry tree and then rising above it, now dimmer, less needy. Our standing ovation for the rising moon was over and we sat down and resumed our conversation.
Life can be like that moment with the autumn moon. You want to know what is going on backstage in the inner room. The adrenaline surges and passion ignites and you stand up, because you want to see what will rise up. This refraction of light through the atmosphere, changing hues as it levitates, from the edge of the unseen to the blackened unknown firmament.
I’m grateful for moments like this away from shining screens and the furious bellow of media that steers me away from the wonder and simplicity of everyday moments. I was reading Anne Lamott recently who wrote, “Do you know the first thing that God says to Moses? He says, ‘Take off your shoes.’ Because this is holy ground, all evidence to the contrary. It’s hard to believe, but it’s the truest thing I know.”
The moon still rises over my hometown, over the pond in Philson Hollow, and over Clyde Lake in Woolaroc. It takes your breath away and causes you to take off your boots, and realize the things that matter. Even though I’m a bit of an outsider, I’m thankful for Uncle Frank and the Phillips family for setting aside places we can take off our shoes and reflect on the beauty of this place we call home.