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In late September, it was still sweltering at Nomad’s Land in rural Alabama. One of our early guests of the fall season, Katrina, arrived in a rickety white pickup with a brightly beaded dreamcatcher swaying under the rearview mirror. Her smile was eager despite the mugginess. She was on her way up from Florida and wanted to stop to see the land for a few days before heading home to Georgia. A talented artist, she had arranged to do a little painting as a worktrade for her stay.

Katrina had found Nomad’s Land through friends she’d met at a national Rainbow Gathering in Georgia that summer. As we exchanged stories about our adventures in the woods, I watched, mesmorized, as she painted a mural onto an old RV door that would be repurposed on the land. “I was running away from God,” she said as she brushed detail onto a few lotus flowers. “I thought the Gathering was the furthest I could get from the church. But then I found myself in Jesus Kitchen!” She rolled her eyes playfully and added a splotch of black paint to her palette.

“Why were you running?” I asked.

“Well, it’s been adding up for years,” she said. “But in 2014, I lost my youngest boy. He drove off the road just a little bit and overcorrected, and the car flipped. The cops said his window was open, so his head had no protection. It was a matter of inches.”

She tried to blink her tears away and wiped the sweat at her temple. Then with the tiniest brush she painted black outlines around her flowers and lily pads. “I don’t know what I think about God being a loving father right now. But look at this.” She pointed at the bright pink lotus. “If I had not used black, this flower’s pinkness would be boring and flat. Without darkness, we wouldn’t be radiant. We’d just fade into the background. I want to believe that’s what we’re being saved from.”

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