Miss Ashley turned 23 on June 23rd, which makes this her golden birthday, a little slice of American culture I did not learn until my team mates here introduced it (your special Bday is the the one when the day and the age you are turning match . . ).
Perhaps appropriate that it should fall while she is here. There is a haunting Edgar Allen Poe poem called El Dorado, where the knight is searching for the land of gold, and goes “over the mountains of the moon, into the valley of shadow, ride boldly ride, the shade replied, if you search for El Dorado!” We are definitely over the Mountains of the Moon and deep into the valley of shadow here. Interesting that this is where we find true gold, far from “home”, in a place of shadowy distress. Ashley has been one nugget of that gold for us as she teaches the team kids and coaches the girls’ soccer team, or just hangs out with our family as a friend. The Pierces planned a surprise pre-school breakfast party for her in the morning, and we joined in with the Massos and her housemates for an evening complete with special lava cakes (her mom sent a mix for her favorite dessert all the way to Africa . . .) and gifts. And that is the real gold here, the community formed in the valley of shadow.