Today’s Mileage: 10 Total Trip Mileage: 472
As I ride the bike today we are nearing our next two pilgrimage sites. One is inland and the other is on an island in the bay south of Fort Myers. Luckily, there is a boat dock near the first site from which we can “launch off.” Given my leg speed on the stationary bike, it will be more like a canoe than a Jet Ski ride!
We do not have to think of grand plans or read sacred texts to find meaningful life questions. The places we inhabit, scenes that pass before us and activities we choose to pursue often invoke in us questions about the direction and purpose of life. Yesterday on NPR, a young man noted that camping outside a fast food restaurant for a night in order to win a year’s worth of chicken sandwiches caused him to seriously question what he was doing with his life. I had that experience once as I stood at midnight with my son in a line of “gaming geeks” outside a video game store.
As I surf the web looking for images of our upcoming pilgrimage sites, I came to recognize that certain scenes seem to have particular relevance for me. Immediately I am drawn into them. I ask the question: Where does that lead to? Typically I pause and study the image then decide whether to delve further into the scene. These scenes are often symbolic of some choice that I am either making or will be faced with making in the future. These scenes bring about a contemplation of my choices, mundane or life changing. I call these my contemplative scenes. They typically involve one or a combination of the following objects: Bridges, pathways or trails, gates or portals, shorelines.
The symbolic significance of these objects is fairly obvious if you view a lifetime as an ongoing journey during which we are presented with a series of choices. Sometimes we choose to make a life altering change (i.e. getting married, quitting a job), other times we choose a response to a life altering event (i.e. spouse leaving a marriage, losing your job). Viewing the choice as a bridge we have to cross, a fork in the road, a portal to a new life, a transition between worlds helps us take a deep breath and “think about it” before we “just do it.” Viewing our choices this way may keep us from being flippant about them and help us see them in the bigger picture of life.
Another important image for me is the contemplation or meditation sites. These are scenes like: a bench in the shade of a tree, an mountain overlook, a long stretch of shoreline, that invite us to sit for a moment and absorb the peace and beauty of nature before we strike off on our path.
Sometimes we choose to make the best of where we are at, other times we may choose to step through a portal into a new world. Tomorrow’s pilgrimage site visit will highlight our human need to find meaning and to establish paradise as we envision it. This dream is all the more powerful when it is part of a movement or community effort. More on that tomorrow!
Special thanks to Fran Smyth for the use of a selection of her beautiful nature photographs.