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Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 16                                Consecutive Days Blogging: 17

Today’s Mileage: 12                                              Total Trip Mileage: 159

      As I mount the stationary bike today I am a bit sore and tired.  Besides riding yesterday I also dug up several large ferns in the woods and transplanted them into the back yard next to the river.  I then collected and burned some fallen branches.  It felt good to get my hands into the rich soil, a physical connection with the earth. Ever since I was a young child I was always fascinated with fire. I enjoyed burning the trash as I got to watch the dancing flames consuming the material, leaving what seemed to be so little ash.  I see this as recognition of the cycles of the natural world, whether it is by decomposition or fire, what was once living returns to the soil for reuse.

"Road to Town" by Stationarypilgrim.

"Road to Town" by Stationarypilgrim.

 

 Yesterday I spoke of doubts that were nagging at me.  Working in the soil and tending the fire helped me put them into perspective.  Another thing that can help us find balance between our doubts and the gifts that life delivers is music!  As I sat in the Doctor’s office on Friday (see yesterday’s Blog) with a growing concern for my partner’s health, the song by Miley Cyrus: It’s a Climb came over the radio. As I listened to the lyrics, I found myself lifted up and reminded that it’s not the mountain (ill health), an arbitrary timetable or finish line on the other side.  The important thing is to make this climb, together and make it a source of deeper intimacy and strength. Choices and circumstances have brought us to this point, this mountain.  We can not turn back. We’ve got to climb! 

     Every step I’m taking
     Every move I make feels
     Lost with no direction
     My faith is shaking

     But I gotta keep trying
     Gotta keep my head held high

     There’s always gonna be another mountain
     I’m always gonna wanna make it move
     Always gonna be a uphill battle
     Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose

     Ain’t about how fast I get there
     Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
     It’s the climb

     Music like symbols can be a source of inspiration and lessons of wisdom. As I walked the woods digging up ferns I had to attend to obstacles like tangled brush and low hanging branches.  I was reminded of a song by Ani Difranco entitled As is.  The lyrics remind me of the need for a balanced process as we walk though life. 

     We have to look up at times to see where we are going. If we get too absorbed in the litter at our feet we are likely to miss a turn, or bang our head on a low hanging branch.  If we keep our head up focused on distance scenery, we will be thinking of what is to come. We will miss the beauty and treasures at our feet and risk getting tripped up by vines and fallen branches.  The key to walking in the woods, in life, is a balanced glance up – glance down rhythm and to keep moving.  If you need to focus on the ground at your feet for more then a moment, stop and do so!

     cuz when I look around

     I think this, this is good enough

     and I try to laugh

     at whatever life brings

     cuz when I look down

     I just miss all the good stuff

     when I look up

     I just trip over things

      As seen in DiFranco’s lyrics, she expresses healthy attitudes of acceptance and humor.  It’s amazing how quickly a song can lift our spirits, helping us to scale a mountain in a balanced manner.

      A couple of quick notes, I will soon be adding a video component to the Pilgrimage Site visits.  In addition, I’ll be retooling the “look” of the Blog to better reflect the scenery.  Watch for these changes.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 14                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 15

Today’s Mileage: 5                                               Total Trip Mileage: 137

      As I ride the bike today I am happy to note we have reached a milestone, we are two weeks into the journey.  I know my teenage son and many of my students would say that this calls for a party. 

     Instead I am going to shorten the ride today and let myself take a break.  As this is a virtual journey I can park the bike and, like we do in our dreams, step into any scene of my choosing.  I am going to return to the rural home I inhabited less then four years ago. When I stepped out of the back door I was in the woods, and less then a hundred yards from a beautiful waterfall and babbling creek.  I took many a walk along the path leading to the waterfall, writing poems along the way.  Nothing takes me back to the feelings and memories of those woods like reading my poetry and viewing the photos of the waterfalls.  So today I will share both with you. 

 falls-far

Natural Place of Worship

 One, two, three, four, five!

One, two, three, four, five!

      The bird’s high pitched call…

             A pace I do not wish to follow.

One, two, three, four, five!

             But a welcomed backdrop beat…

                  As I enter the spring green cathedral

                          With its carpet of decomposing leaves

                                   Like last year’s discarded vestments

                  Haphazard patterns of sunlight

                          Stream through the arched vaulted ceiling

                                   Dance about the floor like votive flames

                  Wisps of silvery filament

                          Labor of the spider priestesses

                                   Lift skyward and sway like incense offerings

                   I hear it already in the distant

                          Like a Gregorian chant

                                  The thunderous chorus

                                           Of the distant falls

One, two, three, four, five!

 ****

      My Catholic roots show through in the above poem which abounds with symbols of that faith. As I walk deeper into the woods the sights and sound of civilization are replaced with the voices of the natural world.

 falls-winter2

 Finally,

   With in sight of the falls,

       I am surrounded by only the sounds of nature. 

No blasts of canine alarm,

   no distant motor carriage,

       just the voice of water.

 ****

      I admire the dedication and faith of people who try to live a philosophy of peace and nonviolence.  I met a Jain when I was working as an enumerator for the 2000 census.  We had a conversation about how difficult it was to be faithful to his beliefs when living in an America suburb.  He would not cut his grass as it would harm insects inhabiting the lawn.  His angry neighbors would mow his lawn when he was away at work!

 A Prayer

 What a challenge it must be

    for a Jain to walk through the woods. 

With life all around and under foot,

    every step and every movement 

       must be accompanied with a prayer

For that life which one disturbs,

    crushes and maims

        with the simplest of movements.

But I’m not a Jain,

     I do not worry about the unseen,

         for life and death is but part of the cycle. 

But the idea of a prayer with every step,

     a prayer with every breath,

         a prayer with every heartbeat,

             is an idea with merit. 

Prayers of recognition,

     for the gifts from the divine  

          for the beauty and life that abounds!

 ****

     After dodging low hanging limbs and spider webs we have finally arrived at the falls.

 above-falls

Transformation

 Smooth reflective pool

Calm deep water

Above the falls

 

transforms

                                               Rushing,

                                                       pulsing,

                                      surging,

                                                              cascading, 

         around the rocks

                over the edge

         down the flue

                                       churning,

                                splashing,

                                                        foaming,

                                       swirling,

transforms

 

Smooth reflective pool

Calm deep water

Below the falls

 ****

falls-below2 

     I hope that you have enjoyed the poems and images.  We will be back on the road again tomorrow.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 12                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 13

Today’s Mileage:  6                                             Total Trip Mileage: 123

 stage4

     I hope everyone got a chance to visit our first Pilgrimage site (click on tab at the top of the page if you did not).  As I mount the stationary bike for today’s ride I have decided to ride further up the coast before we leave the Keys and head inland.  I believe there is nothing wrong with lingering over a meaningful experience.  We will of course get the opportunity to visit other coast lines in the future and other pilgrimage sites.  But the first is important as it often sets the expectations for future visits.

     I have dried out from the underwater leg of yesterday’s journey!  My progress was slowed by the beautiful coral formations, and by the CAUTION FISH SCHOOL CROSSING signs! One of the benefits of a virtual trip is you don’t need expensive lessons and equipment to make it to the hard to get too places.  I won’t be surprised to see us “take to the air” on future site visits!

     I left my fellow travelers with three questions yesterday.  I want to take the opportunity to share my thoughts on each.  But first a disclaimer: In no way do I assume that my views hold more authority or truth than any other visitor’s to this site.  These are my views and are shared with joy, as a gift, feel free to disagree with these views.  Feel free to share your own!

Beauty at your feet.   

With respect to the question about the significance of nature, any of you who have followed this Blog will know I find a great deal of meaning in my relationship with nature. It offers me beautiful and powerful images and experiences, which I in turn cherish and honor with poems, musings and artistic images.  I will at times speak of nature the way others may speak of a deity. Nature also presents me with mysteries, dangerous situations, and challenges, much like a deity may for some people!  Nature’s most precious gifts for me has been the Nature Mystical Experiences.  I know some people experience the gifts of nature as blessings from a higher power.  I experience nature as a higher power!

     The second question asked about the significance of the Christ figure as a shrine. The use of Christ versus some other religious figure (Buddha, or Krishna) is easily understood as Christianity represents the predominate form of religious thought in Italy, where the statue originated, and in the US.  I believe many people like to be reminded of and remind others of our relationship with the divine, this accounts for the popularity of road side crosses across much of the southeastern US. So this placement represents a public display of worship and faith.  I also equate Christ’s posture, open arms and head turned skyward, as offers of comfort to anyone who might be in danger of “slipping below the surface,” anyone who might be in need of rescue.  This posture, especially on land, could be seen as a plea to the “Heavenly Father” for mercy or help for those unfortunate individuals in need.

Stain Glass Window - Amaryliss    

   The third question concerned the possible significance of the placement of the shrine, miles off shore and under many feet of water.  I believe this highlights an important aspect of many pilgrimages: they are in not easily accessible places.  Of course in the modern world with air conditioned buses, planes, 4 wheel drive vehicles and GPS devices, the challenging and often daunting travel aspects of a pilgrimage have in many cases been turned into a detour or a tourist ride. 

     Given that the work of the pilgrimage journey was the struggle with roadblocks to be overcome, both external ones like deserts, mountains and raging rivers, and internal ones like doubts, misgivings and a loss of faith in the journey,  one can argue roadside pilgrimages have robbed these journeys of real meaning. The irony of this statement is not lost on me, as I have taken on the task of leading myself and others on virtual pilgrimages where you don’t have to leave the safety of your home, office or even your bed. 

     This is where my pragmatic nature rises to the surface as I would argue that many of us have demands that can not be set aside to roam the world.  As such I believe we should journey in whatever way we can, accepting the physical challenges have been removed, or replaced by a stationary bike ride. We should confront any and all internal/mental roadblocks we encounter.  As a therapist I can tell you the most frightening and daunting hurtles most people face in their journey towards happiness, adjustment and maturity are in fact mental.  Whether that be overcoming past trauma, facing one’s fears, letting go of negative feelings, or risking to care and love others.

     So I believe that the Christ in the Deep site represents in some ways a return to the pilgrimages of old where they are more out of the way and presented the determined pilgrim with a physical challenge.  Of course the cynical among us might argue that its placement was more of a business decision to promote the glass boat and scuba diving tourist industry. 

 Todays artwork included two of my own works.  Entitled: “Beauty at your feet” and “Stain Glass Window – Amaryliss.”

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