Pilgrim Path

This blog is the work of a seeker and poet. Walking stick in hand, I head out into the world, not of the world, but in the world. My words and my friends carry me along and light the pilgrim path of spiritual journeys.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Lying in bed on a cool August night,
a gentle breeze blowing over my skin.
The pungent scent of burning peat enters
the bedroom and brings the dark moonlight in.

Lord, in the darkness they come for my soul.
Dark thoughts and shadow dreams fill bare places
May I use my “Get Out of Jail Free” card?
Or is this part of the myst’ry of grace?

Dark night of the soul, Saint John of the Cross,
Lord, you’re calling me deeper to meet you,
But I don’t know the way through unshed tears,
unspoken fears, God feed me with dawn's dew.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Sometimes, the story of the journey comes from the people you meet...


She sat down in a nearby chair,
No, wait, she was already there,
It was I who selected my seat.
Seemed like a nice, quiet spot,
she looked busy, all hunched over.
I began to read but soon heard a low murmur.
Glancing over I noticed the cell phone
tightly held to her ear.
Her voice was soft but insistent,
pleading in tone, “But you hurt me.”
Any thoughts of reading,
or at least remembering what I’d read
disappeared in the heavy air.
“I had to confide in someone.”
Images of dark rooms and darker conversations
began to swirl in my head.
Leaning forward almost as much as she
I tried to catch the loose threads of the story.
Hands to her face, to catch tears before they
streaked her face and everyone would know;
she sat in silence while he tried to stitch

their life back together.
I wanted to help, to tell her it was too late,
I didn’t know her, but I knew her type:
she thought she deserved him.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Daylight patiently rings the doorbell
while darkness seeps through open windows,
gently taking over our bodies
until we lack the strength to lift our eyes.
Yielding, we dream impossible words
held together by sentences meant for no ears.
Absorbed through skin, they join with blood
transforming our hearts at dawn

Monday, August 14, 2006


When we realize there are no strangers
nor lands that are foreign,
our hearts will sing songs
written by our gods.
When children dance before musicians,
shadows will fail to appear.
When blue jays flit from branch to higher branch
closer to God in their silent ascent,
the scent of rose and piñon will linger
to bless us and make us whole.
Love and bliss and peace will be one
when the sun comes shining through.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

CORRECTION: Before I continue, I need to correct an entry from yesterday’s post. Late last night, Todd Truffin reminded me that he was NOT the source of the reference to my purchase of ‘Emmaus” as being appropriate. This prompting reminded me that it was, in fact, my friend Kathy from Corpus Christi who made note of that fact. Sorry, Todd and Kathy!


In yesterday’s posting I made a passing reference to my dear friend, John. That is an extreme slight that I need to correct today. I met John at last year’s Glen Workshop. As the only other male participant in the Spiritual Writing class, there was an immediate bond forged. But, as the week progressed, John and I discovered kindred souls in each other. We have remained in steady e-mail contact throughout the past year despite many miles of separation. John is a former Baptist preacher. That, and his big, wild hair and beard have caused me to refer to him often as John the Baptist. On MANY levels, this is only fitting and proper. But, the most important reason to honor him with this appellation is his preacher eye. While Kathy noted the appropriateness of my winning bid on “Emmaus,” it was John the Baptist who “fleshed out” the grace behind this purchase.

A little background: I am a seeker discontent with my current half-hearted response to God’s call. In many conversations with close friends, I refer to my job as having the “golden handcuffs” on me. The salary is good and finances a number of wonderful journeys deeper into my soul and out into the world.

It seems I am “called” to do more, but lack the direction and courage to make a change to live a life consistent with my heart’s and God’s desire. Over the last few years, a number of significant occurrences have taken place to convince me that, while I have not yet arrived at the final destination, I am traveling on the right path.

The story of the silent auction, the switch in engravings bid upon and my request for John the Baptist’s exegesis of it, confirms my movement along this path. Italicized portions below represent JtB’s words.

Let's proceed by saying that art imitates life. Although Paul in prison may have initially attracted you, you're not imprisoned, Rich - you're free… and becoming even more free...You made a wise switch.Moses' death? Moses' death represents the end of an era, the end of established leadership, ways of thinking and doing things, and even actual leaders. You've come to that point. You're no longer to look for… Moses…(in) of this world. It's time for you to step out and lead, Joshua-like, into what lies ahead …press on into the promised land.And what does that land look like? Well, getting there looks a lot like the road to Emmaus. A road that seems deserted, scary and maybe even lonely, but the presence of the risen Christ is right there beside you for the ride… Where does the road lead? That's not the question. The question is, "Are you willing to walk it?" And, "are you willing to bid and be outbid along the way?"

Moments of grace. A few months ago, I asked John the question: “How much grace can one stand?” I think I can answer that question with full understanding now: The supply is limited only by our ability to recognize grace when it happens.

I am truly blessed!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

(and some moments of grace from our sponsor…)

I need a little poetry break. I’ve just returned from 10 glorious days in Santa Fe, New Mexico. During the first weekend, I strolled through the Spanish Colonial and Spanish Contemporary Arts Market reveling in the extraordinary talent and craftsmanship on exhibit and for sale.

Prior to leaving for Santa Fe, a shaman friend told me that God speaks to us between 2 and 5am. I wasn’t sure immediately why he told me this. But, shortly after my arrival in Santa Fe, the answer became clear. During my last visit, I'd become enthralled by the work of a modern icon writer, Christina Miller (
www.iconfusion.com). In the week prior to my departure, I'd been in e-mail communication with Christina, confirming her participation in Spanish Market. During my first night’s sleep in Santa Fe, I awoke shortly after 2 a.m. The message that came to me was that I should spend some time in contemplation with Christina’s icons during lectio divina and write poetry in response.

The next day, I sought out Christina. We met up and I told her of my inspiration. Christina then graciously offered to post one of my "icon poems" on her web site next to the piece that was used to generate the poem.

That evening, after a long day of walking through the Market, I easily and quickly fell asleep. This night, I awoke at 3am with a single sentence on my mind. Try as I might to fall asleep, this sentence continued to repeat until I finally did what I should have done immediately – I got up out of bed, turned on the bedside light and grabbed my journal to write it down. That task done, I laid my head back down on the pillow only to have yet another sentence come to me. After repeating the entire routine, I laid down again. It will come as no surprise to you that at this point yet another sentence came to me. Resigned to a period of writing, I brought the journal and pen into bed with me. After about a half-hour, the words ceased coming and I fell back asleep. In the morning, I lunged for the journal and found some beautiful sentences, but at this time, they're still in the form of an incomplete jigsaw puzzle.

Sunday afternoon, I headed over to St. John’s College for an amazing week at a creative artists’ conference. The annual conference is sponsored by Image Journal magazine (
www.imagejournal.org) and is called "The Glen Workshop." For 7 days, I basked in the company of fellow artists from a wide variety of disciplines and rubbed shoulders with a stellar faculty of writers and artists.

This was my second year at the Glen. Second years of anything are difficult. Usually, when you return to the source of an amazing adventure, your expectations are so high, that anything short of a Second Coming sighting is bound to fall short. However, in my newfound spirit of openness, adventure and spontaneity, the Glen lived up to its original glory and in some cases even surpassed it.

One of the great surprises...and joys…of this year’s Glen, was contact with 2 of the "professionals" in attendance:

Pierce Pettis (
www.piercepettis.com) is an amazing guitarist, harmonica player, composer, singer and comedian. He was the featured musician-in-residence for the Glen who sang and played each night during worship, provided a concert one evening and was lead-in to Over the Rhine (www.overtherhine.com) on another concert night. Through some great luck (for me), Pierce and I ended up talking together quite a bit over the week. Pierce joined our seminar on "Grace, Belief, Rage and Surrender" a couple times, once when he performed a song for us, and the other day he joined us on a field trip to the home of santera Arlene Cisneros-Sena where we viewed some breathtakingly beautiful New Mexican religious art. It was during this trip that I was taken by Pierce’s desire to see a portrait of the Virgin Mary as a poor handmaiden rather than the typical
Queen of Heaven. Pierce was open to sharing his thoughts and visions and stories in a generous manner and I'm grateful for this insight into the world of a greatly talented artist and beautiful human being.

Barry Moser is a Renaissance man. By trade he is an artist – an illustrator. Except for children’s books where this art is very much alive, the art of illustration is sorely under-utilized and under-appreciated. It'd be difficult to name one book as typical of this man’s great talent as he illustrates in many different styles. During a conference in Berea, Kentucky earlier this year, I happened upon a copy of Cynthia Rylant’s book Appalachia that was gorgeously illustrated by Barry. Early in the week at the Glen, I sat next to Barry as we were waiting for the St. John’s University cafeteria doors to open for breakfast. When I mentioned that I had 2 copies of this book for him to sign, Barry expressed great pleasure in my request for his autograph.

Later in the week when my dear friend John (more about him later) came to town, we ran into Barry at the plaza in Santa Fe. He was looking for directions to the restaurant where he and Karin and Linford (from Over the Rhine) had reservations for dinner. We pointed them in the right direction and off they went. But my encounters with Barry were not done for the week by a long stretch.

A major work by Barry is his illustrated version of the King James Version Bible -
known as the Pennyroyal-Caxton Bible (www.rmichelson.com/Artist_Pages/Moser/Bible.htm). As part of the Glen experience, each year, a silent auction is held on various items contributed by students as well as faculty. This year, Barry contributed several numbered prints of engravings of illustrations from the Pennyroyal-Caxton Bible as well as other works.

My eyes were first attracted to his work titled "Paul in Prison." The perspective, looking down on Paul from above, was so unique that I couldn't help but be captivated by this engraving. And so, I placed a bid. In fairly short order, I discovered that Artur, one of the interns from Image Journal magazine, had outbid me. Always a sucker for a struggling student, I made a deal with him that I'd stop bidding on "Paul."

The engraving that next captured my attention was an emotionally raw depiction of "The Death of Moses." The bidding was still in my price range so I added my name and bid to the bid sheet. Once again, upon checking the sheet later in the day, I saw that poet and faculty member Scott Cairns had outbid me. In an instant I realized that a much-published poet would have "deeper pockets" than I. In a conversation with Scott later, I was struck by how touched he was by this picture. Another deal was struck.

So, now I needed to make a serious decision: Was I bidding simply to own "a Barry Moser" or were these engravings really "speaking" to me? After some thoughtful consideration and a review of the remaining pictures, I grew fond of Barry's portrayal of the story of "The Road to Emmaus." With a bid in place (and the knowledge that the previous bidder - Scott Cairns' brother - had left the Glen for home), I settled in for the final countdown of the auction. I hovered over "Emmaus" ready to defend my bid against all comers. 3 -2-1…the auction was over - I'D WON!

Later that evening at the wine reception that closed the conference, I basked in the glory of my victory - one that was hard earned, but also one that made me so heady that I'm not sure who pointed out - I think it was Todd Truffin (
www.truffin.com) - that "Emmaus" was a rather appropriate procurement (for someone on a Pilgrim's Path). Hmmmmm…

More to come tomorrow...

SNEAK PREVIEW: John the Baptist will make a special guest appearance (in words)…