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.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


How shall I write my signature?
For the story’s not yet done.
I’ve wandered diverse paths along
my journey toward the One.

No sorrow or regret for roads
that led me far astray,
for lessons learned on deadend tracks
also guide me on the way.

My signature has many loops
like rabbit tracks in snow.
While others see a scattered mess
I see a plowman’s rows.

Mustard seeds in fertile ground
take root and grow in me.
My name is writ in dust and dirt
in lands I’ve yet to see.


Monday, January 29, 2007


At a recent Interspiritual men's retreat, 2 young men experienced a rite of passage into adolescence. As part of this process, they went on a 3 hour Vision Quest. Denied lunch, they sat in the January weather in Woodstock, Illinois, contemplating great life questions in the context of the liminal space they inhabited - no longer children, not quite men. Later in the evening, one of the young men, Brian, shared with us what he learned from this experience. Out of the mouth of Brian the Younger came this superb Zen observation:

"If you don't move, you get cold." - Brian, age 13

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A young male came before us,
tall and thin with tousled blond hair,
boldly standing astride the two worlds
of adolescence and adulthood;
belonging to neither but part of both,
in liminal space, he sought
an ancient gift from this company of men.

No macho, bravado,
beer-swigging, crotch-scratching gathering this.
No, men, truly men, who lean into their beings
and bravely help each other stretch their souls.
This young male came looking for ritual
to heal what is past,
to share what is present,
to seek what his future can bring.

And so it begins as he lies on the floor,
men standing in circle around him.
A holy man and his father
hold a black pall over his body,
and we hear words of a necessary death.
Slowly lowered, the pall quiets
the voices of men. Lit candles placed
'round the body bring prayers
to our hearts and our lips.
I stand and watch this boy's father,
my deep friend who I long to console,
when a vision of my own father comes
quickly recalling the two sons he buried
as I feel for the first time his pain.
The dry wells from which waters rarely arise,
spring forth with tears from a deep place of pain.
The pall lifts off a man's body this time.
He stands and faces the circle,
greeted by half-smiles as we struggle
to recover from mourning
to celebrate his rebirth.

Sitting now, cups are passed
to each man in holy circle.
Water is poured from a jug
as the story is told
of Lakota offerings; water to those
in their year of mourning,
replenishing tears they have shed.
As I drink from this cup, I choke
on the taste of salt. But stifle the urge
so to keep holy silence.
After sharing words among brothers,
the ceremony ends with our welcome
of this young male to manhood.

Steve has taken his place,
shoulder to shoulder,
newly formed a man,
as the teacher of a lesson on pain.


Friday, January 26, 2007


It’s taken me a while to realize
that not everyone can walk through the veil
at the entrance to the temple of imagination.

At times the veil mocks me
with an unspoken word,
vexing my mind,
stealing my breath.

But oh for those days
when standing on the other side
I look up
and the palest
of blue winter skies,
Before long I’m pleasantly ambushed
by disjointed words
longing to leap off a page like ill-fated lovers.

But just as quickly, they’re gone,
and I must be content with reality
until it lifts once again.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Come 'round back, dear brother,
and sit with me a spell.
You'll stare at the frozen river
and tell lies
while I ache to hear your heart.
Pass the Merlot, boy,
I can't bear to do this while sober;
your dreams, others called naïve,
used to fill me with fire and hope.
It's been a while,
do you still yearn to tell tall tales
with truths way down deep
that made us want to live, really live?
Do you still hear those stories yourself?
Or are your own tunes
stuck in that cold river
along with the songs of other brave men
who journey to seek what makes them whole?
Or, are you biding your time
'til a spring thaw and warmer sun
can free your dreams
so they'll grow once again?
Let me know you're alive,
that you still make the time
to sit and dream every day.
Then I'll turn from the river
and look in your eyes
and celebrate the Truth.


JUNE, 2003

Soft white pincurls framed her sweet face,
where a smile broke through like a sunrise;
a smile like the thousands she'd generously blessed
on a full lifetime of family and friends.

In an instant, she spoke her name, Pat;
seemed more like a Violet or Camellia to me,
but in a deeper way, its briefness fit,
no pretense or filler, just cut to the core.

We spoke of prayer and favorite things.
Soon Pat shared the story of a workman,
arriving all gruff and about his business,
she thought, until he entered her garden.

Beauty is not content to stay a stranger,
and so she introduced her companions.
The workman stooped over and spoke to a Rose,
"How can one look at a flower and not believe in God?"

Pat wasn't present as she finished her story,
she'd returned to that precious memory
when truth paid a visit in overalls and joined beauty
in a turn on her garden dance floor.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007


A tribal fire welcomes us to this quiet
place, among the trees, winter leaves
cushion our walk together into the bright
night of our prayer and discernment.

I take a seat, while you return to the holy
circle, where songs and drums and intentions
are heard by the One and all; where heartfelt
breaths are exchanged among brothers.

In the woods a dark chapel appears before
my eyes, a darker door inviting me to enter.
I choose to sit and wait while nature’s stained
glass window of the Virgin forms before my eyes.

Framed by beauty and soft evergreen needles,
the path before me is clear and soft, so unlike
the road that brought me here. I rest awhile in
awe of all that passes before me and is yet to come.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007


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Monday, January 15, 2007

...and will return on Monday, January 22nd

Thursday, January 11, 2007

...until Monday, January 15th

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


LUMA – what a great name for an art museum! It is in fact an acronym for Loyola University Museum of Art, located on North Michigan Avenue in Chicago, in the heart of a world famous shopping district. Down the street from Giorgio Armani and across from the vertical mall known as Water Tower Place, LUMA holds its own in offering pleasures for the senses.

Two special exhibitions are running concurrently: The Missing Peace: Artists Consider the Dalai Lama and Hidden Wholeness: The Zen Photography of Thomas Merton.

The Dalai Lama exhibit is the more extensive one in every way imaginable: bigger (a 20ft inflatable reclining Buddha), bolder (riotous colors) and brasher (a video wall of Buddhist monks pictured from the head up). As you’d expect from an exhibition of 80 artists inspired by the Dalai Lama, there were a wide range of visions utilizing a broad variety of media.

The Thomas Merton exhibit was the one that first drew my attention and prompted my visit to the museum. Beginning in 2001 when I spent my first week-long retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky (home to Thomas Merton), he has been a continuing influence in my life.

In stark contrast to the Dalai Lama exhibit, the photographs of Thomas Merton are humbly displayed in a long, narrow hallway bereft of any extraneous noise and light. Black and white photographs lined both sides of the hallway. It wasn’t until later that it occurred to me that the display was set up almost like the Stations of the Cross in a church nave. This provided the perfect atmosphere in which to consider these simple, yet complex photos.

The exhibit includes photos taken exclusively at the Abbey of Gethsemani and provides a glimpse of the ordinary – trees, woods, ponds, plants, chairs and water pails. Merton, by capturing these everyday items in black and white, provides us with the opportunity to see these items in a larger than life manner.

A wonderful addition to the exhibition is the inclusion of pertinent quotations from Merton’s vast library of written works along side each photograph. The simple quotations along with the deceptively simple photographs combine to illuminate each other. For example, displayed alongside a photograph of an overturned willow basket and its long shadows in late afternoon sunlight, you’ll find the following:

I am Silence,
I am Poverty,
I am Solitude,
For I have renounced spirituality to find God

- The Sign of Jonas, 1953, p. 326

Another photograph depicts a blooming tree in early Spring with the last traces of snow still on the ground.

The eye wherein I see God,
is the same eye wherein God sees me.

- Zen and the Birds of Appetite, 1968, p.57
Merton quoting D.T. Suzuki quoting Eckhart

I haven't checked into this yet, but I understand that Merton recorded his impressions of using a camera as a means of expression in a book titled, Turning Toward the World.
Sounds interesting!

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007


The word angel ran off with the muse
after cutting my tongue from my mouth.
So now I’m left with pre-verbal grunts
and nothing to say.


Thursday, January 04, 2007


Down the abbey stairs
and through a dark, back hallway
in silence we walk 'til we reach an opening.
Not a door, no, more
like an entrance to a cave.

Single seat benches neatly arranged,
perfect rows, beckon us to sit.
Old habits die hard
as back benches fill
with the shy, uncomfortable ones.

By the time I enter,
only front seats are left.
"Do you think they'll know I'm not Catholic?"
tumbles 'round in my empty head,
I quickly glance for a clue.

So here I sit,
before a locked golden box,
home to our Lord and Savior.
Won't someone let Him out for some air?
It's awfully small in there.

But then as we sit, quietly together,
one intention in 30 hearts,
I feel His presence,
warm eyes, gentle touch,
and I settle deeper in my seat, in my prayer.

Focusing my eyes on His heart,
more real now than my very own.
Softly, I hear His low soft voice,
"Let Me in,
let Me teach you to breath."

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Tonight I need to hold onto the rock
and let deep sleep wash over me.
But in the morning, I know,
it's time to go
down to the river to pray.
Pray for some grace,
pray for some peace,
some direction;

there for the asking,
there for the listening,
if only I'll let go
of the rock that sits
in the middle of the river
waiting for the morning to come.

- inspired by and dedicated to my brother Buck - a very good man

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


O Lord, deliver me to mystery.
I long to lie in fertile fields unknown.
Let me sense Your breath as gentle breezes
wash me clean and bear my body home.

O Lord, deliver me to mystery.
Your quiet speaks to me beyond mere words.
My heart finds truth in silence speaking
louder than the songs of spring’s first birds.

O Lord, deliver me to mystery.
My heart shall leap with joy and purest love,
as You caress my face and welcome me,
and seal this with a peace come from above.

Monday, January 01, 2007


I have no idea where
I am going. I do not see the road ahead
of me. I cannot know for certain where
it will end. Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think that I am
following your will does not mean that
I am actually doing so. But I believe that
the desire to please you does in fact
please you. And I hope I have that desire
in all that I am doing. I hope that I will
never do anything apart from that
desire. And I know that if I do this you
will lead me by the right road though I
may know nothing about it. Therefore
I will trust you always though I may
seem to be lost and in the shadow of
death. I will not fear, for you are ever
with me, and you will never leave me
to face my perils alone.