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.

Monday, June 30, 2008


I never intended to let a week lapse between posts. The old Windows 98 desktop bit the dust at the same time that the firewall at work went up. So this comes to you from a bright shiny new Toshiba notebook...


“My heart sings…”

The road north from Albuquerque to Santa Fe provides some incredible views as the landscape gradually changes with the elevation, transporting you to a completely new place physically and spiritually. During the hour long drive, the scenery manages to seep into your soul. The word is terribly misused nowadays, but it’s most appropriate to use it here – you are filled with “awe.”

Christ in the Desert Monastery is in Abiquiu which is another hour’s drive north of Santa Fe. During my most recent retreat with Rose, we had the start of our conversation about restlessness during the drive along this stretch of road. Mentally, I was preparing myself for the start of this retreat. In the process, I recalled some prior trips with Rose. I was curious about something that seemed out of character for her. I suppose this is as good a place as any to mention that Rose is an introvert and I am an extrovert – yet another point of contrast between us. I mention this because it may be at the root of my difficulty in understanding our differences.

The closer we came to arriving at the monastery, the more I thought about raising an issue with Rose that would impact our time together. On past retreats, I’ve been surprised by the frequency of Rose’s desire to leave the monastery for the day, whether to visit some nearby site of significance, or even just to get a current newspaper. As an introvert, I would expect that Rose would be content to stay at the monastery and block out the secular world. On the other hand, I am happy to confine my activities to the monastery grounds. I guess Rose might wonder about an extrovert who wants to stay away from people.

I foresaw this difference in our characters as a potential source of stress during our stay, so I wanted to get the issue on the table. While driving to Abiquiu, I mentioned my curiosity about this to Rose. I’m not sure, in retrospect, whether Rose or I attached the label “restlessness.” What ensued was a conversation that continued over the course of several days.

(to be continued…)

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Seems like there's something non-poetic stuck in my craw, so we'll take a break with some prose and see if we can't wiggle it loose...


A while back, there was a meme floating around the blogging world that challenged readers to come up with six words to describe themselves in total. It’s been a while but, more or less, my reply was: “Ceaselessly seeking God’s truth and way.”

The label “seeker” has often been attached to me, so it was a good place for me to start in trying to come up with my meme reply. It wasn’t that much of a stretch to come up with the adverb “ceaselessly,” either. My blog is titled “Pilgrim Path” for good reason – I am quite often going somewhere, either physically or spiritually. To some, this might be considered a sign of restlessness. To me, it is a natural state of being.

Recently, I had the occasion to talk to a good friend about restlessness. My dear friend and mentor, Rose, is my former pastor. She was the pastor of the church that I joined mid-life after many decades away from a religious life. In recent years, we have become traveling companions, most often heading off to monasteries for week-long retreats. Just a month ago, we spent some time at one of our favorite spots – Christ in the Desert Monastery in Abiquiu, New Mexico.

Rose grew up in the verdant rolling hills of eastern Kentucky. I grew up in the concrete and asphalt covered flatland of Chicago. And yet, the high desert of New Mexico speaks to both of us. I am fond of repeating the story of the first time I recognized the impact of the landscape of New Mexico on me:

When traveling to New Mexico, we fly into the Albuquerque airport. The car rental agencies are located off-site so you have to take a shuttle bus to retrieve your car. After completing all the paperwork and checking out with the person in the outdoor kiosk, you drive around the rental lot and point your car west in order to get on to the road to the expressway. It is when you make that turn and face west that you are confronted, for the first time, with the wide vista of the high desert landscape. Before I could even catch my breath, the words, “My heart sings…” sprang forth from my soul.

(to be continued…)

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Thursday, June 19, 2008


“I was stolen by You from the grave.” – Aaron Strumpel
“Freedom is coming, oh yes, I know.”
– South African church song

Shuttered windows,
tightly latched doors
cannot prevent dark clouds
from entering
my room
my silence and prayers.

Never alone, I seek
my angel-whisperer
to bring my plea
to heaven’s ears,
“Yahweh, lift this shadowed yoke.”

Sharply, an explosive laugh
starting in my belly spews
forth through my lips
with a dangerous language
to remind me,
cowards sleep an easy peace.

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Friday, June 13, 2008


It’s been a month since my visit to the desert.
Time to put my heart
back in my chest
after rolling it around in the sand and clay.
Desperate to heal old wounds,
to fill cracks and holes where

dry days cause the aches some folks call life.
Sometimes it’s hard
to play along
as if the world was kind and soft
and hearts were not so easily broken.
Other days my heart is shaped
by a young child’s smile
as he leans over to drink

from a fountain and gets a face
full of water.
Water, clay, and a sense of humor,
was all God needed to make life complete.

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Monday, June 09, 2008


Many mornings I awaken
longing for the shore,
called to the waters of my baptism,
seeking to drink deeply

the sounds of water
lapping at the jetty
synchronizing with my heartbeat,
I settle into nature’s rhythms.

Pale and faded crab cages
stacked by the dock
wait to be summoned to duty
in the fruitful sea.

Not even the acrid burnt diesel fuel
from the rusty old trawler
can mask the pungent seaweed scent
that stirs my soul to sing.

For I am a man of the water
whether by tears of joy or grief
I know my maker brings me here
where we can meet and be.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008


“They’ll try to bury the stars and
convince you that the moon is enough,
don’t you let them.”

As a child my mother held me up to the sky,
and showed me my chosen star. The brightest,
silver grey one winked at me each night
before I lay my head upon my pillow.

Until one dark night when I cried myself
to sleep, my starlight angel covered
by clouds, unable to make our appointment,
game called on account of weather.

I stopped looking for that star
until the day you came into my life, remember
that walk along the riverside, watching
the moon’s reflection on the smooth water?

We found an old rowboat, untied it and decided
to take a trip to the moon, we sailed
across the water until we could touch
it with our mortal fingertips.

We blessed each other with moonbeams, then drank
‘til we had our fill. As we rowed to the shore,
a deeper darkness befell us as clouds rolled over
the moon, leaving stars as our only guide.

For the first time in years, I searched for my star,
the one my mother gave me. My childlike wisdom
had deserted me, as each star seemed brighter than the next.
At last I recalled my mother’s instruction,

“They’ll try to bury the stars and
convince you that the moon is enough,
don’t you let them.”

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Monday, June 02, 2008


Jesus never spent 40 days at a Holiday Inn.
Give me back my dangerous faith.
You remember, the one
where the church A/C is cranked up full
but the preacher can still make you sweat.
Make me hungry once again
for the only food that fills me -
a torn off hunk of bread and a swig of wine.

And when I'm done, I'll grab the altar cloth
and wipe away the dribbles on my grey beard.
Let me sit right next to folks
with stubbed and bloodied toes in raggedy sandals
that release a cloud of dust
as we stamp our feet in time to the choir’s Amens.
I’ll just sit here in the shadows
where I know deep in my heart
that the light still shines on cloudy days.

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