Day 11 Wednesday, July 20 Boise to Ten Mile Creek Campground (10 miles east of Idaho City) 53 miles
After my lovely stay with Patrick and Rachel of the Warm-showers network, I headed straight down the hill to catch the Greenbelt in Boise which would take me all the way to Lucky Peak Reservoir southeast of town avoiding the whole city street grid in the process. I was retracing my route from Monday down to the Greenbelt. When I called Rachel on Monday to get the final directions I quickly passed through the Anne Frank Memorial (www.idaho-humanrights.org) more concerned about getting to their house than any more sightseeing. Patrick told me not to miss it on the way out. It really is something to behold, he said.
I had no idea what I had so quickly passed through and dismissed two days prior. I was initiated into the memorial by a quote from Maya Angelou. It moved me. Then I sat down to begin reading the forty plus quotes chiseled into stone slabs that encircled the park like-setting. I was immediately overwhelmed by the power of the quotes. 25 years ago I wrote my honor’s thesis on the “Protestant Response to the Holocaust”. For the first three months of research I just cried. The combination of the brutal inhumanity, the suffering, the hopelessness and the lack of compassionate and courageous intervention in the early years shook me up. Almost immediately as I began reading the quotes I was overwhelmed in the same way.
Many miles later I happened upon another cyclist on the Greenbelt and we briefly chatted. I was looking for another site that Patrick had told me was worth seeing and I had wondered if I had mistakenly ridden right by it. I had, but in our continuing conversation I told my fellow cyclist that I had stopped at the Anne Frank Memorial and was profoundly moved by it. He told me that he occasionally returns to the memorial and just sits. He said it moves him every time. It never gets old. That’s when I shared that I am a minister and I said I experienced the site as sacred space. I added that it was a sanctuary in the best sense of the word.
The tagline for this PedalPilgrimage is “Looking for God. Seeking the sacred.” I have discovered both in many places on this trip. But, today I was standing in the presence of the holy. Joseph Campbell talks of certain European cathedrals that move him to the core of his being every time. This Anne Frank Memorial did it for me today and I want to tell you why.
When a beautiful church is built there are a number of aesthetic factors that are considered. There is the shape of the space itself—circular, rectangular, auditorium-style. There are the choices of banners or stained glass windows that portray the images and the story of the tradition and community. There are the scripture texts and quotes that capture the heart of the faith. There is, of course, the choice of colors and the flow of the energy in the room.
The Anne Frank Memorial got it all right. They choose a circular style memorial with stone walls standing about ten feet high. The walls curved around until they were met by cascading waterfalls. The place for reading and pondering the many quotes were on long stone benches and pews. In one section you didn’t have to move from quote to quote. You could just sit there in the middle where all the energy of the memorial was directed and read the quotes as if in a meditation.
I think what moved me most, though, was the choice and the variety of people who were quoted. I started with Maya Angelou and then moved to Mahatma Gandhi. From Gandhi I read the words of Eleanor Roosevelt and then the words of 12-year old Edina from Sarajevo. Next was Martin Niemoller who spoke up in the face of Nazism. Then quotes from Confucius, Helen Keller, and Anne Frank herself. Many times I had to stop and compose myself. The sheer weight of these courageous and passionate people who had put their lives and their reputations on the line for justice and equality was more than I could take in in one quick read through. The list continued: Rosa Parks, Billie Jean King, Alice Walker, Moses, Olaudah Equiano (12 year old slave), and Jimmy Carter.
Poets, preachers, children, political leaders, social activists, religious texts, everyday heroes, and even an athlete contributed to this memorial. They came from a diversity of nations and places in life but what they all had in common was that they were calling all people, the whole world to acknowledge, fight for, and accept nothing less than full human dignity afforded to all. The memorial was in Anne Frank’s honor for naming the suffering and the inhumanity of the world and for having the courage to hope and to believe despite it all.
Today I sat in a sanctuary and it didn’t have four walls and a steeple.