Day 21 Saturday, July 30 Livingston to Gardiner, MT 57 miles
I said yesterday that I felt some shift as if I was now entering the second stage of this. I certainly have not hit a wall, but I can feel myself trying to work through the right rhythm to be able to sustain this through the next seven weeks. I wrote two days ago about the little fork in the road–do I push to maintain a schedule or do I allow the rhythm of the days to be dictated by the freshness of my legs and the vitality of my spirit. My legs are tired, but they are still turning.
The psychic fatigue is what is wearing on me now. Today should not have been too difficult, yet when I arrived in the town of Gardiner I was beat. I was riding up the Yellowstone River (on the road, of course) and although it was not steep the whole ride was a gradual ascent. Then the last twenty or so miles a nasty headwind made it feel as if I was climbing a long tough hill. That was not terribly disconcerting excpet for the fact that I was trying to save my legs for some punishing climbs in Yellowstone. Today was “supposed” to be a mild day of recovery.
I am finding that I have to keep a good balance between planning and trust. Tomorrow is a good example. Campsites are a prime commodity in Yellowstone and they are on a first come, first serve basis. There are 85 miles between the north end of the park to the east end where I will head across the Wyoming high desert. I can plan to leave as early as possible, eat well and hydrate often. But, I will not be making it through the park in one day. The rest is a matter of trust that somehow it will work out. This is part of the psychic fatigue I am experiencing. After riding hard there is planning for the next day, recovering, finding places to eat and shop and the anxiety of entering areas without an airtight plan in areas where there is some risk involved. I do definitely feel like I am in the wilderness now. This is new psychological territory and I find myself having to dig deep to trust and move forward.
In the midst of this I had dinner at a small Mexican Restaurant and I met Julie and Jody. Julie is the daughter of a Methodist minister in Virginia, which makes her a PK (preacher’s kid). PK’s tend to either rebel against the values of their preaching parent or to follow them. In Julie’s case she is about to enter her senior year at the College of William and Mary with a major in world religions. At the same time that she appears to be following in her father’s footsteps, she also does not attend church. I wouldn’t exactly call it rebellion. How many 20 year olds do you know who go to church?
Julie is one of the clearest examples of a pattern I have discovered on the trip. Although it is not true in every case, I have met many people who are reading religious works and exploring their spiritual lives, but who would not think of joining a church. One of the discoveries is that these people I have met don’t tend to have a well-formed identity (such as Buddhist, Christian, etc.), but seem very content with the process of exploration.
Julie has been enjoying the different classes in religion that she has been taking and as she dives into each one she gets excited about what she is discovering beyond the Christianity she grew up with. Her preacher father apparently teased her saying, “Julie, you change your religious orientation every semester!”
Based on what I have been discovering I am not so sure that Julie has changed anything. If claiming and stating a particular religious identity is sort of like deciding which car you are going to buy, then yes, she is hopping from one religious car lot to another. But, what I am discovering is that the process of exploration and the journey of discovery seems to be the point these days. The people I am meeting are not apologizing for their exploration saying, “Soon I’ll settle on one religion and make my decision. Sorry it’s taken me so long.” The people I am meeting explore, contemplate, reflect and apply whatever feels authentic to them. Stating a religious preference does not seem to be important to them.
I think about Julie and the many people I have met and I think about the Church. I think about Julie’s passion for studying world religions, but choosing to leave her pew open for someone else. I think about what God or the Spirit might be doing in our time and I wonder if we need to be listening to Julie just as much as we listen to her preacher father.
Yellowstone tomorrow. Pray for strength, safety, wisdom, and a campsite, please!