Day 70 Saturday, September 17 Bandon Rest Day 0 miles
I wonder how recruits feel after enduring and surviving military boot camp. I missed that whole experience being in a generation that came of age between wars. But, if my image of boot camp is correct I do wonder if I have put myself through some form of a spiritual and psychological boot camp. This experience has taken incredible discipline where I have had to dig deep day after day. I know that I am not the same person who embarked on this pilgrimage ten weeks ago. And now I also feel this strange combination of renewed energy and emotionally wrung out by the intensity of the experience. I am tired and buzzing with new hope.
Today has been a wonderful day of reconnecting, relaxing, and recovering. Last night my dad and his wife drove over from Rogue River (about 3 hours away) and spent the night in the same motel as me. We shared dinner last night, breakfast this morning, and many conversations in between. My dad and I have not always seen eye to eye when it comes to religion and politics. But, my dad and his wife have been reading my blog on a regular basis and he shared with me that he thought we were not all that far apart when it came to spiritual matters. Despite our differing worldviews my dad resonates very much with some of what I have shared. He said that even though he feels church is important, he personally said his most intimate encounters with God have come in the mountains where he grew up. I’m just a chip off the old block it seems. Like many people I talked with, my dad also said that he has no use for church doctrine or policies if they do not reflect the basic commandment to love each other. I heard this repeatedly on the trip about the need to shed the doctrines of the church and focus on relationships. This morning we got on to politics and we didn’t find as much common ground. But, we are talking and discussing importnat matters all in the spirit of a deeper acceptance and that is a beautiful thing that I will forever cherish. It is a trait that I want to nourish in the church—differences in the context of a deep love and acceptance.
Tonight I shared a full evening celebrating the birthday of my friend, Dave, whom I have known since second grade. It just so happened that he and his wife and two friends were going to be in Bandon while I was passing through. Dave and I have known each other a long time and have shared our meandering journeys of life as we have aged. Dave, like me, is a reflective person and we are never short of subjects to chew on, events to probe for deeper meanings, and mysteries to unravel. Over a couple bottles of wine that were worth savoring, the five of us got into a great discussion about religion (and some golf too!). Around the table we had five people from four different perspectives, including non-religious. Toward the end of the conversation it appeared that each of us had the same experience, but in different traditions. That is, that the religion of our childhoods didn’t seem to “connect” with our lives today. We probed that a little more and then there seemed to be common agreement that what happened was that in the 60’s the world changed, but mainline churches largely stayed the course. Thus, this experience of “disconnect” between the church and the people of today. This may be an oversimplification, but I do think there is something to it.
I spent much of the rest of the day walking in and out of gift shops and art galleries. I found the perfect gift for myself to symbolize and share the story of this trip and time of transformation in my life. I am having it shipped home and will share more on that after the pilgrimage ends. I walked along the beach and for the first time took off my shoes and felt the cool sand beneath my feet. It was a near perfect day—sunny, very little wind, and warm at times—very unlike the typical Oregon coast day. I sat for nearly two hours on the docks and just watched people, thought, and enjoyed simply breathing and feeling the cool breezes come off the ocean.
I am close enough now that I can fairly confidently predict that I will be arriving back in Portland on Wednesday, September 21. I am ready to return home. This process of breakthroughs and growth continues, but I also feel a need to ground my reflections in my relationships and larger community. It is a strange experience to process this whole experience without the benefit of real conversations with those who know me. I have been very careful not to get into too much two-way dialogue in my blog because I have wanted these posts to be as journal-like as possible. Still, the comments that did come in and the ongoing support has been a good reality check. There have been times when I have been so deeply in my head that I wasn’t sure if I could trust what I was feeling and thinking.
Tomorrow I will head up toward Florence, OR also on the coast. Depending on the weather I may start heading inland after that in order to ease the riding over the last couple of days. I am coming out of this part of the experience and I am looking for a softer transition back into Portland. I have climbed mountains and fought headwinds. Now, I am ready to pedal easily through the farmland and the vineyards of the Willamette Valley. Hey! That’s what I said I needed all the way back in Utah and now it is about to become a reality. Wow…I don’t think I even know what I have just done and what was done to me. What is going to happen when I finally quit pedaling? I am almost scared by the thought.
P.S. I saw my first ever whale sightings today. Wisps of water spouting from the ocean with just the faintest hint of a massive body surfacing. Just thinking about the magnificence of this world we live in is worship enough.