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Invisible Hands…

I have been home for two days now and am slowly working my way back into life in Portland again.  I can see that I am doing all that needs to be done–going through mail, getting a calendar set up, meeting with people, calling the plumber, the paper, and the billing agency.  At the same time I don’t feel completely here.  I am somewhere in a foggy haze between the pilgrimage and my Portland life.  My body and mind feel a great relief finally having permission not to have to put the miles in to keep moving forward and not to have to set down shallow roots in dozen of places acrosss the West.  Yet, my mind isn’t ready to just pick up the same pacing in a new environment.  I do think that is one of the gifts of this time.  I experienced the richness of extended periods of reflection and contemplation.  I know that I cannot sustain that same level of deep introversion now that I am back.  I am also aware that I am not willing to completely give it up.  I cannot return home as if nothing happened;  I will need to find a way to honor and create the contemplative sacred space in my life without having to escape for weeks on end.

Invisible hands

The gift I had sent home to remind me of the "invisible hands" that carried me through

I knew at some point I was going to want to have some physical reminder of this pilgrimage and the spiritual work that I was engaged in during this time.  It was in Bandon, Oregon on the coast where I came across a piece of pottery by a local artist that spoke to me immediately.  It is a large red clay-colored urn with a number of hands fired onto the sides holding the urn as if to communicate, “You are safe and held in our hands.”

I chose this because the image and feeling of “invisible hands” carried me for much of the trip.  In the early weeks when I fell into a deep solitude I had the feeling of being held by hands that emerged out of the leaves, trees, lakes, and mountains.  If I had allowed myself to be held my Mother Church up to that point, in these early weeks I felt embraced more by Mother Earth and maybe even Mother God.  That feeling only became deeper as I traveled through Bozeman, Montana , where I was born and then into Loveland, Colorado where I needed to reconcile my awkward history with mothers themselves.  As I felt the absence of mother figures in my life, I gained a greater reliance in trusting life itself for my basic needs.

First day in desert

In Utah before officially entering the Nevada desert and a reliance on something deeper than myself.

There was a point in western Colorado and into Utah where I had accomplished much of what I set out to do.  My legs and my will drove me there with purpose.  Even though I also needed to take some time in Lake County, California where I was deeply shaped by friends and an emerging church, the ominous presence of the desert between me and them made my knees go weak.  I could feel that I would not be able to traverse that wilderness through sheer grit and determination.  At one level I felt defeated.  At another level that is where I allowed my friends, family and new blogging acquaintances to have a stake in this as well.  I had days when I felt like I was doing this for others and I allowed the invisible hands of my community to hold me, support me, and push me along a day at a time.  I felt those hands and more than any other time on the pilgrimage it was during the pre-Nevada desert days and during it that I went to the blog comments to look for some good words to remind me of why I was doing this.  I felt in many of the comments of the invisible hands to whom I feel linked and connected.

I believe in these invisible hands of love.  I could not see them, but I did feel their presence.  Even the young woman who totaled her car in front of me in the desert believed that invisible hands had kept her safe and that it was meant to be that I would be on that stretch of the road just as she lost control of her car.  Whether all of this is true or not I do not know.  But, I do know what I felt.  I do know that when I had no more grit in my belly something and somebody else stepped in.  God?  Spirit?  Invisible Hands?  I don’t know.  I do know that when the reservoir ran dry in me a deeper source filled me back up.  And now I have a physical reminder of what was invisible but very real before.  I am grateful for both.

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“Now what?”

Day 72   Monday, September 19   Florence to Junction City, OR   71 miles

Leaving Florence

Leaving Florence into some uncertain weather and beautiful landscape

I made the decision to start heading east back into the Willamette Valley a couple of days ago.  I have traveled along the coast all the way from Florence to Astoria in the years I have lived in Portland.  Once I reached Florence yesterday I was anxious to see some new Oregon country that I had not yet seen.  I chose a route to Junction City that added just a few miles, but got me off the beaten path and introduced me to some new roads.  Did I ever make the right decision!  I have a friend who cycles with me occasionally and I am looking forward to introducing her to this long, lonely, lovely stretch of serene road.

Hwy 36

Enjoying this lovely two lane road of Highway 36

I actually didn’t anticipate getting into such a wonderful cycling rhythm today.  My mind had turned to planning the best route just to get me home quickly and safely.  After riding the first 15 miles through somewhat foggy conditions and a few spotty showers, I made the turn at Mapleton to Highway  36 and set my mind to making good time over the next 55 miles to Junction City.  I wasn’t but a mile or two into this alternative route when I realized I had been given a gift.  It was a lovely two lane road with a creek running alongside it.  With only a few exceptions, the only vehicles I saw were a few service trucks supporting the occasional house along the stream.  I stopped and picked ripe blackberries along the way and took a few minutes down by the stream enjoying the rippling waves and the peaceful atmosphere.

Between Florence and JC

I felt like I had ridden right into a corner of paradise

What I realized as I fell unexpectedly into this wonderful side route was that there is a unique combination of factors that make a route perfect riding for me.  I do ride quite a bit in Portland, but I can say that most of the in-city riding is largely for the exercise itself.  When I get onto sacred stretches like this the riding moves into a moving meditation.  I had this many times on my trip—usually when I get onto the open road without distractions and when the difficulty of the riding isn’t so intense that all I can do is focus on the physicality of it.  It is hard for me to explain what I experience.  I enjoy other forms of meditation that are less physical and I find that I have to work hard to stay focused.  When I fall into a certain rhythm on the bike the meditation literally enters me without even inviting it in.  Too little exertion and my mind wanders.  Too much physical exertion and it’s all I can think about.  When the rhythm is just right I forget about my body, my mind quiets and I fall into a deep, empty, restful and healing place.

Memorial Church

Memorial Community Church on Triangle Lake

As I am nearing Portland and the end of this amazing personal pilgrimage my mind has turned to the question of “Now what?”  It is the same question that my friend, Dave, relayed to me after another cyclist had traveled by tandem to the tip of Chile over 6 months and found himself asking “Now what?”  I don’t feel completely at a loss.  I think the wisest thing is for me to return home and discover what Eastminster has also learned in this time (they invited in ten different speakers—some churched, some not—to share their spiritual journeys).  One of the things that has touched me tremendously is the number of people who have said that they have used this blog as part of their daily spiritual discipline.  I have really just tried to share what I have experienced every day and I am both surprised and humbled that others find words for contemplation here.  When I think about the question of “Now what” I do know one thing.  I can’t imagine suddenly halting my writing and reflection on this when I arrive in Portland on Wednesday.  It was never about the bike;  it was about my own personal wrestling, struggling and reflecting on my life, my call, and my place in the Church in this time of transformation and change.  The biking part will end, but the spiritual journey will continue.  So for now I plan to continue to write for as long as I still have something to say.  When the words run out, I’ll stop.

Share the Road

99.99% of the drivers heeded the sign quite well. Thank you!

The second thing that I reminded myself was that we at Eastminster have been following a little motto in recent years that is simply, “Follow the energy.”  It’s just another way of saying, “Listen to the Spirit.”  I do wonder what the next step will be, but I do trust that whatever energy, whatever interest, whatever conversation this pilgrimage has stirred up is the path that we need to follow.  At Eastminster we have faithfully followed this motto of “following the energy” and it has led us to wonderful new ministries.  We have partnered with the community to open a 60-bed homeless shelter, broken ground on a large community garden, and established an adult education program that has brought together both church people and spiritual explorers.  Will this lead to a thriving church community once again?  Maybe, but if it does it won’t be church as we have ever known it.  What I do know, however, is that as I return I feel secure that Eastminster and I are on the same page.  I don’t know where this will go, but I do know that we have a made a commitment to “follow the energy” and in that I expect that much of my answer to the “Now what” will emerge from that.

Laundry

Buddhism has a saying, "After ecstasy, the laundry." So true!

It seems somehow appropriate that I will be meeting with a new colleague tomorrow who had read my post yesterday on “Letting go, letting go, letting go” and recognized herself and the issues that she and her Church has wrestled with.  My sense is that many ministers are struggling with churches who are “holding on” but who really are ready to “let go” and think more about legacy than surviving.  If nothing else, I do hope this pilgrimage can serve to open up that conversation and allow us to be more honest with each other and our congregations.  On the other hand, maybe I am the only one, I am just making a grand fool of myself!  It wouldn’t be the first time.

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I remember now…

Day 69   Friday, September 16   Gold Beach to Bandon, OR   55 miles

Gold Beach

Leaving Gold Beach this morning with the fog already half burned off

I fell asleep after dinner tonight and awoke in one of those “What time is it and where am I” types of hazes.  I knew as I was riding today that I was pushing my body to its capacity.  With home beginning to pull me forward with a little greater determination I hadn’t realized that I had ridden six days straight.  I felt like I just left Kelseyville a couple of days ago yet it was already the sixth day of riding since then.  Even last night I was toying with the idea of taking a rest day in Bandon before planning my final few days back into Portland.  It wasn’t long after my arrival that I knew I needed to wake up in the morning with the luxury of riding casually along the beach or choosing not to ride at all. With permission to slow it down seeping into my bones, I just laid down “for a moment” on the bed and that was that!

Shoreline

A wonderful stretch of shoreline to begin the day

With each stage of this pilgrimage unfolding I am amazed at how the picture of what this is about comes into focus one piece and one day at a time.  I definitely had my “Eureka moment” three days ago.  I felt it, but was a little nervous about giving it too much credibility until the feelings and the themes remained consistent for a few more days.  As I wrote previously, I am discovering this pilgrimage is really about helping me discern my call.  Today I spent much of my time reflecting on this breakthrough about feeling trapped and my realization that it need not be that way.  I was reminded of why I began to study religion passionately in the first place and what drew me to the place in the pulpit.

I was first moved in college by reading Reinhold Niebuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society followed by his two volume work on The Nature and Destiny of Man.  Neibuhr was a theologian who had a tremendous impact on the public policy of his time offering a theological critique and basis for addressing Nazism, communism, and the role of democracy in societies.  He challenged religious conservatives for their narrow view of the Bible and religious liberals for their naïve idealism about the world.  My reading of Neibuhr was then followed by a year’s worth of honor’s research on the Protestant response to the Holocaust and was moved by the faith of Deitrich Bonhoeffer who was jailed and hung for his failed assassination attempt on Hitler.  I read some of Gandhi’s work and his use of spiritual principles to bring independence to India from Britain.   In seminary I followed this with a study of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches and writings and his brilliant oratory that was compelled by his religious convictions in his calling on America fulfill her own proclaimed values for freedom and liberty.

Coastline

Striking coastlines that make the heart sing!

This is why I became a preacher and pastor.  I believe in the power of our theological convictions to change, transform and call our society to a higher standard, more compassionate politics, and a truer reflection of our deepest humanity.  I have never felt that honoring the separation of church and state means we must divorce our faith from our politics.  How could I ever separate my conviction that America should have universal health care from my religious belief that “I am my brother’s keeper” and that Jesus life was about healing the whole person—body, mind and soul?  I was both shaped and inspired by the passion, the intellect, and faith of these and many other figures in our history who had a powerful impact on society because of their religious faith.  Some say that religion has been the source of some of the world’s most destructive eras.  True.  Religion has also been the source of some of the most profound movements toward transformation, compassion, and freedom.

Greasy Spoon Cafe

Coffee and a slice of homemade coconut cream pie at the Greasy Spoon Cafe in mid-afternoon

I am feeling some relief and greater clarity as I am sorting out what happened at my “Eureka moment”.  I don’t completely understand how I let myself get there, but somehow over the years I began focusing more on the survival of our religious institutions and the barriers that have kept us from connecting with the culture around us.  I have tried to act as a bridge between our rich tradition and emerging spiritual forms and structures.  I have often felt caught in a “no man’s land” between the two never quite feeling like I fully belong to either community.  Without being aware of what I was doing, I think I have been trying to protect the one place where the great religious social reformers still had a voice—in the church and our worshiping communities.  In this new time, religious commentary is not only ignored in the public square but often considered inappropriate or offensive.

But, I believe that good theology has as much of a place, as much of a voice, and as much validity in the public square as good psychology, good sociology, and good political ideology.  Good theology sprouts good ethics and good ethics keeps science directed toward goals that enhance life rather destroy life.

As I am writing, the big issue I began with ten weeks ago was how to heal the spiritual schizophrenia I have felt for so many years.  This false dualism is beginning to shed its ugly skin.  The truth of the matter is there is a split in our communities between the religiously faithful and the “spiritual but not religious”. I have felt it for years and this pilgrimage and my conversations only confirmed how difficult it is for these two groups to talk and come to a common table.  But, my own split personality (I use that term loosely, not clinically!) is the result of trying to figure out just where my theologically-informed voice really fits.  Traditionally it has fit in the pulpit, but I am frustrated that the pulpit has become a place to talk specifically to the church while I feel called to speak to the larger society.  Yet, in our current climate to speak theologically in the public square is to invite charges of over-stepping our religious boundaries.  Do I limit myself to the confined world of the church or do I take the risk to share my religiously-informed voice in sometimes hostile public square?  This has been my unspoken, unarticulated and unknown subconscious dilemma.  I feel relief that I can see it openly now.

Bandon Waterfront

Just a taste of the Bandon waterfront that I'll enjoy tomorrow on my last rest day

Where does that leave me now?  Again, I don’t know that I will need to change my commitments or my life goals.  I already have the privilege of speaking in the pulpit on a regular basis.  And I am increasingly active in city and county politics and planning.  For now I think it just means that I no longer need to worry about where my voice fits.  I just need to use it wherever I am and let the rest unfold. I need to worry less about creating a community that reflects my voice and just use my voice and let the community form (or not form) around that.   I think that is called trust.  I am shaped by the great theological social reformers of our tradition and our community.  They are my heroes.  They are the saints who I have attempted with limited success to pattern my life after.  This is my call.  This is my voice.  All my theological heroes were not concerned about serving the religiously faithful.  They concentrated on using their theological ideas to serve humanity.  I am beginning to remember why I got into this business in the first place.  What a relief.

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On the way home…

Day 62   Friday, September 9   Santa Rosa to Kelseyville, CA   76 miles

Santa Rosa fog

Riding into the chilly fog in the Sonoma Valley

Kelseyville is a small town made up largely of farmers and retirees from the Bay Area.  I live in Portland now where I am lucky to have an assortment of independent theaters, hundreds of restaurant options, museums, and concert halls all within a few minutes of a ride on the public train system.  Plus Portland has Powells–the coolest bookstore in the whole nation!  Even with all those cultural options I had mixed feelings about leaving Kelseyville in 2002.  It did make the best sense for our family at the time for economic reasons, but I also knew I was leaving a piece of my heart behind.

Wine Country

Riding through the wine country of Sonoma and Mendocino counties

As I turned onto Kelsey Creek Rd. just a few minutes ride to my dear friends, Kathy and Peter’s home, I started to feel a little closer to home.  Portland is still a good 700 miles off, but I still feel like a piece of me belongs here.  I have a few friends here who walked with me through the entire journey of our Kelseyville experience–from the shaping and development of the Quester Community, to the subsequent conflict and controversy, and finally to the chartering of a Unitarian Universalist congregation which is thriving and growing.  It felt really good when Peter said, “Look what you started with the Quester Community.”  I replied that I was pretty proud of what we did here in Kelseyville.  I was not also able to say that.  I internalized my forced resignation as a sign of failure as a minister.  It is only in hindsight and with the benefit of age that I can see that losing a job is sometimes a part of the process of birthing something new.

Clear Lake

Viewing Clear Lake below from the top of Hopland Grade

I will take the day tomorrow to visit with old friends and get reacquainted with some I have not connected with for years.  Since my two impromptu naps yesterday in the park I am savoring and looking for ways to allow for more unscheduled time.  I don’t want to relish it so much that I don’t continue to move forward toward home, but I am finding that as I near home I am looking to create a pace that I can carry with me as I return.

Free Thinkers sign

I immediately checked to see if fluid was coming from my ears as I rode by!

Today was a picture of extremes.  I left Santa Rosa while the fog was still sitting fairly heavy in the Sonoma Valley.  I dressed lightly knowing that eventually it would burn off, but I was chilly for the first few miles of the ride.  By the time I neared the town of Hopland about 25 miles from my destination the heat was scorching.  It was even hotter than what I had experienced in the Nevada desert.  In Hopland two men, Mike and Scott, reported that it had gotten to 106 degrees just before I had arrived.  I can’t confirm that that was the actual temperature, but I do know it was hotter than the high 90’s I had experienced in Nevada.

The night is cooling now.  Peter, Kathy and I sat out on their patio under a near full moon and caught up with each other.  Deer were silhoutted out in their pasture.  Crickets were chirping.  The moonlight cast long banners of light across the fields and hillsides.  The beer was cold.  The food was elegantly and tastily prepared.  But, the Giants lost to the Dodgers.  So it wasn’t quite a perfect night.  I will sleep well tonight. It isn’t my bed, but it feels a little like home.

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Crossing the Sierras, at home

Day 55   Friday, September 2   Gardnerville, NV to Placerville, CA   110 miles

Gabe and Joanie

New friends and hosts extraordinaire, Gabe and Joanie

I left Gardnerville yesterday morning after being treated royally by my Warmshower’s hosts and new friends, Gabe and Joanie.  With a heavenly glider ride the day before (a whole new experience for me), great food, a luxurious bed and bedroom, and an evening of watching reruns of some of the Tour de France that I missed earlier, I was feeling fairly calm about patiently riding my way over the Sierras.  The Sierras in this part of CA/NV are different that the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where it takes many days to cross the mountain range.  Here, one quickly ascends to Carson Pass at 8,574 and then almost as quickly makes the rolling descent down to sea level.

Leaving Gardnerville

Leaving Gardnerville with a clean shave and ready to re-enter the world

There was about a 15-mile stretch of just following the base of the mountains before crossing the border into California and beginning the climb to the summit.  As I entered the first canyon with the magnificent rocks jutting out from the canyon walls I felt my breathing become deeper and more relaxed.  I felt a sense of relief.  I was coming home.  Not in the sense that I was nearing the familiar territory of the Bay Area or that I was now one step closer to Portland.  I mean I was feeling at home in the mountains.  There is a ruggedness and a temperamental nature to the mountains that one must respect.  Yet, I find that the terrain and the landscape of the mountains reflects something deep my soul.  The air is thinner at altitude yet I find that I breathe more freely and easier.  I don’t think I realized how much out of my element I felt for those ten days between Utah and Nevada in the desert.  I anticipated that that part would be where I would get a taste of wilderness.  I got just what I asked for.  It was a physical wilderness, but more me it was more of a pyschological wilderness.

Kit Carson Summit

Edging my way toward to top of Kit Carson Summit at 8,574 feet

I was surprised at easily I pedaled up to the summit with the exception of a couple of steeper sections that taxed me for a short time.  I was glad to reach the top of the summit without feeling like I had exerted too much energy.  As I began the rolling descent down toward the Central Valley of California I was, at first, celebrating that I had crossed my last major mountain pass.  This was a Western states pilgrimage and the greatest percentage of it consisted of pedaling my way through mountain ranges in every state on the route.  I was, at times, overwhelmed by the lack of psychological recovery time between one set of passes and another.  Yet, as I was descending I was surprised that a subtle sadness came over me.  I put the last major pass behind me and now I was grieving that I was beginning to leave the mountains.  I was already starting to think ahead to the next time that I might be able to pedal to the base of a mountain and anticipate the miles of working my way through rugged granite canyons, looking back over the valley thousands of feet below, and breathing in the fresh, thin mountain air.

A Sierra lake

One of the high mountain lakes on the Western slopes of Carson Summit

I was born in the mountains of Bozeman, Montana.  I grew up at the base of the Rocky Mountains in Loveland, Colorado where I raced other cyclists who thrived as much as I did in that special rarefied atmosphere.  I went to college in Idaho just an hour’s drive from Bogus Basin Ski Area.  In Portland, I almost always find myself heading east toward the mountains rather than west toward the ocean.  My soul is just drawn to the mountains.  It is there where I feel most at home.

Melissa and James

3,000 mile point! Melissa and James and their two boys at the Kirkwood Inn where we talked pyschology, religion and cycling, of course

I have thought a lot about what it is that draws us to and connects us to a certain place.  All along my journey I found the same thing to be true.  I met people in the rolling farmland of Idaho who feel most at home in the seasons of growing and the gently rolling hills that they farm.  I met one man who found himself out of place in a larger city due to family and work and who is now working on returning to the wheat fields, the fishing, and the small town relationships of his childhood hometown.  Even in the empty wilderness of Nevada where I could not find a completely calm emotional place, I met others who either grew up there or chose to move there for the wide open spaces where it reflected something about who they are and what they yearn for.  I found over and over again this pattern of people either feeling connected to the land in which they lived or yearning for a life where they could enjoy a more intimate connection to the land.  I am convinced that much of our spiritual core has to do with our connection to the land, to nature, and its seasons.

The West Slope of the Sierras

Now looking northwest after crossing the summit

I arrived in Placerville quite late (about 7:30 p.m.) after a long day on the bike.  I knew it was going to be long, but a couple of missed turns added another 10 miles to my journey including a couple of surprise hills that appeared like a wall in front of me—climbs that I would not have had to do if I had read my map correctly.  Oh well…it is a pilgrimage of discovery.  I was surprised that I didn’t feel overly taxed after a pretty remarkable day of crossing the Sierras.  I am not sure if it was the result of a luxurious day off at my host’s house in Gardnerville or the result of many miles of descent that allowed my legs to recover from the climb, or the feeling that I was in my element and at home in these mountains again.  It was probably a combination of the three.

Today, I will ride into Sacramento where I will prepare to speak at Grace Presbyterian Church tomorrow morning.  I am largely staying in the homes of Presbyterians during the course of the next week or so.  It is another aspect of returning home.  I am slipping back into my role of trying to facilitate this conversation between the Church and our larger culture, between religion as we know it and an emerging spirituality.  I started this journey feeling that it would be a circle of “leaving home, coming home” and it is certainly playing its way out that way.

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Pilgrimage as Life

Day 48   Friday, August 26   Ely, NV   Rest Day   0 miles

Today I made a fairly significant decision.  I took all of my camping gear including my tent, sleeping bag, pad and cooking gear and sent it UPS back to Portland.  The result is that my load is now 40% percent lighter, 30 pounds down from 50 pounds.  I have been comtemplating this move for a number of days as a new purpose has been emerging as I round the final corner and begin heading for home.

I have been feeling that this next step is to now to share what I have heard and to listen to the Church over these last three weeks and 1,500 miles.  My hope (even expectation) is that I will be able to stay in the homes of church members for the bulk of my remaining days.  There are 65 Presbyterian churches directely on my route, so if even a third of them would be willing to host me and have a conversation I should be able to rely on the church community to bring me home. 

However, I didn’t decide to finally box up my gear until I had first mapped out the Warmshowers homes also on the route.  About 2/3rds of the towns that I will pass through also have Warmshower hosts, so I am feeling fairly secure that if my plan to hop from church community to church community doesn’t pan out I won’t be left homeless for a night.  I should be able to sew together a combination of churches, warmshowers and motels.

I am continually suprised by how this pilgrimage mirrors my life itself.  I felt many months ago that I was being pychologically pushed into this pilgrimage by an inner force that wouldn’t take no for an answer.  I can’t tell whether the growth I am having is due to the pilgrimage or if the growth is driving the pilgrimage.  Most likely it is a little of both and the two are feeding off each other.

Today is a rich example.  I just physically let go of a good deal of my load.  I just lightened up the burden that I have been carrying.  Today also just happens to be what would have been my 30th anniversary from my marriage than ended five years ago.  This five year mark is significant for me as I have felt in recent months that it represented a threshold into a new life.  I have spent the last five years overcoming and surviving the effects of the divorce financially and emotionally.  That is all good.  But, as long as I continue to remain stuck in a pattern of survival, I am still defining myself by the divorce rather than by who I am and where I want to go wtih my life.  It’s one of the reasons I have spent this time revisiting my childhood homes.

I realize that crossing this threshold cannot happen in one day as if this symbolic anniversary day marks the beginning of something new.  I realize it is process tha has already been unfolding and will continue to unfold for months, maybe years to come.  Nonetheless, today I let go of some of the baggage that has been weighing me down.  I lightened up a bit and eased the burden that I have been carrying.  I want to make sure that as make this journey home that I can enjoy the remaining miles and days and not dread them.  I want to return home knowing that I didn’t just survive the ride, but that I thrived in the richness of this pilgrimage.

Am I talking about my life on the bike or my life following divorce?  I know, it seems to blend together until I can’t tell one from the other.  Either way, I am glad to have let go of some of the weight of my life.  I am relieved to have allowed myself to lighten up.  I know it will serve me well on the bike.  If this pilgrimage stays true to form, it will also serve me well in my life to come.  I don’t think this pilgrimage is a break from the routines of life.  It is a mirror of life itself.

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Day 44   Monday, August 22   Spanish Fork, UT   Rest Day   23 errand miles

Downhill Cyclery

Bailey gives thumbs up from Downhill Cylcery in Payson

I had been feeling since leaving Loveland ten days ago that a new purpose was beginning to germinate for the pilgrimage.  I could see momentary glimpses of it. I could feel a shift occuring from some personal work to work on behalf of the community. In the midst of tha,t mountain passes have not brought the same joy they did earlier in the trip and minor inconveniences have tripped me up more easily.  Yet, I have been spurred on by the thought that I really need to cross the Nevada desert as a physical symbol for the journey that our religious communities are also on.   I have heard from enough ministers over the years who have a more progresive theology, but feel stymied in their congregations for fear of undermining the beliefs of their members.  I need to cross this bridge for myself and for Eastminster and the Portland community.  I sense that there are others too who want to cross this bridge.

Today was a good day for gaining some clarity on where I am going and what the rest of this pilgrimage is about.  A new purpose is beginning to emerge.  A definite shift has taken place as I make plans now to listen more to the changing story of the religious community.   I still have many details to work out, but I am sensing that once I cross “the wilderness” of Nevada that my focus will turn to listening to the Church and sharing what I have experienced in the last six weeks in the broader community.  I am beginning to see now why I was not able to approach churches on the early end.  I really needed go out for the story before coming back with anything to say.  I am looking forward to seeing how the stories complement and feed off each other.

Although I am still quite cognizant of the risks and the careful planning needed to cross the desert, the slow gelling of my purpose for the final weeks is changing how I feel about those days on the “Loneliest Road in America”.  It may be too premature (and probably naive), but I moving from a feeling of dread about those days to a feeling of anticipation for the richness of the experience.  Now it is beginning to feel like an opportunity for more reflection, growth, and the word that keeps coming to me is gratitude.

I think this change is brought on by the fact that once I hit Carson City, NV just below Lake Tahoe I will feel like I am coming home.  The rest of the trip is familiar territory.  I traveled in that part of Nevada and Northern California as a juvenile probation officer counseling youth in boot camps and group homes.  My sister was born in Sacramento which means I lived there for a short time (I have no recollection of it.)  I have already shared my connections to the Bay Area with graduate school, the birth of my children, and friends and family.  Then all the way up the coast from Marin County, CA to Astoria, Oregon are churches and colleagues with whom I have worked and worshiped for the better part of 20 years.  I am beginning to feel that this final push through the desert is the last major obstacle before “coming home”.  This pilgrimage was always about “leaving home” and “coming home” on so many levels and I can see them being played out as each week unfolds.

Utah Trikes

Bryce at Utah Trikes who got my bike back on the road

Now onto the matters of the day.  I spent the early morning making phone calls to a few bike shops in the area.  There are none in Spanish Fork, but a handful within about 10-15 miles.  It was clear that I was not going to be able to replace my front rack without having to wait until Wednesday (at the earliest) to have one shipped to a shop in Provo.  The next best thing was to see if I could remove the broken bolt that was severed from the eyelet and then just replace it with a new one and use my same rack.  Downhill Cyclery in Payson (8 miles south) was kind enough to let me use their work area to remedy the problem on my own.  Unfortunately, there was no tool that could do the job.  Along came Bryce at Utah Trikes (www.utahtrikes.com).  I knew from the moment he looked at it that he was going to get the job done.  He had a confidence even if he wasn’t sure exactly what would work.  After trying the usual plier and vice-grip methods he got serious.  With a power saw and a few drill bits he removed the bolt, gave me the tools to reattach my rack, and sent me on my way to complete this crazy journey.

Krishna temple

The Krishna Temple in, yes, you heard me right, Spanish Fork, UT!

On my way back to Spanish Fork I had to stop at this temple that I passed on the way down to Payson. I knew this was Mormon country and this did not look Mormon at all!  It had Eastern written all over it.  I rode up the small hill, parked my bike close to the temple, took off my shoes as is the sacred custom, and entered the building.  I found out it is the first Hare Krishna temple in Utah (www.utahkrishnas.org).  The second one was just built in Salt Lake City.  It was like looking at one of those questions on an SAT test where they show you four objects and then ask, “Which one doesn’t fit?”  In L.A., yes.  In Portland, yes.  But, in Utah it just baffled my mind.

In the temple space

In the temple space where celebration, worship and meditation are observed

I grew up in an atmosphere where the message was that Hare Krishna’s were a cult.  I can remember as a child seeing them in the airports handing out a flower and a pamphlet.  I don’t remember ever getting a flower as I steered as clear as I could from them.  Now that I have theology degrees and much more exposure to the world I don’t feel the same.  I read some of the material and like most religions it asks questions about what is our true spiritual nature, what does it mean to be in community, what is our connection with the divine, and how should we order our lives.  The hostess on site explained Hare Krishnas this way:  We are the monotheistic sect of Hinduism.  Now, that’s something for Christians to think about.  Yes, it looks different than what we are used to, but quite honestly I feel more of a kinship with the Hare Krishna who is pondering the world of spirit than I do with the stock broker who obsesses solely over markets and money.  We all have our gods!

The rest of the day was spent pondering and planning the rest of the pilgrimage.  It felt really good to be able to step back and get some perspective on it once again.  I was especially relieved as I brought my different maps and internet tools together to get a strategy for crossing Nevada.  After pulling all of my resources together there was no day where I felt it was impossible.  There are, however, five days straight where there will be no services for between 65 and 90 miles.  Each day is doable.  it’s the full package that is a bit daunting.  The trick will be to take my time, plan well, and not rush ahead until I feel ready for each day’s ride.

Which brings me to the issue of continuing to blog during this period.  I have reflected a great deal on whether I needed to unplug for a time.  What I came to is this.  Whether I actually send a blog out or not, I realized that I depend on and look forward to this time to capture and put my thoughts together from the day.  It is my form of journaling which I would do regardless.  The reason I send it out is that I made a commitment early on to try to mirror the “wilderness experience” that our religious culture is currently going through.  I am working very hard not to write for anyone in particular, but to capture the challenges, the joys, the emotional ups and downs, and the subtle shifts that take place day to day.  Having said that, I cannot guarantee that I will send a blog every day while going through Nevada.  My commitment is to cross the desert, do it safely, and remain pyschologically intact.  It may be all I can do to ride, eat, drink, sleep, recover and ride again.

Tomorrow I am off to the town of Delta, UT.  From there the 400- mile loneliest road section begins.  I am so glad my bike faltered yesterday.  It was just the gift I needed.  The world definitely looks a little brighter and more welcoming than it did two days ago.  Sigh…

 

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