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.
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.
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.