30 March 2012

pilgrimage | departure & providential signs

The prophet Gad said to David, "Do not stay in the stronghold; depart, and go into the land of Judah." So David departed and went into the forest of Hereth.
--1 Samuel 22:5
Sunday after Vespers, I changed out of my white novice's robes and into street clothes removing that which identified me as monk. Until that point, I had been a monk for nine months. The pilgrimage must start, so I don't take time to dwell, that will come later. I throw my habit into the community laundry bin and peeled the labels marked "Ædan" from the last places I could reach without being obvious. I grabbed my duffle bag and was out the door and on the road in about fifteen minutes. No one chased me or tried to stop me, whether anyone saw me or not or realized what I was up to, I do not know. Fr Stephen did act a little reserved after Vespers when I told him I liked how much smoke the incense put out at benediction, so maybe. There was also no puff of sulfurous smoke, nor beams of heavenly light and chorusing angels. The decision to leave would be unremarked upon by nothing but my own pondering.

I started walking the back country roads that were going to be my pilgrim's way, still slightly wondering if this was more foolhardy than not. There was a point of my path that passed by the monastery road where I knew I'd be highly visible. I ran scripts of what I'd say and do if someone from the abbey drove up to me. I smiled at the guy giving his young daughter a slow ride on the back of his motorcycle. And then I ran across rope, and thus everything was going to be okay.

Packing just my belongings during the week before, I had most of what I expected to need: change of clothes, warm clothes, rain gear, spiritual reading, walking-directions from the internet, Granddad's pocket-knife, pocket-flashlight, water bottles. But I thought "I could use some rope and a spoon." But I didn't want to take anything from the monastery. That being said, I even went searching through the kitchen junk drawer, found a spoon, picked it up, looked at it, walked mostly out of the kitchen, turned around and put it back. "If I'm meant to have a spoon, God will provide."

So when I found rope on the side of the road, certainly enough rope to suit my supposed purposes, to me it was a Providential sign (the spoon was found the very next morning). Now, I did not take it as a sign of "David, this is God, and I'm letting you know that I agree with what you're doing." It was more "David, This is God, what you're doing is fairly on the foolish side, but I AM going to take care of you." It was the first of many prayers of gratitude for help received.

Now, to be fair, I did put together a small first-aid kit from various items around the monastery--alcohol swabs, bandages, non-aspirin--and took eight multi-vitamins to supplement what I planned on being a diet of mostly bread and water. I believe God provides out of the munificence of his goodness; I also believe that he expects us not to be ridiculously stupid. I did not leave without planning, I did not leave without letting people know I was going and the general path I was taking (granted, no one at the monastery), and I left knowing, frankly, that I am one of the smartest, resourceful and practical people I know, even if I were going to apply those qualities to an adventure foolish, impoverished and impractical.

Quickly following the finding of the rope, I couldn't find my next turn listed on my directions--was this a counter-sign? I walked on until my walking took me past the road that leads back to the Monastery. This cannot be good. But there's a gentleman getting into his car, and I ask him if he knows the road I'm looking for. He doesn't, but he recognizes a road a few directions further on, and directs me there. He asks what I'm up to, and telling him, he looks at me like I'm crazy, but he's not unfriendly about it. But I start to backtrack (which amazingly I only had to do twice to my recollection this trip) and head on my way.

A couple minutes later, he drives up with his family and hands me two bottles of water and the admonition to be careful. Now I had brought two bottles of water, and did not relish carrying another couple pounds of water. But I had promised myself to ask for as little as possible and be grateful for everything received during this adventure. And so I was.

And how.

Water was the only major concern during this trip (well, that and trying to keep from getting more sunburnt than the toastiness already achieved). I never worried about food, but water remained a fairly constant concern. So much so, that I trespassed near people's houses only for water (but never up to the houses themselves). Four bottles ended up being exactly what I needed to be secure of having enough water between sources. I had the opportunity to add another bottle, and knew that it would be too much. When at one point, I couldn't find the fourth water bottle, buried deep in my pack and in a bit of a hurry (I was entering Wal-Mart with no other purpose, and I knew I'd be leaving with "bulging pockets"--which doesn't exactly look kosher), to fill it with the others, I felt less than prepared. Four was just right.

So within a few hours of beign on the road, I was given rope and water-bottles, from things found and from the kindness of others. I had to re-route a little, but was on course. And it had been a quiet departure from the monastery. I knew I was going to be okay.

Next episode: The Symphony of Horror! ... I mean ... Nature!

18 March 2012

pilgrimage | a song of ascent

I was glad when they said to me,
    "Let us go to the house of the LORD."
Our feet are standing
    Within your gates, O Jerusalem,
Jerusalem, that is built
    As a city that is compact together;
To which the tribes go up, even the tribes of the LORD-
    An ordinance for Israel-
    To give thanks to the name of the LORD.
For there thrones were set for judgment,
    The thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
    "May they prosper who love you.
"May peace be within your walls,
    And prosperity within your palaces."
For the sake of my brothers and my friends,
    I will now say, "May peace be within you."
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
    I will seek your good.
    --Psalm 121
So let us go to the City of Ashes. So close is she in mind that it feels as though I'm standing within her gates already, though I know she is far off in mountains unseen. I lift up my eyes to those mountains, for from there shall come my peace. At least that is my prayer. This morning when I left the church after Mass, the clouds piled on the horizon took the tantalizing shape of the Blue Ridge Mountains. What song the Syrens sang is not at all beyond conjecture to me, it is the song of home, and the mountains have been singing to me their syren song from far across the Mississippi. It is to her that I go up, I make my pilgrimage. I have gone There; now I go Back again.

This place where I have been is good; it is a homely house with good men doing good things. But during my days here, I keep walking through and around my City of Ashes, counting her towers, reviewing her ramparts--to think of her, my heart sings and plays haunting tunes on bone flutes singing, "All my springs of joy are in you." That is why I am leaving such a fine and holy place. Because everyone has their sacred place, that place where they will find and know God--the omphalos is no single place on the globe, it is where your heart is, or rather the place that serves as your gate from the Here to the Beyond, from Time to Eternity, for your heart. So I will walk through deserts and trackless wastes, such as they might be, I will cross the mighty Mississippi to reach her, to reach home.


So this will likely be my last post for about a month. I leave in a little less than two hours and then I don't figure on having any access to the internet until I reach home. But it is my plan to keep a hand-written day-by-day account and rewrite that upon returning, posting a new entry corresponding to each day after my return. May you all be blessed and grace-filled in that time; and I hope to have many a tale to tell in April, when the sweet showers fall.

pilgrimage | waiting for Godot

Therefore, son of man, prepare for yourself baggage for exile and go into exile by day in their sight; even go into exile from your place to another place in their sight. Perhaps they will understand though they are a rebellious house.Bring your baggage out by day in their sight, as baggage for exile. Then you will go out at evening in their sight, as those going into exile. Dig a hole through the wall in their sight and go out through it. Load the baggage on your shoulder in their sight and carry it out in the dark. -- Ezekiel 12:3-6

 Everything is packed, and like Ezekiel, I've done my packing early. Such is the way of the Mayeuxs. We get ready to take a journey. We plan, we pack, and then we wait ... and wait. You can't leave early, the schedule is set, (in the case of air travel or bus, by someone else) and for this particular journey by foot there are timing concerns as well; it is simply best if I leave toward evening. 

But the human condition is to wait in hope. We sit in constant vigil for the coming of the Lord. He has set watchers over us and He Himself watched over Israel on the night when the angel of death passed through Ægypt slaying all the first borne. Therefore, to the glory of the Lord, we too shall watch ... and wait. Waiting sharpens one's desire for God--the soul is the Bride waiting for the Bridegroom, and the wait makes her hunger and thirst for his presence. Because everything is gift, everything is grace, then there is only so much action the soul can take, to wait, but wait for the Lord and none other, is a state of prayer that everyone should practice for at least fifteen minutes a day. I plan on doing a lot of waiting this trip, especially since I tend to wake long before sunrise, and I won't be able to make much progress without at least Aurora's rosy fingers beginning to shake the stars from the velvet sky. So that will be my time of waiting prayer, my time of longing.

Though not digging any holes through walls like Ezekiel, I will be burning some bridges as I head out this evening. There is some inevitability to that in every journey, every set of goodbyes. Knowing these men, and by God's grace, we shall, however, always keep each other in prayer. There are some people who I've not seen for a long while, but who I hold in prayer, and sometimes I feel as though in some intangible, ineffable way I truly am closer to them than I ever was when physically close to them. This is especially true of those relationships that were mutually detrimental to virtue! Prayer will be about my only connection to anyone for the next twenty-eight days, and I hope that you will occasionally hold me in prayer--you don't have to ask for anything for my sake, God, our Father, knows what we need, but it will be nice to have the company of not only angels and saints in spirit, but friends as well.


17 March 2012

pilgrimage | trusting providence

And He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece. --Lk 9:3

Last post I mentioned trusting in Providence on this pilgrimage, and if ever there were a passage to illustrate that, it would be Luke 9:3. So I'm following it, except for the two tunics; I am taking a change of clothes, but not from a perceived need for them. I had them when I came here, and I'm trying to leave as little behind while taking nothing in addition with me (staying behind is a Douay-Rheims Bible [I'm taking my NRSV], a pair of gloves which I can't find, and a set of books I donated the library within a couple months of arriving). Following the parallel Mark 6:9, which tells the disciples to wear sandals, I'll be doing so. I do have boots packed, which is probably for the best, because I'm not sure how much road-wear these sandals can take.

But, trusting in Providence. This is not a completely passive action, nor do I think it should be, for part of Providence are the natural talents that God has graced each of us with. So I'm not going to ignore opportunities as they are presented, and certainly I will be keeping an eye for them. If God gives manna from heaven, I'll certainly eat it; but I'm not about to ignore food from other sources along the way either. With God's grace, I shall break no commandments on this pilgrimage--but dumpster diving is fair game. I'll not be above spending the night in a shelter if it comes to, or even calling friends and family if emergencies arise. But for the most part I plan on giving each day in prayer, and letting each day be a worry unto itself.

I'll let me friend J. do all the other worrying for me.

16 March 2012

pilgrimage | making a journey

Forty-eight hours till I hit the road. Then begins the pilgrimage to Our Lady of Ashes. I will travel 786 miles, ideally in a month, traveling eight hours a day by foot. My prayer is that it will be not only a physical journey, but a spiritual one. Legends of meeting the devil at the crossroads keep running through my mind, angels and demons, American Gods, wandering saints, the Wandering Jew, errant paladins, and the Lord knows what else. I can only trust in Providence and grace and the kindness of strangers. Keep me in your prayers, and may the Lord be between you and me while we are apart.