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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!


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