2015-16 Pilgrimage

On Leaving

Camino SculptureWe had planned to leave Cambridge on Monday morning, soon after I finished a conference call that could not be rescheduled. After a whirlwind pack up and clean, we finally left the house at 4:45pm. We arrived very late that night at Minga's parents home on Maryland's Eastern Shore, where we will leave our car and come and go from Baltimore-Washington International, Thurgood Marshall Airport. A couple of days later, I noticed that I had left all my collard shirts and a sport coat hanging in our bedroom closet. The good news is that on our way to Spain this coming Thursday, we have a six hour layover in Boston, of all places!

Oh the details, the minutiae, the endless cleaning, and all the STUFF. A major blessing of this trip is the opportunity to literally touch everything we own. We touch, we consider, we decide to keep or to throw. We shed. 25 boxes of books left the house. Lots of trash and several big, blue recycle bins on rollers, overfull with old paper, file folders and all sorts recyclable junk, were rolled up to the curb and taken away. If you had come by the house during our leave-taking, it was very likely that you would go home with one or another of the treasures we just could not keep. And THANK YOU to everyone who came by and helped us clear out.

This will be our third sabbatical since 1998—a third life reset. Emerging themes for this year of travel together in ministry are pilgrimage, peace and reconciliation, and recommitment to one another.

One profound experience of sabbatical is allowing myself to be stripped away. In addition to all the organizing, shedding and leaving stuff behind, I find that I am also leaving a big part of who I am. My identity is so embedded in context—my roles, my friends, my surroundings. As I go away from the outward facts of my like, away from much of what lets me know who I am, I turn inward. I am stripped down to what is at my core. The experience is challenging, even terrifying. Yet it is also enormously freeing. I can find and explore parts of myself that have yet to surface.I can let myself be shaped by new surroundings, by new people. I can be more attentive to the easily missed, small, tender wonders of life.  And I can clear out the stuff of my heart, the clutter of my life, so as to be more open to God's promptings.

To walk on the Camino de Santiago, Minga and I have obtained an official credential from American Pilgrims on the Camino. This credential, or passport, allows us to stay at hostels run especially for pilgrims. After each overnight stay, our passports will be stamped by the people who run the hostel.  When we reach Santiago de Compostela, we go to the Oficina de Acogida de Peregrinos (the Pilgrims Welcome Office) where we will present our credentials and be asked "Why did you walk the Camino?" Upon a satisfactory answer, we will receive a "Compostela," a document that certifies our pilgrimage.

I have left my life in Cambridge. I am carrying a very small fraction of my worldly possessions. And I am walking with the questions, small and large.

A New Leaf

world doveAre you all ready? Have you packed everything you need? Written your last will and testament? Yes and No. It’s true that Jonathan and I are embarking on a 10 month journey taking us half-way around the planet. Baltimore to Denver to Seville to Jerusalem to Kigali to Mumbai to Kathmandu is the plan. Did you know that the Tamils in India still call the city Bombay? I thought Bombay was old school. I imagine that many of my assumptions will be jolted by this sojourn. We return to Boston the end of June 2016. Phew! Our planet is closer than ever, the distance can be far, 8,700 kilometers or 4,700 nautical miles. It seems very short and very long

quakerWhy are we going? To me it seems natural like reaching for mint tea, or slipping on sandals without Velcro. Traveling to visit friends from Africa and Asia who’ve been to visit us. Using the Spanish and dusting off French (still spoken in Rwanda). Quakers have traveled in pairs since the famous ‘Valiant Sixty’ traveled by horseback in the 1660s. I’m surprised more Friends don’t do it. Quakers travel to ‘be a Living Testament’ of God’s love; they travel with a concern to move us along, to help us evolve; they travel in gospel Love.

Jonathan and I have our special reasons. We are learning to walk together now that the young cygnets have flown high and wide. At some point the boys were ugly ducklings but I can’t remember when. Others call it empty nest, but really I don’t want to mourn the kids leaving. They are working and building their own lives. But we prefer to call our current life-stage, open sky. What better way to celebrate and recommit ourselves to our partnership then to take this pilgrimage. Jonathan says he will walk with me and his goal is to not walk in front of me.

quakers-4This is a good year to recommit. The world is on the brink of turning from climate disaster. (more in next post). This year is critical in binding our communities in love and cross-pollinating niches of justice-workers. We don’t have grandchildren. We still have knees that function, and so far our bodies are pain-free. We have jobs, but with our private business, we can shrink our work handily. We are overly embroiled in our Friends meeting, taking on much leadership; it’s time to devolve. Let go of the encumbrances and come back renewed. All smart phones have reset buttons. Sabbaticals are recommended in scriptures Lev. 25.   Instead of honoring the day of rest, we are taking a jubilee year, the Bible suggests 7 years x 7 years let your fields lay fallow, free your slaves and forgive debts. That's a tall recipe, and I'm not sure I know all that it entails.

So we are sorting, packing, and throwing away barrels of stuff. Most of it is useful stuff, but it becomes a burden if not used for many years. This shedding of the old is an important stage of the journey. Yes, we are preparing, but we are stripping away so that new life can take root.

We welcome all of you to share this journey. May it inspire you to make a sea-change in your life.