Does the road wind uphill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.
Every parent has no doubt told the story to a whining child about ‘walking to school in the snow, uphill both ways’. It is a joke of course but never fails to stop the complaining in its tracks, for at least a moment, as the logic of this concept tries to sink in. And yet many of us have had the experience of traveling uphill with no end in sight, feeling that, indeed, we are traveling uphill both ways.
As I continue to prepare for my October pilgrimage to the island of Iona in Scotland, I am thinking of travel, of walking, in both metaphorical and practical ways.
There is, of course, the issue of the right shoes to wear. As a self-professed shoe junkie, this has brought no shortage of anxiety. But now that I think I have that problem solved, I can concentrate on the deeper meanings of what it means to walk the path of this long awaited adventure, this journey.
Last week our group of pilgrims gathered for a final briefing by the trip planners. We shared details, a wonderful meal and a combined anticipation for what these eleven days together will bring. As I looked around the room I tried to imagine the many reasons and life circumstances each person was bringing to this road that may, at times, feel like an uphill trek. Some of my fellow pilgrims I know very well and have for years. Others I am still getting to know, learning their names,hoping that the days spent together on buses and planes and around shared food and rich experiences will bring new friends. I am hoping that by journey’s end I will know more about each person, will come to a place of gratitude for having shared the road together, from morning till night, ‘the whole day long’.
But one does not need to be preparing for a long trip to embrace the words of Christina Rossetti. Each day provides its own journey, uphill and down. Each stage of our lives also offers this gift: a road that is to be traveled without our knowing where the twists and turns will take us. All the plans we make can turn on a dime. Anyone who has lived more than a few years knows this. What seemed like a smooth moving, care-free existence can suddenly turn into an uphill battle with an unforeseen diagnosis, a deep loss, a turn too quickly made. This is the nature of life. Each day is a journey of its own if we lean into the ever increasing rays of sunlight.
And so for all those who are held in the limbo of an uphill journey, may prayers hold you. For all those who cannot see the path ahead or are too frightened to look, may prayers surround you. For those who travel alone and long for companionship, may prayers embrace you. From morn to night. From night to morn.