Snow Pilgrims

***We are hearing reports of a possible snow storm over the next few days. Who knows if it will materialize but this post from December 12, 2012 reminded me of how moving about after snow has fallen can be a time of great learning.

To say that making your way around the Twin Cities these past few days has been difficult is really an understatement. The snow that graced our presence on Sunday has wreaked havoc on the act of getting from point A to point B with any attention to time schedules. It seems the combination of snow, low temperatures, chemicals that need a certain temp to actually work and, perhaps, an attention to snow removal that was less than timely, has made for some of the slowest and painful commutes in recent memory.

Yesterday morning as I was creeping along the road, a certain nugget of wisdom that I learned on the Island of Iona a couple of years, came to mind. ” You can only move at the pace of the slowest pilgrim.” This caution was spoken to a group of folks I was traveling with just as we embarked on what became a nearly six hour Pilgrim’s Walk around the sacred places on this tiny island. This declaration ensured that we were attentive to one another, the pace each was able to walk, that no one was left behind, that no one rushed ahead.

Thinking of this way of walking as a pilgrim my mind then jumped to something poet David Whyte said when he was here in October. Speaking of the many names and identities we wear during a lifetime, he asserted that the one that remains true throughout our living is that of pilgrim. We are always a pilgrim in this life. Traveling from one identity to the next, one year to the next, one day to the next, one breath to the next. We are always on some pilgrim path.

So as I traveled my pilgrim way yesterday, I was aware of a car several yards ahead of me. Moving at the snail’s pace in which we were all engaged, this particular pilgrim was unable to make it up the slight incline that had become an ice rink. His tires spun. His car slipped left, then right. I watched as the pilgrims between me and our slowest kin tried to decide what to do. Wait. Pass. Slow down. Speed up. Feel anger. Offer compassion. So many choices on the pilgrim path.

Eventually, several passed by this whirring pilgrim trapped in his metal container. Most did so with trepidation. His spinning could result in a face to metal experience of this fellow traveler. As we all made our way past him, something moved in my chest knowing that I had broken the cardinal rule of the pilgrim walk. We were leaving our slowest one behind. Traveling on without him. Leaving him to fend for himself.

Practicalities had to prevail on a day like yesterday. Decisions needed to be made about staying put or going on, about passing or taking the risk of not having enough momentum to make it up the hill myself. My heart still went out to this one whose name I did not know but who shared this identity as pilgrim with me.

Advent continues to unfold and we are pilgrims on the journey toward Christmas. The darkness continues its hold on us. More lights appear every day as people rail against the night by decorating their windows and walkways with lights that spill color and illumination. It must be done. For we are people who walk in darkness yet long for light.

This morning this Blessing for Courage by John O’Donohue seemed appropriate:

“When the light around you lessens
And your thoughts darken until
Your body feels fear turn
Cold as a stone inside……
Close your eyes
Gather all the kindling
About your heart
To create one spark.
That is all you need
To nourish the flame
That will cleanse the dark
Of its weight of festered fear.” 


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