More than having one experience among a host of others, our professor — whose instructional responsibility, from what I can tell, is to concretely equip us for post-academic life as Ministers of Word and Sacrament — wants us to come away from this semester with a template or a framework that we could repeat…
and perhaps even an understanding of what conditions might trigger us to pull out that template and generate a new pilgrimage.
This feels effortful to me.
Designing my pilgrimage was not especially effortful. Making my pilgrimage was, as I’ve said, quite pleasant.
Differentiating this pilgrimage-week from
- the four days I spent in functional silence and solitude — reading — at Lebh Shomea,
- the week I spend each year in workshops and laughter with my Christian artist friends,
- or from the three days I once spent with two of my dearest mother-artist companions, enacting our retreat made out of group exercises and goodwill
is more than a little strenuous.
I know I need away-time on the regular; I’ve been taking it on the regular since my girls were tiny. I know I need tangible/embodied time with God that’s not for Good Purposes or defined outcomes, and I’m becoming better at attending to my body’s non-verbal (!) signals for when It’s Time.
And I am a certain sort of selfish, by long training spurred by early hard circumstance. This, I’ve known for a while, is unusual for women in our culture, and for pastors of any gender in our culture — there is a drumbeat of “o-ther! o-ther! o-ther! o-ther!” that for many drowns out the parts of their heart and mind and body that say: “We can’t go on like this. We are not an ocean; we are an aquifer. Pumping at this rate… eventually, there is nothing to pump.”
That’s how I started taking trips away even when I had to freeze pumped breastmilk to do so: it was time for my aquifer to replenish and, for the benefit of the system, I went. “Don’t you feel guilty?” No. “Don’t you worry whether your husband will care for the babies well?” Heck-no; he’s better at tiny humans than I am-!
All that to say: this pilgrimage in most respects has been one of an array of experiences I’ve been intentionally collecting throughout my adult life. It had value; it did not feel special.
So what will I carry with me?
- I have another way of thinking about “apart-with-God”-ness… one of flow and serendipity.
- I’ve demonstrated that I can be silent in place, that my household will support me. I’ve had mixed success with claiming uninterrupted time, so this was a happy discovery.
- Having experimented with a new form, I can leverage this form with others should that seem helpful. As one who designs experiences for others, I find it good to add to the repertoire.
And I have The Solace of Fierce Landscapes.🙂