Invitation to Poetry: The Great Journey

Welcome to the Abbey's 52nd Poetry Party!

I select an image and suggest a theme/title and invite you to respond with your own poem.  Scroll down and add it in the comments section below. Feel free to take your poem in any direction and then post the image and invitation on your blog (if you have one) and encourage others to come join the party! (permission is granted to reprint the image if a link is provided back to this post)

On Sunday, August 14th, I will draw a name at random from the participants and the winner will receive a copy of one of my two newest books The Artist's Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom or Lectio Divina–The Sacred Arts: Transforming Words and Images into Heart-Centered Prayer.

lava rock cairn - 1For several years now I have been drawn to the possibility of living abroad again.  During college I studied in Paris for a semester and while growing up, my father worked at the United Nations and we often traveled back to Vienna for summers where my grandparents lived.  My father died fifteen years ago and in recent years I have made several journeys to Austria and Latvia, both countries where he grew up, as a part of a journey of healing our relationship and coming to a deeper understanding of his story, and therefore my own.

Last Christmas I traveled once more to Vienna and ended up in the hospital with a life-threatening condition and as terrifying as it all was, in these months since I can't help but feel like it was also an experience of initiation toward something deeper in my life which I haven't yet even been able to name. Now I am in the process of applying to regain the dual citizenship I once held with Austria as a child, another step on the journey.  It feels important to claim that identity for myself in this way.  It also opens up the possibility of living in Vienna in the future and makes work permits and health insurance so much simpler.  So I continue to follow the call of this great journey and my husband and I are taking steps toward the possibility of a sabbatical abroad beginning next summer.  Embracing this next part of the journey fills me with joy and anticipation, but also a healthy dose of fear and trembling.  As Phil Cousineau wisely writes in The Art of Pilgrimage, "Ancient wisdom suggests if you aren't trembling as you approach the sacred, it isn't the real thing.  The sacred, in its various guises as holy ground, art, or knowledge, evokes emotion and commotion."

The photo for our Poetry Party is of a cairn I created from lava rocks while hiking across a caldera at Kilauea on the Big Island of Hawaii earlier this summer, one of the world's most active volcanoes.  Cairns are human-created piles of rocks left to mark trails and landmarks; they help to point the way.  All great journeys require risk and sacrifice so the cairns of our lives help to remind us that we are moving in the right direction despite our doubts and fears.  They may come in the form of synchronicities, or a sense of equanimity and joy, or an intuition that we are following a golden thread which leads us forward.

I invite you to write a poem about your own great journeys whether ones you have already taken or the ones you dream about.  What are the markers along the way that remind you it is all worth it?  What are the risks you must take to follow the loud beating of your heart?

44 Responses to "Invitation to Poetry: The Great Journey"

  1. Sheila says:

    the last great sigh of summer
    blows a path
    through the other side
    of perhaps

  2. Jason (JVB) says:

    I hear the train whistle blow. It harmonizes with the steady vesper chant of crickets. I wonder where the train is headed, and I long to be aboard.

    To hear and feel the clickety-clack while sipping a Martini in the bar car will bring on old dreams of prosperity and a longing for sleep. I wonder where the train is headed, and I long to be aboard.

    The bluish smoke of a Montecristo ascends, swirling, then fades away. Like the train whistle. I think maybe I prefer the crickets' soft concert. I wonder where I am headed.

  3. Beth says:

    Friday, February 06, 2009
    Kinzua Road

    Walk the Ellithorpe

    Let’s go out .
    Hills invisible beneath the trees
    live in both of our memories
    The little spring
    The field at the top of the hill.

    It’s winter now
    the snow and the ice
    rendering the woods
    closed and inhospitable.
    But we’ve done that before
    haven’t we?

    Walked the woods,
    troubled and fearful
    without trust in
    anything like a good outcome
    a friendly Universe
    A God who looks our way kindly.
    Your defiant heart meant
    oblivion at the end of the road —
    Was this the aspiration you left me?

    And still
    and yet…

    The rock beside the spring–
    I’ll meet you there.
    What is forgiveness anyway
    between such as we
    who have forgiven
    again and again
    but have long memories ?

    What is forgiveness?
    Just to sit in the forest
    by the spring
    and drink
    and observe
    the companionable
    of the snow.

  4. Shelley says:

    Cactus Juice

    Peaceful feelings are elusive
    But I'm glad for those that come
    I wish my joys were more effusive
    and daily life was much more fun

    But even when I scrape through anger
    or sadness drapes on shoes of lead
    the "solid" me is not a stranger
    the soul of me is not "unfed"

    A freedom grows within my darkness
    Small points of light that dance & glow
    While dragging through this desert starkness
    Cool trickling streams begin to flow

    So on I walk as courage whispers
    I may not run or leap with glee
    I kneel to drink from deeper cisterns
    I pray for faith that's wild & free

    This darker path is not my choosing
    This broken way feels so imposed
    I cling to what I fear I'm losing
    This journey's not what I supposed

    And so my mind fills up with questions
    My aching brain – it stews and fumes
    Forgets to hear my hearts suggestions
    The worst of worries it fast assumes

    But when I slow into the silence
    I feel the solid mountains singing
    They hum a tune of fierce non-violence
    Help me release where I've been clinging

    O wash my feet in soulful waters
    As desert vines begin to bloom
    I sip the juice the cactus offers
    And fall into a spacious room

    Where beauty twines within my sorrow
    And comfort glistens in my fear
    Can't solve the puzzles of tomorrow
    But I can sense God's presence here

    Thank You, Life, for tender mercies
    I Bless the stars that light my way
    May "Wild Christ" shine in all these verses
    And May I trust His Love today…..

  5. Linda says:

    This is a song, but it's poetry, too!

    The Great Unknown

    When I had my kids, I traded sleep for love
    Then “ordinary” became sweeter than I’d ever dreamed of
    I traded certainty for the awful, Great Unknown.

    When I went to school, I traded shallow for deep
    Then I graduated, found a job I could keep
    I traded certainty for the awful, Great Unknown.
    The Great Unknown, how it calls to us
    Like a siren in the night.
    The Great Unknown, how we call to it
    In the dark, a candle light

    When I took that job, I traded time for money,
    Then I left that job, and found the freedom felt funny.
    I traded certainty for the awful, Great Unknown.

    When I left that friend, an awkward circumstance,
    I took a chance, and finally learned to dance
    I traded certainty for the awful, Great Unknown.
    The Great Unknown, how it yearns for us,
    I think we yearn for it too.
    The Great Unknown doesn’t say a word –
    Speaks to me, speaks to you.

    When I learn to swim, I’ll trade this fear for trust,
    And when I die, as I know I must
    I’ll trade certainty for the awful, Great Unknown.

    The Great Unknown, how it waits for us.
    It can wake us from our sleep.
    The Great Unknown, as we wait for it
    It’s the answer that deep cries out to deep.
    It is the certainty of the awful, Great Unknown.

  6. Carol says:

    Do You Hear Me?

    Sometimes I wonder
    when it's silent
    as I wait on you.

    Are you there

    Can you hear the stirrings of my heart
    emptying out to you

    I long for your voice

    An answer
    to assure me

    that you are still a God
    who raises the dead.

    I need a Lazarus moment
    for one I love
    who has been dead for a while now

    Lost and forgotten
    by most

    So I stand like the other mother
    at the foot
    with eyes looking up

    And I ask

    Do you hear me
    Will you save him
    bring him home

    Waiting in faith

    I believe
    Help my unbelief

    and set this child of yours free

  7. Diane Braman says:

    I've been resting, breathing, praying this image from Macrina Wiederkehr's book, "Seven Sacred Pauses" for several months now. The image of my life journey as raising the chalice has been a Holy reminder of my own sacredness, my life as sacrament (my word for the year) – and the importance of me caring for me as I care for others on the journey. I've been wanting to write a nesting meditation using the following breath prayer and this prompted me to do so. Blessings all, Diane Braman

    When I rise I lift high the chalice of my life!

    When I rise I lift high the chalice. Of my life, O God, you are the One who fills me with renewed hope and ever-discerning purpose.

    When I rise I lift high the chalice. Of my life, O God, you are the One who fills me. With renewed hope and ever-discerning purpose I breathe deeply of your Spirit in me and around me.

    When I rise I lift high the chalice. Of my life, O God, you are the One who fills me. With renewed hope and ever-discerning purpose I breathe deeply of your Spirit. In me and around me you make your presence known in the world.

    When I rise I lift high the chalice. Of my life, O God, you are the One who fills me. With renewed hope and ever-discerning purpose I breathe deeply of your Spirit. In me and around me you make your presence known. In the world O God, open my eyes, stir my heart, and lead me in the paths of Holy purpose that lead to sacred life for all your people. Praise be to you Lord Christ!

    • Pam G. says:

      Diane, At each poetry party, I choose one or two poems that move me to keep. Yours is the first this time. I love how the lines change with different punctuation and the addition of just a few words. Absolutely beautiful!

  8. Grady says:

    The path lies ahead of me
    a trail, blazed by the one who has gone before
    I follow in his example
    marked by memorials of his experiences and adventures
    the moisture of his sweat
    the stains of his blood
    these mark the path as surely as the rough stone mileposts
    he is guided by the indomitable will
    to give his own freedom
    in order to mark the path
    to life

    The stony mileposts also have a path
    a road that they have taken
    beneath the surface, molten by heat
    and fluctuating magnetic forces
    they flow from place to place
    unaware of the world above them
    unaware of the concerns of men
    until they are guided
    through cracks and holes
    into the cold, rigid world of the external
    they give their own freedom
    in order to mark the path
    to life

    Where will this path take me?
    through loss and gain
    into familial joy and tragedy
    beside waters both still and turbulent
    through the valley of the shadow of death
    and into the green pastures
    but mostly just
    into the cold rigid world of the external
    to give of my own surface freedoms
    while following the path
    of life

  9. Sally says:


    Buoy me up, O Lord
    upon your mighty waters.
    I journey not except
    you move me.

    I remain afloat
    alone by your mercy
    lest your deeps swallow me.

    I abandon myself
    to whatever place you beach me,
    tossed upon your chosen shore.

    Let me not break apart
    upon hidden rocks.

    May I remain a vessel
    worthy of your service.
    until you call me home
    across eternal seas.

    I have been working with images of water for several months. The reality of being on water has nourished my soul, from an anniversary sailing trip to a new boat and home on a lake. I continue to let my thirst for God draw me to the waters of life. Sally+

  10. Richard Wells says:


    There are no paths
    to sacred places,
    only steps.
    One step after the other
    until one day
    your turn around
    and there you are –
    a sacred place,
    unto yourself
    and like no other.

  11. Deborah says:


    One day you knew
    It was time to go,
    Time to reverse the outward spiral,
    The only path you could name –
    The great arc decaying, the slow
    Before you turned, and began a new arc.

    Nothing suggested reversal –
    The bright sun still stood overhead;
    No lengthening afternoon shadows
    Or subtle dying of light –

    The world still unfolding at your feet,
    The garlands still hurled your direction,
    No portents of change or disfavor,
    No threatening of diminishment;

    But somehow you sensed a new pulse
    An upward tilting pressure,
    Like a mariner feels the tender
    Heartbeat of the sea
    Beneath his feet, feeling
    The change, the change in the water
    The change in the rhythm and surge –

    Only that told you
    It was time to make for harbor.

    How curious it was for you to find
    That standing in
    Your vigor and power
    You stood the furthest from home.

    Out, out swept the arc of your life,
    You flew out toward destiny, singing your strength
    But just at the apex it all summed up
    Spun you around and pointed a new way.

    You got what it was you went out for.
    Time now to bring it all home.

  12. Snow says:

    The Rock
    puts to raise the Cross

    The Way
    from where
    by whom
    to who

    A Name
    embedded in the dark
    is called

  13. Mary B. says:

    which way?
    there are many paths…
    or perhaps just one.

    looking ahead,
    i see my path.
    the signs all point that way.
    i plant my foot firmly on the road.

    a moment later, i look up –
    everything has changed!
    all of my landmarks are gone.
    in their place are
    strange new signs i cannot read.

    i want to pull my foot back –
    perhaps this was a mistake.
    yet my other foot pushes forward,
    as if it knows something i do not.

    i scan the horizon for some
    sign or signal to assure me.
    ahead of me, there is vast emptiness.
    looking back, i find there is nothing.
    there is no way back!

    i panic.

    knowing nothing else to do,
    i look down to the earth beneath my feet.
    i kneel.
    … i see something there:
    a tiny seed, planted long ago,
    only now beginning to sprout.

    my labor begins.
    i cultivate the soil,
    watering it with my tears.
    the little seedling grows,
    its tiny leaves opening one by one.

    soon laughter and hope,
    like sunshine breaking through the clouds,
    warm the seedling’s roots
    as they grow deeper and deeper
    into the earth.

    then come the blossoms,
    too beautiful for my eyes;
    then the fruit that nourishes me,
    before dropping to the ground
    and becoming new seed.

    the path – it is within.
    it always was.
    and so my heart follows,
    into His abounding joy.

  14. Robyn says:

    This is me

    "This is me. I do this all the time."
    Sometimes I have to remind myself,
    As I sit down to write a letter to the people who trust me
    to be their mentor and guide, about our future;
    As I prepare to preach words I barely trust to be true myself;
    As I speak in earnest about things we are all still learning.
    "This is me. I do this all the time."
    As I look out on faces that I used to, still look up to
    and they look back, expecting, I think, wisdom I don't have;
    As I write curricula for courses it feels like I should still be taking;
    As I give advice, prayed over and for, on things foreign.
    "This is me. I do this all the time."
    I say, as I look in the mirror, dressed in a uniform,
    I still think I have to earn, and head out to do
    those things I do so well, because,
    this is me and I do this all the time.

  15. Betsy Kitch says:

    I have walked on pure gold of aspen leaf,
    Found spring and summer flowers
    still waiting for me in the fall,
    watched the rising sun
    turn cold grey granite into fire.

    Lord, burn thus in my heart.
    Keep fresh the early flowers.
    Let even my falling leaves
    be carpet for the feet of others.

  16. Cynthia Kane Tedesco says:


    Isaiah is the white space
    between all words
    the white spaces
    within leminscates, swirls –
    lines & circles
    within the numbers

    he is a white fire –
    a burning sun
    who learned first
    of new beginnings
    in the newness
    of The Word –
    & that fruit he tasted
    on his tongue
    tart – with a dash
    of licorice from
    the Creator of the vine

    Isaiah is a giant
    who shines & shimmers
    from man to Prophet…
    he opens his mouth & tilts
    back his golden head
    as Divinity speaks thru him –

    from The Word
    he has given me
    my world, whole
    & holy, firm as stone

    two pups dance & run
    at my side – also white –
    like the spaces between
    these letters …
    & I never knew this …
    how playfulness reveals the full
    so we can leave
    all this behind- to dive –
    to travel into The Word's Heart –
    & naked now become
    a white page
    for Divinity to write upon…

  17. In the sunset arguing,
    young and passionate
    we sit, round the holy cairn
    built by our ancestors,
    preserved by our fervor;
    and debate its many points
    of structure and of meaning;
    while the old woman
    who stacked handy stones
    in the dawn of her days,
    sees it, and nods,
    and finds the turning, on
    toward Home.

  18. Carolyn says:

    Our Road Much Traveled

    Yoked together in matrimony
    doesn't mean
    we two became one
    in that instant:
    shaping a marriage takes time.

    Linked together in matrimony
    doesn't mean
    we knew
    what we were doing:
    learning a marriage takes time.

    Joined together in matrimony
    doesn't mean
    our footsteps
    proceeded in the same direction:
    walking a marriage takes time.

    United in matrimony
    doesn't mean
    we shared
    a vision:
    creating a marriage takes time.

    Bonded together in matrimony
    ripening, still:
    living a marriage takes time.

    Blessed are we
    for having time.
    Blessed are memories
    strewn across
    the landscape of

  19. Jennifer Trently says:

    Deep Inside a Cave
    No Light for Weeks

    Energy too much – long walks, little sleep
    Cleaning-Cooking-Nothing Left Undone

    Slowing-Crashing-Thoughts Racing
    Light Quickly Disappearing
    No warnings but another blackhole

    Another Journey of Darkness and Light
    Of Mania and Depression

    The Bipolar Journey
    Never-Ceasing, Only Less Damaging with Meds

    The Caves
    The Sunshine
    Life Goes On

  20. Liz says:

    A realm of possibility teeters on the resolve I muster within myself today.

    TODAY I will dig deeper, reach higher, journey farther, and seek to be all that God made me to be!

  21. Ruth Jewell says:


    You held me in your arms
    You whispered in my ear
    “Be not afraid”

    You sent me on a journey
    my path laid out stone by stone
    by You

    I walk the path
    darkness on one side
    light on the other

    One path-one journey
    many stones-light, dark
    moving forward into the unknown

  22. Hello Christine, thank you once again for the invitation. This is my poem.


    you can begin again

    let go and let the water carry you
    like setting off into the air, as light as a bird

    you have all that you need
    let go and let the water carry you

    the companionship of the poet spirit Hafiz, who sends fire and courage
    you have all that you need

    the courage to free wheel through the sky, shrieking with poetry
    like setting off into the air, as light as a bird

    you can begin again

  23. Rachel Diem says:

    Ten years

    They came with bulldozers
    and cranes to remove
    the cairn, the waymarker
    you left for us

    Not milepost or guide, except
    perhaps to say
    “not this way” that
    pile of rocks and
    rubble and grief

    marked a change

    my brothers you went
    in exactly the wrong

    I will pray
    for you for your

    You have marked us

  24. Michael Landon says:

    The wandering meandering path that seemingly has no end
    Yet at an unexpected turn there is an exquisite flower in bloom between the rocks
    Then the cry of the blue heron as she takes flight over the path
    Keep following, keep watching, keep listening, keep living

  25. […] This is a contribution to the Poetry Party being run by Christine at the Abbey of the Arts. This month's theme is the great journey. […]

  26. Elaine T says:

    Thank you for these most amazing poems and the ever-gracious invitation to contribute.

    Between Heaven and Earth, The Journey

    deep in our DNA
    resides the holy compass
    our flight corridor

    below us
    land and sea
    and sea and sea
    and land

    for our journey
    we need only our wings
    our tiny fearless hearts that
    beat and beat

    we fly together
    an embroidery across the sky
    held aloft by divine design

    searing across continents
    a covenant
    a chiaroscuro
    a witness
    a radiant display
    of celestial love

    between heaven and earth

    • teena lurlene says:

      I have been thinking of directions lately, collecting pictures of compasses…now this comes across my path. . . beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  27. Ailsa says:

    Last time I met them
    Their eyes were filled with joy
    Ten years they had longed
    and hoped
    and often wept
    Now life moved within her
    The journey promise-filled.

    I met them last night
    Her eyes exhaustion-dimmed
    Three years they had loved
    and prayed
    and hardly slept
    Life had delivered a
    Journey heavy-laden.

    We sat together
    Their eyes reflected pain
    Yet also fierce love
    and joy
    and always hope:
    Beautiful, gene-scarred boy
    Your journey will be shared.

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