Sacred Stories

“All the great voyagers return
Homeward as on an arc of thought;
Home like a ruby beacon burns
As they crest wind, scale wave, soar air;
All the great voyagers return…”

– from “The Homecoming,” by Barbara Howes

Thank you dear readers for the many warm comments and emails I have received as a welcome home.  I am truly blessed to have such a supportive virtual community.  A special thank you to Laure who shared the above quote in her comment on my previous post.  She wrote that she imagined me on the other side of an arc of thought.  These words provided a lovely counterpoint to the quote I left you with before my journey from Meister Eckhart: “I need to be silent for a while, worlds are forming in my heart.”  New worlds have formed, I have ridden the longings which drew me on my travels to the other side, the arc of thought which initiated my journey is now descending.

I am not sure I would call myself a “great voyager”, but I do feel as though I have been on a great voyage across ancestral landscapes.  It is hard for me to know where to even begin sharing all that stirs within me. But begin I must, for my own sake, grasping onto each thread and seeing where they take me.

I am grateful to have this place to have my stories witnessed — witnessing is a mutual act of speaking aloud the truth of what you have discovered and having the community in return affirm the meaning of those stories.

(Image taken at Melk Abbey in Austria)

The image of the spiraling staircase symbolizes what this journey was about for me.  I have gone on an interior descent of sorts, part of the pilgrim’s path.

The spiral also has another meaning for me in connection with my travels.  I have been contemplating a great deal the meaning of stories.  My pilgrimage was in part a way of entering into the stories of the people who came before me and listening for the stories of the landscape.  In the last few months an image has been developing within me, an image of the layers of sacred story in which we participate.  I see my own sacred story as the core of my identity, but wrapped around my individual story are my ancestral stories — the stories of the people who have walked before me, their struggles and joys.  I believe I carry these in my very DNA and I must speak their stories to understand my own.  In telling their stories, I affirm the meaning of their lives and thus the meaning of my own life.

Wrapped around these ancestral stories are the cultural stories, the ways of thinking and being that formed my family members — the wars that traumatized them, the religious beliefs that shaped them, the languages they spoke, the external limits on their possibilities.  Wrapped around these cultural stories is a global story, the story of humankind, of who we are as a species.  And this is wrapped within the earth story, the story of all creation, we are woven together with the trees and the creatures, the stones and the oceans.  Their stories help us to understand ourselves as well.  These stories are wrapped within the story of the cosmos, the great pulsing of life through the universe.

I held this image as I left on my journey and my travels have only deepened my sense of connection to these layers spiraling around me. And while I have traveled up an arc of thought and am now traveling down the other side, paradoxically I have made a descent and am now climbing my way back up.

Please excuse me if these words sound abstract.  I will try to make them more concrete in the coming days with words and images.

In the meantime, what are the layers of sacred story in which you participate? What are the unnamed longings of your ancestors that still pulse within your heart?

(c) Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

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