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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?

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44 Responses


    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.

  2. Coracle

    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+

  3. 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

  4. 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!

    1. 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!

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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…..

    1. Shelley – I recognize the landscape that you describe. I live there, too. Thank you for sharing your journey – it reads like a Psalm.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.