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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

  1. 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!

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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.


    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…

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. The Rock
    puts to raise the Cross

    The Way
    from where
    by whom
    to who

    A Name
    embedded in the dark
    is called


    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.