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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. 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.

  2. 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

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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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


    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