On Pilgrimage: day 3, walking wonder and grief

On Pilgrimage: day 3, walking wonder and grief

We’re well past the eleventh hour on Good Friday, the most heartbreaking day in the Christian liturgical calendar, so be warned: the tone of this post is pretty somber.
Just before setting out this morning, the day’s pilgrims each shared two or three words to bring intention towards what they would be walking with today. Responses ranged from “embracing our wonder” to “broken and crucified.”
We then set out into the mist of the gray morning, carrying the first two miles in deliberate silence, reflecting on these intentions. A distinct solemnity hung damp in the air around us. But, for me at least, it brought an earnest wish for renewed purpose. Emerging from this caesura came a spacious vitality, not so unlike the frost required for Easter lilies. And, not so unlike the stretch of Holy Week itself.
In the beginning, all I could hear was the crunch of our footsteps and the streams of snowmelt, my own breathing and subdued birdsong, the sudden burst of flapping as two wood ducks spooked and alighted from an ice-crusted lake. I tried to maintain focus upon the grief and bereavement of Good Friday, hoping to thaw the ice sheet of embarrassed restraint that keeps us from falling into our own vulnerability to confess the fearsome reality of both the crucifixion and climate change.
Yet for all my sober intent, I found myself distracted by the lightness of my heart after two days of delightful fellowship and good fortunate, of great food and beautiful scenery (and, at Nine Mountain, even a hot tub!). I found myself distracted by the awakening of the woods in Spring, intoxicated by the storybook hills unfolding along our path. It was all too good, too joyous, to see anything else.
And then, suddenly, a mechanical racket lanced through the quiet, the thudding of a Caterpillar along a dirt road, punctuated by the baring ellipses of the vehicle in reserve. The rumbling and blaring was deafening to ears adjusted to the whisperings of the landscape. And it struck me that this was a parable for my dilemma this day, and for a root cause of climate crisis, too.
We become absorbed by the immediate, by creeks, swaying branches, and friendships, as well as our blistering feet.  We sink ourselves so into today that we neglect the obvious – our call to preserve what we fall in love with for future generations, even for those children alive today. Our present surroundings distract us until, like Jesus beaten and killed by the authorities, or like a boisterous Caterpillar during a period of silence, or like a world with unconstrained emissions, that which we love today loses its chance of tomorrow.
But maybe, if we are honest enough to grieve at the path we are headed down, we might just be wise enough to choose a better walk.  


Patrick Cage

Patrick Cage served as environmental intern at the Massachusetts Conference, UCC for six months in early 2015.  He is a recent graduate of Yale College where he was an environmental studies major with a concentration in religion and the environment,

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