On Pilgrimage: day 9, making a joyful silence

On Pilgrimage: day 9, making a joyful silence

We’ve been joking for over a week now that we have not had quite enough suffering on the road to qualify us as proper Pilgrims. Sure, we’ve earned our fair share of blisters, but we’ve mostly enjoyed abundant hospitality from our hosts and potluck cooks, from the land and fair weather, from one another and the Spirit. We’ve had snow, but still no rain (though I may have just jinxed us). So on some level, today’s wintery conditions were a welcome challenge.
Our day started with Shira sliding down the ice. As the group set out for the day, we brandished the ski poles from Windblown to traverse down the hill towards New Ipswich and then marched through a slushy roadside for hours. In the bite of the bitter wind, we all wore our heavy coats, and several of our pilgrims draped themselves in every layer they had brought.
Following lunch, Bruce invited us into an hour of intention and silence as we began our walk from Greenville to Milford. So we set off through the ice-caked forests of New Hampshire country roads in a contemplative mode, pausing to watch a stream, walking lost in thought, observing the swaying branches of frosted hemlocks.
Then, suddenly, Meg and Leah ran forward with our banner flapping above their heads, laughing. And, the next thing I knew, madness had broken it out within the silence. Erratic footsteps sounded on the ice and bursts of laughter ballooned and popped. Pilgrims wrapped themselves or blinded each other with the banner. Flapping our arms and charging at each another like bulls, spinning and snowboard sliding on the treaded ice, skipping with arms linked and mercilessly scooping others into our chain, we delighted in our silliness. For what must have been a full half hour, laughter echoed in the trees as we pranced and pantomimed. 
Charles spoke of this moment later as, “tapping into that seven-year-old in all of us.” Bruce likened it to the jubilant “wheee!” of the streams and the pines. Our play was vital and necessary, and I doubt we would have found this space had the weather conditions been kinder to us, the going easier. Our clowning transformed the dreariness of a cold afternoon, inflating a home for absurdity in the face of winter and silence.
Maybe laughter can help us skate over the quagmire of despair, and into hopefulness. Maybe it’s just healthy not to be serious all the time.
I don’t want to risk over-interpreting this one.
But I am reflecting now on how joyous buffoonery can be a spiritual practice just as much as any solemn ritual, equally an excursion into sacred time, breaking us out of the ordinary and freeing us from our conditioning, ultimately helping us to see just a little differently.


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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