“I have just returned from the only week long segment I will be able to participate in. During that time we traveled from Littleton, NH to Hanover, NH, but it was not so much the miles, but the spiritual practice and community that made this journey so amazing. Each day we would practice “functional silence” from rising, through breakfast, and for our first hour of paddling. The silence was briefly interrupted for morning prayer, when we would read scripture and sing a hymn together. Most days, we would stop somewhere along the way, for a special recognition: maybe to mourn the loss of sacred native site, or to honor the work of those who now use the land for agriculture, or just to appreciate a beautiful waterfall. In the evenings we would again, after reading scripture and singing, practice another 20 minutes of silence. Silence has never been an easy part of my spiritual life, indeed silent retreats are just frightening to me, but somehow, out in the wilderness, this changed for me. That first hour of paddling, often along the glassiest of water, was magical for me. It was a restorative time, a time of deep connection with God, and a time when I felt my creativity kindled. My prayer is that I can continue to embrace some version of this practice back home!
Each day, one of us was asked to contribute to a journal. On the day I volunteered to write, the words that echoed through my head all day, as I took in God’s creation all around, seemed to take the form of a prayer, and so what follows in my entry for day 15 of the pilgrimage. It was a meaningful exercise for me to write a prayer in this way, and I hope that it might provide a taste of what those days on the water were like.
“The are many things I don’t understand”:
O God, there are many things I don’t understand, though they’ve been explained to me … I’ve probably even explained a few, but I still don’t understand them. I don’t understand the magic of mixing cornmeal, water, cheese, and butter, but I’m glad it works. I don’t understand the power of the place where the water meets the land, or why 11 gathering there to feel the morning sun moves me so. I don’t understand why Nicodemus, who came to see Jesus at night, but was also there at the very end, tears such a hole in my heart. I don’t understand why finding a paddling rhythm with someone I’ve just met is so joyful. I’ll never understand the currents of air and water the way the birds and the fish do, and I can’t fathom how the swallows decide where exactly they need to dig a hole in the side of the bank that must be ready to crumble. I don’t understand why the sharp edges of concrete and steel look like scars out here, or why we sometimes need the scars that stitch us together in ways that didn’t work before, or why I never understood the real cost of flipping the switch, until I was in this place where there is no opportunity to do so. I don’t understand the patience of water, the sculptor of mountains … or why the glistening of the setting sun across the waters speeds and slows as you stare at it over time. I don’t understand how, as you were trying to put a soul into a pile of mud, as the days of creation were coming to an end, you were, even then, calling us to the river, imagining a world where this journey could happen. O God, help us not so much to understand as to appreciate and in appreciating to be thankful. Thank you for the blessing of this day, for these people, and for the gift of water. Amen.”
– Rev. Jonathan Eden