Ever Northward

It is late November.  I can feel the muslin shroud begin to descend over the holiday season – dulling my senses.  The Christmas season is my favorite time of year and my least favorite. It is the best of times, it is the worst of times.

I can feel the tug of “the journey” begin to pull at my heart strings.  December 22nd has come and gone fifteen times already; fourteen Mother’s Days and fourteen July 11ths.  During the past fifteen years, I’ve made this passage dozens of times.  Sometimes it was multiple excursions in a year, especially in the early years but not so much in recent times.  For two years during my battle with my inner demons, my addiction, I didn’t make the trip at all; too ashamed to make an appearance on those “holy grounds”.

I travel northward, ever northward, like the snow geese above me.  Passing the Canadian geese heading south with their incessant honking.  Over the same pathways as before, through the barren and bleak winter countryside.  Past the familiar hamlets and lakes that dot the route of PA 402 through the mountains.  I pick up US 6 through Wallenpaupack and Hawley and Damascus.  There is very little in the way of traffic except in the villages.  Not many people are making this trek.

As I approach Narrowsburg I cross over the Delaware into New York.  Sometimes it feels like I’m crossing the River Styx for nothing awaits me except for reminders of death.  Nevertheless I push onward through Lava.  All around is evidence of a region that is long past it’s prime: unkempt lawns, cars on blocks in the driveways, paint peeling off the ramshackle homes.  Depression epitomized.

I am close.  The summer camp sites that surround Lake Huntington are the harbinger that my pilgrimage is nearing its end.  The three hour journey ends when I pull into the cemetery in Fosterdale.  Fosterdale is so tiny a town that one would miss it if one blinked; it doesn’t amount to much more than a gas station/convenience store, a church and a flashing traffic signal. An unlikely backdrop, I admit, for this blog post but there it is.  This is where she “resides” now.  The car comes to a stop and I turn off the engine.  Silence.


Not much has changed since last year.  I remove the dried out decorations and memorials from last visit and replace them with fresh ones.  No doubt they will be there next year and I will repeat this little ritual.  I brush away the dead leaves.  My aunt, Margaret, rests nearby.  I silently pay my respects to her memory as my cousin, who has accompanied me on this trip for the past five or so years, places her Christmas memorial greens on my aunt’s resting place.

She used to live not far from here, my Mom.  I can’t be sure for how long but it was long enough for me to have visited several times.  The truth is, I think I’ve visited her more since her untimely passing than when she was living in the area.  There was always going to be plenty of time to visit … maybe next Mother’s Day … maybe next summer … maybe next Christmas.  There wasn’t going to be any more “next times” after December 22, 2000.

Honestly, there were several trips when I felt “obligated” to make the trek – six hours of traveling for a 15 minute visit – but this trip felt a little different.  This time it felt as if she were saying, “It’s ok. You don’t have to do this anymore although I do appreciate the effort and the thought.”

But as I write this I feel something else.  I feel that gentle tug on the heart, that flash of the memories, and I reach a place of serenity and coalescence.  For as long as I am able I will make this pilgrimage to that holy place.  Her memory deserves it and I need it.



The Nudge

(not to be confused with the movie, “The Grudge”)

If there is one thing I’ve learned over the past few years it is this: pay attention.  It seems relatively simple, right? I mean, how hard is it, really, to notice things.  But I’m not referring to noticing when someone is sporting a new hairstyle or donning a new outfit. That’s stating the obvious (although I’ve had lapses on even that rudimentary level). No, I’m talking about being aware and open to the subtleties in life.  Oh, they’re there all right but too often we blow past them in the rush of daily life (and doesn’t life seem to be moving faster and faster). I’m throwing myself under the bus on this as I too often move too fast in my daily routine to hear the whisper of Spirit or notice those around me.

Let’s be honest … we live in a very noisy world – cell phones, MP3 players, television, car radios, podcasts, car horns, traffic – and it doesn’t seem to be getting quiet anytime soon.  We also live in a very busy world; frenetic is probably a better word. We have school events, grocery shopping, work, appointments, social engagements, and the list goes on and on.  I am not immune to these demands.  Too often my day is spent hurtling from pillar to post and by the end of the day I realize that I have not paused at all.  That kind of 8256967824_ea9beda442_mlifestyle can easily become addictive and I have to re-learn how to be still. Being still is critical for me.  It is only in the stillness that I can hear the whispers in life.  Move to fast and I miss them.  Move too fast and I don’t pause to watch the birds at the feeder outside the kitchen window.  Move too fast and I fail to notice how blue the sky is today. Move too fast and I miss the beauty in everyday things like the way the sunlight makes the fresh snow sparkle unlike any diamond! If I don’t slow down and be still, inside I’ll miss the nudge of Spirit.  I’ll miss the important but oh so subtle whisper of direction for my life.  I need that navigator, that internal compass, in my life; without it I cannot kno607586749_17d626f0c2_mw which road to take in life.  When I am aware of the nudge and heed it’s leanings I am more peaceful.  When I am lost in myself I inevitably will miss the “bridge out ahead” sign and fail to take the exit ramp.  Listening for the signal allows me to feel the nudge of Spirit and that nudge moves me in the direction to which I should travel.

I got that signal, that nudge, at several crossroads in my life in the past few years.  I sought out the necessary help for my struggles eight years ago; had I not, you wouldn’t be reading this now. I went on that second date with Eileen; had I not, my life would feel an emptiness.  I hosted a teen orphan from Latvia and adopted another one; had I not, I would have missed the opportunity to see how unconditional love can conquer fear and I wouldn’t be blessed by my son and “daughter” today.  I started a writing career; well, we’ll see where that leads.


So why write about “the nudge?”  You’re just describing a seemingly random series of events and choices, aren’t you? Here’s why … when I get that nudge I follow it’s lead.  Last week I watched a video. It was an interview of Sister Simone by Krista Tippett. During the course of the hour-long conversation many topics were broached – social justice, Pope Francis, being secure in insecurity and loving on the overlooked.  At one point the conversation turned to what prompted Sr. Simone on her path. Her response – she heard the whisper, she felt her heart move, she didn’t resist the “nudge” to her calling.  For the full conversation visit: http://www.onbeing.org/blog/live-video-sister-simone-campbell-of-nuns-on-the-bus-with-krista-tippett/7309#.VPdca-H8r2Y.

Then, two days ago I read an article authored by Anat Vaughan-Lee.  She writes, “We do not always know what it is or how to articulate it, but deep inside there is a longing, a longing to live according to a true calling. A calling that comes not from the personality but from a deeper part of ourselves …” She goes on to state that by heeding that calling we become connected to life on a much deeper level and our being, our soul, is at peace because we are true to our calling.  You can read the short article here: http://www.awakin.org/read/view.php?tid=1067. 13718646634_e591fff743_m

Where am I going with this? Simply this: when I pay attention to the whisper, the nudge, the pulling on my heart, the calling, I feel connected to life around me on a deeper level.  When I feel more connected I am more attuned to noticing and appreciating the Beauty and the Divine in ordinary things.  When I can see the Divine in others I am better able to see the Divine in me.  When I can feel the Divine in me I can glimpse the Grace and Love that is the Divine.  When I follow that nudge my purpose is in harmony with the will of the Divine. I feel connected.

And so I write …