I have not yet read Cheryl Strayed’s book, “Wild” but I hope to get to it one of these days. I’ve heard very good things about it. I also have not yet seen the movie. I like that Reese Witherspoon, though. So many things, so little time. The reason I bring up “Wild” is because I always think that I ought to do that, go out into the wilderness and just rough it, commune with nature, get myself all sorted and such. The trouble is that I don’t like camping, roughing it, or being too far away from the internet. I’m just being honest here.
The first time I read Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden” I was in High School. It’s likely I read it for a class, but I can’t be sure. I remember reading it, though. I remember the images working their way into my brain and my spirit. I actually did like camping back then. I was a Girl Scout, I’ll have you know. So there. I pick up Walden and thumb through it now and again. I’ve done that for years. What’s in the pages of that book and in the lure of the “wild” that keeps me coming back? And how long will I wish for those quiet, wild places before I actually find the time and energy to get to them?
My godmother visits a monastery from time to time. She has graciously invited me along many times in the last few years, and I always intend to go. I want to go. My church has retreats at a nearby Orthodox monastery. My friends have suggested we get a small group together to drive up there and just take a weekend away, and I haven’t gone yet. I don’t make time. Things are crazy here, all the time. I find myself wandering around this city in a kind of fog, checking things off my “to do” list and then writing new things on my “to do” list to fill the gaps. I’m too busy.
Constant refrain to my life song, “I’m too busy.”
Sometimes, while driving down Armitage Avenue toward my house in Logan Square here in Chicago, I get stopped just under the tracks of the El just as it roars from O’hare into the Western Avenue stop. It always kind of snaps me out of my normal daily fog. I don’t know what it is about that particular moment, but I know that just then, things come clear, and I can look around and see, almost as if I’ve been in a trance or something, all the life around me.
It strikes me when this happens, that I think what I really need to do is get out of the city, go someplace quiet for a time. I think, you know, if I could just get somewhere out in the wild, somewhere calm, where I can focus and think, and just get clear, that would solve something substantial. I think that would be amazing and healing and that I’d be so freaking holy by the time I left that quiet place out in the woods or the desert.
But I can’t get away easily. My crazy life is happening here, my children still need me, my husband needs me. It’s never the right time. But you know, it occurs to me that the city, too, is a kind of wilderness. And if I look hard enough, maybe I’d be able to find those quiet places for contemplation and rumination and pondering the living out of life, because life is happening all the time. It doesn’t stop or start based on where I travel or live. This is my life, all of it.
So, I started making notes, Thoreau-like, and writing poems, and asking friends for advice with this idea in mind. I call it The Wilderness Journal. While I was doing this “city bound mother monk” routine, the lovely powers that be at Ancient Faith asked if I’d like to do a podcast, and I was like, “what? Me? pffft!” I mean, really, who wants to listen to me ramble about stuff a couple of times a month?
But I thought about it and decided that I’d give it a shot.
And now through the magic of the Internet, you’ll be able to give it a listen in a couple of weeks. Each episode has an overarching theme, maybe some poetry, essay-like babbling on my part, phoning a friend with one quick question* about the topic at hand, face painting, bouncy castles and pony rides.**
The Wilderness Journal is about paying attention to what I see, asking some questions, exploring the “now” in light of the “not yet.” So then, path making is that process of navigating where I am at this given moment with where I’d like to be. With the Orthodox tradition as compass, how do I find the way forward?
I’ll be sure to post a link here when things get up and running but in the meantime, I am alerting you, my intrepid blog pals. Be on the lookout, start spreading the news and all that good stuff.
*though it’s not really all that quick and never just one question.
**void where prohibited.