update

I have been very busy as of late, and will not be able to post anymore on this blog. The reason for this, however, is very good. Simply put, I’ll be teaching English in Indonesia starting next year, and will be there for 2 years.

The previous post (Discernment on a Ferry) is the day I heard about the opportunity. Then in late July, I had an interview, and was accepted.

I will keep a blog about that experience, and have already started to write about the process here. Hence, in all the preparations, and that specific blog, it is too much to continue posting here. I will keep the blog up, because I see that some of my posts continue to get traffic. I am grateful for this journey, and those who may find peace, joy or whatever through my words and wanderings here.

Peace to all who find this space.

Discernment on a Ferry

On the ferry

I am currently in the midst of an exciting albeit stressful journey of discernment. My previous posts about travel as a spiritual practice are dancing around my head and I may soon be putting it all into further practice. Though current instability in place as well as sleep disturbances have taken a toll on my writing. These days I have backed away from the more intense sharing, but it seems those soul-bearing posts are what continually attract attention to this blog. However, I also see the value in using this as means to communicate travel/journey as a way of discernment and spiritual practice.

Not yet ready for a big reveal on what I’m doing, I can share this photo and say that even when I cannot travel far away to experience change of scenery and welcome dis-orientation, I am blessed to reside, for the time being, in Seattle, where I can get on a boat and travel across water to another city.

This photo was taken on a ferry between Seattle and Bainbridge Island. I walked the observation deck, to and fro, taking in the magnificent scenery of water and mountains, thinking about the months ahead and decisions before me.

Recent

Many times I have wanted to write a post, but I haven’t quite been able to pull one together. The thoughts come, fleeting, and leave my brain by the time I am ready. Or never seem to materialize by the time I am focused. Nevertheless, life goes on. One trip of three this spring/summer already taken…so there’s still plenty of adventure. Someday I’ll get my brain focused to write the exciting things on the horizon as well as the continuing thoughts on travel as spiritual practice. Until then, enjoy this recent capture from a flight out of Seattle.

Mt. Rainier from above

Travel as a Spiritual Practice

Somewhere over British ColumbiaTravel is one of my core spiritual practices. Growing up, my parents took my sister and I on at least one vacation a year. It was the 3-week family sojourn to visit friends in New Zealand when I was 8, that left an impression with me great enough to stir a desire to experience more of this world. This desire continually pesters me, calling me out of the norm and into unknown and adventure.

This spiritual practice is distinct from pilgrimage. Pilgrimage is a well-known form of soul-searching—a long journey to a significant landmark, shrine, or destination. The traveling spiritual practice that formed in me may well include pilgrimage, albeit they are not one in the same. For example, a pilgrimage of a devout believer bears a holy purpose and spiritual expectations such as the Hajj or walking the El Camino de Santiago. One who practices their spirituality through travel, on the other hand, may not be in any place of particular religious importance nor necessarily seek an audience with the divine.

IMG_2730.JPGFor me this means travel for travel’s sake, seeing the world in an attempt to learn about cultures, grow, and change. Sometimes that is through seeing landscapes from the air or car; sometimes that is lived through conversations with strangers or visiting museums or other places of interest. God or things spiritual may or may not be in my mind or on my lips, and yet the experience as a whole feeds a spiritual hunger.

What sets this apart? People regularly take vacations or travel across country to get from one place to another. The beauty is in the eye of the beholder. When I plan a vacation, I make sure I experience life and enjoy myself as much as possible. Why spend all my time going to a place because it is “the tourist thing to do” but not what I like? Cruise ships are not my cup of tea, but I have spent a few nights on the solarium deck of a ferry floating through the Inside Passage in Alaska. Twice, I have arranged a layover in Amsterdam long enough for me to hop on the train  and walk around town.  I delight in sunrises and sunsets wherever I am.

In my studies in spirituality I came across a definition for contemplation that has stuck with me: a long loving look at the real. Jesuit theologian Walter Burghardt’s essay describes this definition:

The real, reality, is not reducible to some far-off, abstract, intangible God-in-the-sky. Reality is living, pulsing people; reality is fire and ice; reality is the sun setting over the Swiss Alps, a gentle doe streaking through the forest; reality is a ruddy glass of Burgundy, Beethoven’s Mass in D, a child lapping a chocolate ice-cream cone; reality is a striding woman with wind-blown hair; reality is the risen Christ.

These are, of course, things that in his time, his Western culture and his way that are striking.  All true, indeed—now imagine the thoughts, lives, and real contemplations of the near 7 billion people on this planet. This drives my desire to travel and experience the world.

Above all, appreciate the journey and live in the moment; see the world and take a long loving look at the real around you.
alaska panorama

A Random Conversation with a Writer

journal

One of my favorite spots in D.C. is a bookstore/restaurant called Kramerbooks. It’s several of my favorite things, all wrapped into one: books, beer, and food. Recently, I was there reading, and writing. I had picked up my journal and began to write about a personal matter. The words flowed out well, and as I articulated my thoughts on this matter, a white haired man sat on the stool next to me and lightly tapped my arm, “Are you a writer?” he asked.

It was one of those moments I could claim to be anything, and since I have had a small blurb published in The Lutheran Magazine a few years back, I suppose technically, yes I am a writer. I have this blog, I have my stacks of journals, but I felt particularly inclined to say yes to this man.

“Yeah, but this is just my personal journal” I replied.

He began to fill me in on his life, offering to buy me another drink. Before he showed up I had told myself I wasn’t going to buy another drink, but since he offered, and I figured I was interested enough in this random conversation, I agreed.

Turns out this man has led an interesting life, and though has loved writing his whole life, only recently has been a published author. When he first showed up I could tell he had a few drinks somewhere else first, and it became very apparent the second time he pulled out a business card and explained in the same words the subject of his book. I just smiled and took the card.

There were a few moments he asked about my life. For some reason I wasn’t sure what to say, but that was alright, because I didn’t have to say much before his tipsy mood wandered into another story from his life. I was less enthused when he wandered away from his story and onto politics.

Nuggets of wisdom were peppered into his story. “Don’t give up” was one of them. At this point in my life it is not one of my aspirations to be a published writer—someday in the future maybe, but not now, and it’s not a goal I need to work on yet. I’m content with this blog, with my photography, and my journal. Perhaps in the future I’ll write about my travels (or something else…), but what makes those interesting enough to be published? When I figure that out, I’ll go for it.

Hearing stories from people who are in a different stage in life calls me back to a reality that is grounded in this: Enjoy life now, follow my dreams, and know that there are many years ahead in this life to keep dreaming and enjoying and doing many different things.

Cheers, wherever you are. Sorry, I’m not going to be buying 5,000 copies of your book.

Dormant, not dead

Although this blog has remained without post for awhile, it is not dead.  Life’s circumstances have crept in the way of consistent writing.  The good news is that I have a job; the bad news, of course, is that said job has been busy enough to keep me from writing in this place.

Nevertheless, I am brimming with ideas, and I hope to post about at least one or two of them.  For this job I’ve done a considerable amount of travel in a short amount of time, thus renewing my interest in writing about travel as a form of discernment.

I don’t know when that post will be published.  Sometimes I question whether I should continue with this blog, and I always come back to the desire to write and not care if anyone reads these words.  I do know I still receive many hits for a two and a half year old post containing a poem from Hafiz on loneliness (by far the most popular piece).

That, too, is worth blogging about again.  Loneliness.  Right now I’m in a season of being on my own, and working hard.  Loneliness does accompany me on my work related travel, but I am most grateful for friends and family, though sometimes they are far off.  The loneliness I sometimes feel now is good, because behind it, I feel loved.  This lonelieness is a longing for those I hold dear and whose company I miss.

That post from 2008 highlights a time in my life when loneliness was an emptiness—and yet, as the Hafiz poem suggests, I let it cut me more deep; it fermented and seasoned me.  After that post, I descended even further into a lonely and depressed place, but eventually I emerged.  And here I am, full of life, and yes, still lonely and ever so aware of my need for God.

No,  this blog is not dead.  Even if my posts still are months from each other, and may at times be dormant, it is not dead.  So long as people continue to search and read the Hafiz poem, it will be alive…

Heimweh

Heimweh: the German word for homesickness.  Every so often I experience heimweh for Germany.  Knowing I cannot recreate that experience, I still pine for elements of that life—the beauty of an old city, the pealing of church bells, the refreshing taste of a German hefeweisen…

I’m sure I could write an entry on what I experienced in Germany and why it’s meaningful to me, or what parts of the life live on in me.  For now, I’m thrilled by the German national football team advancing to the semi-finals in the World Cup and am now feeling homesick.

This photo is what happens in Germany when they win.  I took this immediately following the Germany 1-0 win over South Korea in the semi-final match (They lost the final to Brazil) in 2002.  Chaos. And this is in a relatively small town. With the complex past of WWII in their recent memory, the German people aren’t so big on flag-waving patriotism—unless it is about the world cup.  This deep love and pride is something not yet experienced in the US for our soccer team.

German media reports that 400,000 people gathered in Berlin to publicly watch the most recent world cup game (4-0 win over Argentina), and they partied all day.  Since I don’t have time to scan this photo properly, I took a picture of the original print. Sometimes I am homesick for this….