Thursday, November 1, 2012

Tourist or Pilgrim

During the summer, Chet and I developed a new routineHe’d come home from work and change into walking clothes while I loaded the kayak. Off to Cane Creek, where he’d help me launch the kayak, then he’d be off power walking the trails. We carried walkie talkies, helpful to check on where I should pick him up. In October, the park began closing earlier, so we couldn’t make it after work. My mom came to visit and said it was too chilly for her to consider kayaking. One thing and another and I didn’t get out until this past Wednesday.

I hesitated, wondering if I really wanted to go, but all doubts vanished when I launched the kayak into the still water. The bright blue sky was edged by a scrim of haze. The trees around the edge were wearing fall colors. If the colors in New England are fresh out of the crayon box, here they tend to be more like water colors. The cormorants and anhinga coming in for the winter were perched on their favorite power tower. They don’t mingle with the vultures on the other tower.

Some one asked me recently if I took pictures while kayaking.  I remembered what one of my seminary professors said, “You can tell the pilgrim from the tourist by how many cameras are carried.” I tried taking pictures once and found that even when it seemed calm, my kayak was bobbing up and down. Really good pictures would require more equipment and more worries about it falling in. No picture can capture the panoramic views of my eyes, the sounds, the smells. I go out because something in me needs to be outdoors. I go as a pilgrim; I breathe deeply; I pray.

I realized in writing this that difference between a tourist and a pilgrim is similar to the difference between a fan and a follower. A pilgrim sets out looking for signs of God’s presence. Do you have a place you consider a pilgrimage spot?