Friday, September 23, 2016

The Other Clinton

No, it's not Bill!  You have likely never heard his name despite the fact he changed the face of America almost 200 years ago.  He was the mayor of NYC and governor of NY State. I wouldn't be enjoying another paddle adventure without his tireless efforts over many years to imagine, organize, and raise $ to build the Erie Canal.  This 8th Wonder of the world, ridiculed by many as Clinton's Ditch, opened the West to millions of immigrants including my my Ellingson and Halverson great grandparents and ultimately propelled our nation into a leading world power.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Paddle Pilgrim: 2 days to launch

Do you think he will make it?

363 miles on the Erie Canal and 150 on the Hudson River to the Statue of Liberty

Paddle with me....

Friday, September 9, 2016

Paddle Pilgrim: Did you know?

My paddle adventure begins DOWNSTREAM from the Falls....

There are 35 locks on the Erie Canal.
A section of the original canal was an aqueduct over the Mohawk River

One of my heroes, Pete Seeger: songwriter, activist, humanitarian, and on his sailing sloop, the Clear Water, led the fight to clean up the Hudson River.   You will be in my "cloud of witnesses" as I paddle and we can sing together your anthem: "If I had a hammer!"
The Woman's Suffrage Movement began in 1848 in Seneca Falls on the Erie Canal.

The Hudson School brought a "romantic" artistic lens to the river valley.

The Little Red Lighthouse below the George Washington Bridge
(LRL was also a wonderful book I enjoyed as a child)

Truer than ever....

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Erie Canal and Hudson River Pilgrimage

Why Paddle the Erie Canal/Hudson River?

Huck Finn and his friend Jim floating downstream on a raft inspired my Mississippi “adventure” in 2012.  In this case it begins with a “girl, her name was Sal.”  In my grade school classroom in Dobbs Ferry, NY, on the banks of the Hudson River, I met “Sal” in a song I couldn’t get out of my head;

“I know a gal, her name is Sal, 15 miles on the Erie Canal, she’s a good ol’ worker and a good ol’ pal, 15 miles on the Erie Canal. She’s towed some barges in her day, filled with lumber, coal and hay, and every inch of the way we go from Albany to Buffalo”.

60 years later, Sal, like Huck, has called me to another adventure;

“Low bridge everybody down, low bridge for we’re going through a town, and you always know your neighbor, you always know your pal, if you’ve ever navigated on the Erie Canal”.

Join me on this paddle pilgrimage which will begin around September 23.  If you want to sing along, here’s a link to a favorite youtube version of the song covered by Bruce Springsteen.


Imagine some more....


Loading truck

It won't be long.....
Destination: Lady Liberty
For more info. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Erie Canal to the Hudson River to the Statue of Liberty (Preview)

Buffalo on Lake Erie to Albany on the Hudson is 363 miles.
Albany to NYC and the Statue of Liberty is 150 miles,.
One of 35 locks on the Erie Canal.
In the early days mules pulled the barges.

Bear Mountain Bridge on the Hudson

Hudson River Lighthouse

Lady Liberty
(learn more

Monday, August 8, 2016

Erie Canal and Hudson River Pilgrimage

In late September I will launch my kayak down the Erie Canal and Hudson River arriving at the Statue of Liberty by

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks…

What a strange sounding image to our modern ears when the prophet Isaiah (2:4) casts a vision of God’s preferred future when wars will be no more and a reign of true justice will prevail.  I only recently learned that because of a scarcity of metal in biblical times of war, a farmer’s plow or pruning hook would be transformed into a sword for battle and returned to agricultural use when hostilities ceased.  Nearly 30% of our nation’s budget goes to the military and if you include “benefits” almost 50%. While I believe in an adequate “defense” and taking care of our service men and women, what if our country were inspired by Isaiah’s vision to guide our spending and addressed the root causes of violence: poverty, racism, substandard housing, inadequate care for mental illness.  What if we bent our swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks and fed a hungry world, built bridges of understanding between races and religions, trained people for jobs with livable wages, and created affordable housing for the homeless. What if?  Perhaps then we might experience Jesus prayer, “thy kingdom come on earth as in heaven…”          
What if?

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Namaste and the Image of God

My dad had an annoying habit that bugged me as a teen.  He was almost always “positive”.  He seemed to see a silver-lining when I only saw clouds.  While I either liked someone or not, he would see something good, a redemptive quality, even in the worst people.  My mother would add, “If you can’t say something positive….” to make sure I got the message.  Slowly I began to understand the wisdom in this attitude.  The Indian greeting “Namaste” which means “the God in me greets the God in you” invites us to not just look for the positive but for the “spark of the divine” in each of us.  Even more compelling is the passage in the Genesis 1 creation story which declares that humans are made “in the image and likeness of God”. 

Too often we enter relationships with a prejudice based on appearance and socioeconomic status rather than with an openness, a sense of wonder and a curiosity to discover how God will be revealed in that person.  Think of the amazing collection of people that Jesus hung out with (prostitutes, the sick, tax-collectors, lepers, outcasts) and we get a beautiful picture of what this way of life, that we are called to, looks like. This fruit of the spirit was abundant in my parents and in the scores of people who loved them and called them friends!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Deep Remembering  

Today is Memorial Day and we remember all those who served our country to insure “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.  Traditionally we do this with parades, placing of flowers on graves, and various patriotic rituals.  And this is an honorable practice.
I would like to suggest several ways to deepen this remembering.  The Greek philosopher Plato developed a concept called “anamnesis” which believed that the human soul through reflection and contemplation “recalls” what it already knows on a deeper level.  Put simply, it’s that moment when we don’t rush to judgement and think carefully and we can say “Oh, I knew that….”  It’s that “Ah-ha” intuition when we realize what is true and can echo Jesus “the truth will set you free”.  This truth is more than just intellectual knowledge, however, and once again Jesus adds his wisdom in his Last Supper when he instructs his followers to share his body and blood “for the remembrance of me”.  Not simply a memorial meal, this deep remembering takes on physical form each time it is celebrated and the Risen Christ becomes present to nourish his disciples for the sake of the world.  His scattered people come together and like the physical “members” of the body, are re-membered.  ELCA Lutherans proclaim it this way, “God’s work, our hands”.   We confess that this remembering includes the mystical “communion of saints” which gathers a vast “cloud of witnesses” throughout history whose lives bear witness to God’s vision of peace and justice for the world.  

So today as I remember the sacrifices of American service men and women, I also remember and am inspired by Pope Francis, Rosa Parks, Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Elie Wiesel, Mother Theresa, and Daniel Berrigan.  

Who do you remember?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Paddle Pilgrim's photo.
I am not in control...
As a boy I read the poem “Invictus” by William Henley. The only line I remember was “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” These stirring words spoke to my adolescent longing to do something heroic in my life. I suppose we all aspire to greatness in some manner. The American dream feeds that hope with the promise of freedom accompanied by success in many forms. One mundane form this quest takes in my life is a rather incessant creation of “to do” lists and the accompanying joy as tasks are checked off upon completion. In some small way I feel like I have control over a part of my life…I am the master of my list.
In the summer of 2012 I had an amazing adventure kayaking the entire 2300 miles of the Mississippi River. The most frequent question I am asked about this epic journey is “what is the most important lesson you learned?” My answer is short and simple, “I am not in control….and that is a good thing!” Over the months I spent on the Mighty Mississippi I could plan a few elements like when I would rise in the morning or what I would eat, but for the most part I was at the mercy of the elements. And while I the conditions could be extreme, I also experienced “traveling mercies” extended by countless people I called “river angels” as well as the truth of Mark Twain’s dictum, “One cannot see too many sunrises on the Mississippi”. I rediscovered grace means “going with the flow”, letting go, and being completely present in the moment. As I captained my craft I learned that grace is not being in control and it touched my soul.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Biblical Wisdom for a Digital Age

An excerpt from my new book:

Be still…and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10

“Sit still!” I can still hear my mother’s voice from when I was
a little boy. My grandmother’s expression was “you have ants
in your pants.” And she was right: I couldn’t sit in one place for
long; it’s still a challenge for this type-A personality. I resonate
to a book title I heard of a number of years ago, When I Sit I Feel
Guilty. I didn’t sit long enough to read it. I don’t think, however,
this passage’s intent is to make children or adults feel guilty as
they actively live out their faith. Rather it is a strong reminder
that from time to time and on a regular basis we need to quiet
all the voices clamoring for our attention, empty ourselves,
and listen for God’s voice. Psalm 46 speaks of the many ways
God is present: God is a “very present help in trouble” who
even “makes wars to cease.” But if we are too busy and not
paying attention we don’t realize that “The Lord of hosts is
with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” God wants all children
to know he is with us to help us, to be our refuge and
strength….and God’s voice sounds remarkably like my mom’s.
Thanks be to God!

~Biblical Wisdom for a Digital Age (available on Amazon)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sea of Cortez, Baja Mexico

Paddling at dawn...diving with whale sharks...enjoying fiestas!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Support GreenFaith

With each purchase of Paddle Pilgrim
$1 donated to GF-Interfaith Partners for the Environment.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I always loved the word "penultimate" which is a fancy way of saying these are "final"  thoughts or reflections, but not really.......there may be more to come.  This seems particularly fitting when speaking of a "pilgrimage" because it never ends.  Like a river there is always something or someone around the next bend.  And even as the river flows into the sea, or in my case the Gulf of Mexico, there is now an ocean of paddling ahead.  One more pen-penultimate thought:  A number of you good folks who have followed my blog have asked if I would be writing a book about my journey.

Initially I thought I wouldn't, because I am finishing another book that I began early in my sabbatical.  I thought the blog would tell the story with more immediacy and, frankly, would be easier to accomplish "in real time".  A blog would also help me keep track of the blurring of days and experiences on the river.  Since I have returned home to Seattle, I have found my mind continuing to remember "stories" which I didn't tell in the blog.  But would anyone other than my 96 year old mother be interested?  So I tested out some of the stories with friends here and they encouraged me to write them down. All this to say that I plan to "noodle" and "fill in the gaps" in my tale and perhaps at some point in the coming months/years publish something. 

So here are some "Penultimate Reflections" from the Paddle Pilgrim:
As you recall from the blog one of my "headings" which addressed my reasons for paddling the Mississippi River was entitled WHY?   I am glad that I did this "pre-flection" before I embarked because it gave me a "frame" through which to view and ultimately organize my experience.  I guess that's the professor in me trying to rationalize and make sense of what I would be doing. My answer to WHY was threefold:  Adventure, Learning, and Pilgrimage. I suspect I may organize the "book" around these headings.

As a boy growing up near the Mississippi River I was fascinated by this little stream that I could walk across at its headwaters but I could barely see across at its widest expanse.  My turtle friend, Minn, (Minn of the Mississippi by H.C. Holling) was my guide down the river introducing me to the sounds, sights, smells, and feel of this watery world.  The "Huck Finn" in me delighted in the variety of "characters" I met along the banks of the Mighty Mississippi.  They became "river angels" who provided food, housing, transportation, encouragement, and a multitude of stories.   Big cities (Minneapolis, St. Louis, Memphis) and small towns (Osceola, St. Francisville, New Madrid) came to life and became neighborhoods populated by family and friends.

As a "professor" on sabbatical, my river journey focused on "Creation Care: Environmental Ethics".  Studying  history  I learned that the Anishinabe people (Ojibwe Indian) called the river "Mee-zee-see-bee" which means "Big River" or "Father of Waters".  The wisdom of their name became apparent as I encountered the birds (326 species) and fish (241 species) who now uneasily share their polluted home with thousands of boats, barges and ships which ply the waters transporting grain, coal, and hazardous cargo (oil, benzine).  Keeping the water "clean" for fish and fowl and "clear" for barges and business requires a delicate balance much like a kayaker carefully navigating the human "debris" flowing inexorably to the sea.

As a "pilgrim" my journey was in search of the One who created this garden planet and whose "heavens declare the glory of God" (Psalm 19:1)  With few distractions and lots of time to "listen" and "pay attention", God used the river to teach me both how powerful and regenerative the natural environment is and also how fragile and in need of wise care and stewardship.  My kinship with all creation now resonates more deeply with St. Francis' "brother Sun and sister Moon".  Each morning just before dawn a symphony of birds began their musical wake-up call and invited me to launch my boat in the dark and paddle toward the light.  They called me to a new day, to a new beginning, a new life and to pray.  Thanks be to the God revealed by Mother Earth and the Father of Waters!

Finally....(almost)....thanks to all of you who followed my journey and supported me with their prayers, words of encouragement, and even your occasional, "You're doing what?&#??

If you would like to make a donation to the "cause" my pilgrimage supported, go to the blog and the Donate heading where there is more information about The Cedar Tree Institute.

I plan to keep the Paddle Pilgrim blog as an ongoing place for place for reflection.  If you would like to subscribe to the blog and get notifications of "posts" there is a link at the bottom of the home page.

Blessings to each of you on your "pilgrimage"!