On this paddling pilgrimage it is becoming clearer that there are several stages. Perhaps they are more like acts in an ongoing drama.
Act 1 "Discipleship: Learning from the Master" For several weeks I paddled with writer/adventurer, Jim Lewis. He taught me what I need to know about the river, camping, kayaks, and life to move on to the next "act".
Act 2 "Community: Surrounded by a Cloud of Witnesses/River Angels" Again for several weeks as I began my solo journey, God provided the right people at the right place and time to give me love, support, supplies, and encouragement.
So what is Act 3? When I left St. Louis and began to approach the "Lower Mississippi" I was told "there's not much down there".
As I have paddled two images have persisted.
Act 3. The Solitude: Embracing the Wilderness. While I still encounter people (occasionally) I am alone. But am I? I am by myself, but I am not alone. I am surrounded by "clouds of witnesses". Each of you is with me is the most powerful and visceral way. Each morning I spend a good bit of time praying. Usually it is "out loud". I talk to God. I sing. I laugh. I weep. You are with me in the very deepest of senses.
Maybe the strangest and most wonderful part of my praying is conversations with "dead people". I began talking to my dad who died several years ago. Then I thought of all the special people in my life who have "passed", gone over, entered "glory". There wasn't room in my kayak for them all, but they don't weigh anything or take up any space, so..... One of my seminary professors/mentors was Henri Nouwen. He coined a phrase in one his books which captures the spirit of this third act of this pilgrimage drama. I have moved from "loneliness to solitude".