Wednesday, February 13, 2008

More Lessons for Pilgrims

Lessons for pilgrims: yesterday, Steve and I spent the morning chasing an elusive family cemetery in Tennessee, near the Alabama border. I had only the vaguest of directions: on Liberty Valley Road; a cemetery on Leonard's Bluff; overhung by trees, overlooking a small lake; at the end of the garden walk from the old house, which no longer stands.

We searched. We drove--along Liberty Valley Road, along Leonard's Bluff Road. We stopped and asked for directions. Strangers who saw us searching kindly stopped to ask if they could help us. We ended up at two cemeteries on hillsides, neither the one for which we were searching.

All the while, the western skies grew ominous with scudding dark clouds, and a high wind began to whip the trees.

Finally, I spotted a sign for the farm that I knew is now on the land formerly owned by my Leonard ancestors. If anyone would know how to find the elusive graveyard, surely they would.

Unfortunately, when we pulled up into the driveway and knocked at the door, we found no one at home. This was, I decided, the end of the road. We'd made a valiant try. Time to move on, find some other pilgrim route.

As we prepared to drive away, though, something possessed me to remark to Steve, "Well, we should at least look over our shoulder as we drive away, in case we're missing something."

And we did that, and there the cemetery was, right over our left shoulders, just behind the house that now stands where the old Leonard house, built in the early 1800s, once stood. All along, as we knocked at the farmhouse door, it had been there, waiting.

So a lesson for pilgrims: what we often seek is already there. We simply don't see it. Not until we reframe our way of seeing and look over our shoulder. Pilgrimage is as much about reframing how we see the "everyday" as it is about encountering the extraordinary.

No comments: