Today started like a normal Monday. I woke up at 6:45 am and stumbled to my altar for 30 minutes of silent mediation and prayer. I made two eggs and some coffee. I gathered my things and headed for the front door of my East Vancouver home. Dreading the hour-long commute by rickety bus, I thought to myself, what if I walked? I looked up the directions on Google: 14 km (8.6 miles), an estimated 2 hours 55 minutes. That is a long walk. But my mind was made up. So I walked out the door, started my timer, took a swig of water and began walking. I felt a burst of energy and excitement.
Google recommended walking along mostly busy streets, but I decided to take parallel Avenues zigzagging North from 22nd Ave. to 10th over about three quarters of the distance.
I tried to make eye contact with people, say good morning, and notice my surroundings. I saw dozens of crows, one with a tattered rat carcass in its mouth, many shapes and sizes of dogs and their walkers, a few cats, a few squirrels, pigeons, and high flying gulls. I passed hundreds of houses, some in various stages of demolition to make way for high rises. I traversed gorgeous tree-lined avenues with closed canopies and pollarded branches to make way for power lines. I passed schools and shops and parks and hospitals and police stations.
As my feet took steady steps westward, my mind wandered along crooked paths of past, present, future; of hopes, dreams, excitements; through relationships and places I have been, with plenty of return trips to my dissertation research and writing.
In many ways my own life has been a pilgrimage within a pilgrimage within a pilgrimage. Basically from 2001, I have been away from my childhood home in Southern California. I have lived in the Dominican Republic, Utah, Oregon, Connecticut, Utah again, and British Columbia. While I have been in BC I took six months to travel Western US to interview monks for my dissertation. Pilgrimage within Pilgrimage.
I arrived at school in just under two hours and forty minutes. It was a blessed experience to move through a familiar city by unfamiliar routes on foot. Maybe I will do it again some time.