I have been amazed at how travel can warp one’s sense of time. Because this is the first time I have ever been away from home or church for longer than a month, the last two months have both crawled and flown by. I say “crawled” because it seems like San Diego and September 4th feel so much longer ago than 8 weeks and yet I say “flown” because the time also feels like it has flown by and already, two out of three months (the first part of my five month sabbatical) are over. In this time-warp experience I have learned some things, including...
On October 1st, we left the relatively peaceful and relaxing Greek islands and spent a week in Athens…and then moved on to Rome…hence the title of this blog, Crowds, Museums and Ruins. And we often said to one another, “Oh my!” to the crowds, to the largess of these two incredible cities (Athens and Rome), to the crowds, to the rush and crush, to the museums, the crowds, the ruins, the crowds and, yes, all the people. In these cities we sometimes felt over-run, in the way and sometimes like we had to fight for a chance to see. And again I was reminded of a thought from Cousineau’s book, The Art of Pilgrimage when he wrote, “I don’t believe that the problem is in the sites as it is in the sighting, the way we see. …imagining is required of us.” And indeed, as excellent as most of the museums and ruin sites we visited are, the use of our imagination was extremely important in order to get beyond ourselves and the sun, the crowds and our fatigue and imagine a more complete society of people who lived, loved, worshipped, argued, and learned in the communities we were now seeing as ruins.
In the sermon before I left on sabbatical I quoted from Phil Cousineau’s book The Art of Pilgrimage regarding “5 Excellent Practices of Pilgrimages”. Given that Jan and I have just spent time on five Greek Islands, I thought it would be good to review the five practices against the five islands including Rhodes, Kos, Santorini, Mykonos and Delos.
Practice one: Practice the arts of attention and listening – while I hope to practice these everywhere, the islands of Rhodes and Delos came to the forefront when considering this practice. It was on Rhodes, the first island we visited that I found myself paying such close attention. It was all new to me…the sights of the beaches, the castle, the Old Town within the Wall, the sounds of many languages spoken, the church bells ringing. We stayed a week on this island – enjoying the hosts of our small hotel, letting ourselves sink into the Greek culture, taking many walks, a long bus trip to Lindos, absorbing the history of the land and people. After the whirlwind tour of Turkey, paying attention in Rhodes helped us slow down and take in what was around us.
What a gift of time this sabbatical is and again, I thank you, the Congregation for understanding the need for a sabbatical. The first few days were busy with final preparations for our three months abroad. We flew to New York and then to Istanbul on Tuesday, Sept. 4th. We arrived a day or so earlier than the tour group with which we would travel the country. We met the tour group (through SmarTours) on Thursday evening and began a two-week adventure. Our tour guide was a fabulous man with extensive knowledge and stories to share. His master’s degree in political science and his love of history and his country made his commentary most informative and entertaining. We traveled a little over 2,250 miles via bus as we made our way through central and western Turkey. We found the people friendly, the history very rich; and we found there are some similarities that Turkey and the United States share. The people love their land, their traditions and customs and in many ways want to be accepted by the West. Also like the United States, there are many cultures and traditions that make up the people and the country.
It takes a lot of preparation to go on a pilgrimage. There's so much planning, researching, and deciding what to pack! Traveling lightly on the earth is a huge goal for this sabbatical. And while I am thrilled to be in the planning and preparing mode, I know I will miss the congregation at First Church. So I'm learning to blog so that you can stay informed of the pilgrimage; I'll be posting thoughts, experiences and if I'm really good, photos. I hope you'll tune in regularly starting in September.
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