Roads, Palms, Shrubs, Limits

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On our way out of town this morning we zigzagged through Lucca to see just a little bit more of it on our way out—the old wall is really pretty cool, as is the wide green lawn that formerly was a moat all around it—and then headed out for 6 hours of dull suburbs and busy roads. (In case any of you readers out there are suffering from pilgrim envy at our passage through Tuscany, be assured that 80-90% of our time here has not been the stuff that popular bestsellers are made of.) We were particularly glad for Jonathan’s company along the way to distract us from the non-views, though sorry that this was his chosen day to walk with us for his own sake!

There were a few other up-sides. It was another “rainy” day with only a few smatterings of raindrops but no worse. We enjoyed the sights of rosemary bushes, fat cats on roofs, persimmon and olive trees, Marian shrines, and a palm tree farm (never seen one of those before!). Our last two hours were over a Roman road for a bit, then up and over a few small hills sprouting evergreen shrubs having bright purple flowers. The last twenty minutes or so we had just a couple proper Tuscan views of terra cotta-tiled villas on hillsides surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. Then we came down the last bit into tiny Ponte a Cappiano, centered around its narrow bridge. (Unfortunately neither GPS devices nor maps tell you when a bridge is too narrow to admit your camper, so the road crew, including now Marion in their camper van, had an hour-long detour around the countryside until they found a bridge wide enough to let them cross). Tonight it’s potluck for all 7 of us—Jed had to catch the train back to Milan for his flight tomorrow—huddled inside the camper against the dripping skies and mosquito welcoming committee.

It’s been awhile since I’ve offered any comment on the pilgrimage life itself… perhaps because its abnormality is becoming normal! It doesn’t really matter anymore whether I wake up sore or tired in the morning because the rule of life is to get up and go, and keeping going till I’m there, and then stop. If there’s anything I’ve really learned in the last few weeks it’s that, when faced with difficulties in this trying experience, we hit our limits—and then discover that they weren’t really our limits after all. They were the limits of what we wanted to do but not the limits of what we were capable of doing. A deep breath, a conscious shift of perspective, a whole lot of prayer (I’ve certainly been praying more on this trip than at any other time in my life), and then the limit shifts further away, or (more precisely) my apprehension of it shifts.

That, at least, is a lesson I hope stays with me when “real life” begins again.

3 thoughts on “Roads, Palms, Shrubs, Limits

  1. Thanks for your willingness to share your pilgrimage stories. Your words about praying are very timely — the bulletin cover we will be using this week has the words: “Pray always.” The Chilean miners whose 69 day journey reached a wonderful conclusion yesterday were surrounded by prayers. God be with you. Steve Godsall-Myers

  2. Yes, we pray that the conclusion of your journey is safe and full of thanksgiving. We also note the intensity of prayer in special efforts. Guess everyday is a special effort for many, many people. Thanks be to God who sustains us in good days and bad. Thanks to God, and to you for your communications and pictures. May God bless you and keep you in the palm of his hand!

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