As I began to read a long prose poem/essay by Anne Carson entitled “The Anthropology of Water” I was struck by the fact—while caught in the net of her prose—that I am a pilgrim on a pilgrimage.
As defined a pilgrimage is:
1. A long journey or search, especially one of exalted purpose or moral significance.
As a metaphor for this we can compare our lives to a river flowing with water that can never really be captured—it can indeed be dammed up for a while but even if put in a bucket—in an attempt to store it—it will slowly evaporate back to form the clouds from whence it came.
Anne Carson says that water is something you cannot hold. Like men.
Life is like that—as it passes we try and make it stop only to find that—like the river—it just created another stream around us and is still flowing on—doing what rivers and streams do.
I find that my life is like this river in the respect that after a big rain, the river is muddy and flows especially fast and you can’t see the bottom anymore. This lasts for a few days and then the river clears up and waits for the next rain.
Sometimes people swin in the river and canoeists float with the current and a farmer pumps water out to irrigate his crops.
This is kind of like having a Bar-B-Que and inviting people over to sit around in your back yard and talk about things that are important to them. The food is laid on the picnic table and a blessing is said and everybody eats on paper plates with plastic forks and all the dishes taste realy good.
Pilgrims like to eat and go to people’s houses and have glasses of wine and eat chesse and crackers and talk about things that are important to them as well.
If you are on a pilgrimage you don’t have a lot of time to hang around since you really feel the need to keep your focus in order to get to the next place you need to be on your journey. Kinda like the river keeps on moving towards the ocean and then is absorbed by the ocean.
Anne Carson says that “…It is an open secret among pilgrims and other theoreticians of this traveling life that you become addicted to the horizon….there is a momentum of walking, hunger and roads….”
Sometimes I feel the fish and other water creatures moving around inside me and I have to wonder what they are doing. I think it is this movement we feel in our dreams and then make up stories and songs to fit the movement. What else could it be at this point but the movement of our river inside of us—always reaching out for the ocean and never knowing when that moment of fullfillment will take place.
I read someplace the other day that psychologists believe that we are what we felt accepted as in the third grade—that those people who felt good about themselves then achieved more in life and had happier times overall. I don’t know about you but third grade is a blur to me—I can say I never really felt I fit in but is that an older me painting a picture of a younger me that I never knew.
(For those of you who make it to this point—I will provide a website address where you can get a de-coder ring with which to make all the above and below flow smoothly into very neat iambic pentameter verse) LOL
Actually life is aslo a lot like bike riding—there are many straight and flat places to pedal but you really don’t feel like you have done much until you tackle that hill that begins slow but increases into a 15% grade which—depending on how long it lasts—can leave you feeling like you are not going even fast enough to maintain your balance. It is one of those hills that needs to be in your life—once you make it to the top, the rest of the ride seems so much easier.
Back to pilgrims and journeys: pilgrims are people on a quest to find something sacred. In that very sense, Abraham was a pilgrim wandering in the wilderness until given a divine unction as to the direction he was to take.
Pilgrims are people who listen real hard in order to hear the coordinates for their next destination point.
Sometimes pilgrims have friends like farmers who help them to see things that they woud never be able to see on their own. Farmers are people who look for water in times of drought in order that their crops may be fed so that the sheep and the goats and the milk cows can be raised to produce whatever it is that sheep and goats and milk cows produce. It takes a cash crop to feed a cash crop and so on down the line. Farmers are pilgrims in the sense that they are on a journey looking for the end of the story that began the moment they became farmers.
Sometimes farmers fish in the river and take long walks up hills that bike riders would never be able to climb. When they return they always have good stories to tell which makes everybody who listens want to be a farmer. But the world only has room anymore for just so many farmers. People that work in restuarants and malls have taken their places and I don’t think anybody has really noticed yet that there are not to many farmers left.
Pilgrims are people who travel to big museums in New York City in order to look at VanGogh’s and O’Keefe’s up close and personal. They will tell you that the guards don’t like it when you get to close to a painting that has VanGogh’s name in the corner of it. But it is only then that you notice that what you thought was just sloppy brush strokes is really very fine paint lines built upon very fine paint lines which are in turn built upon very fine paint lines. VanGogh was a pilgrim who didn’t finish the race but got to the end of his line long before it was his time.
Sometimes I think my life is really just one e-mail away from people finding out who I really am. And then I have another hill to climb in order to get to that place where the road is a little more ordered and straight.
Do the fish have any idea that the river runs all the way to the ocean or that my life is bound up with the road. When I was younger, the only time I felt like myself was when I was walking.