The stories in this issue take place in a variety of circumstances: on an expedition to a hidden valley in the Himalayas, in an encounter with a good Samaritan on a plane journey coming home from Korea, at an AA meeting in Santa Barbara, in a numinous moment on an island in the North Pacific, in the reveries that come while playing nocturnes on the piano, on retreat at a
Zen center in the Sangre de Christo Mountains of Colorado, in a meeting with a Maya healer on Isla Mujeres (the Island of Women), in conversation with an old man in a near-deserted Mexican village, in a lonely moment at a boarding school in Nigeria and in the little girl’s eyes that make it less so, and in the presence of two saw-whet owls in the High Uintas Mountains of Utah. If there is an experience shared by the narrators of these stories, it has to do with uncertainty and one’s willingness to dwell in it. Often a time of emptying or not-knowing precedes an insight, an illumination, or some kind of opening.
PIlgrimage, Volume 31 Issue 1
~Peter Anderson, Editor, Pilgrimage
From “A Hidden Peace” by Edwin Bernbaum
As we neared our destination, we entered a region that was poorly mapped and that few, if
any, Westerners had ever visited. On our way to the second pass, clouds closed in around us
and we could no longer distinguish the snow at our feet from the space around us: it was all a
white void. We tried to navigate by compass and altimeter but finally had to give up and camp
for the night. I thought of a lama’s warning: “In the guidebooks the directions look easy, but
when you try to follow them, you lose the way or get covered by mist.”
From “Learning to Pray” by Thomas Lynch
And here’s the thing. Here is the sign and wonder. Never once in the years I’ve been saying
it—“Thanks”—to Whomever Is Out There or Whatever It Is, has the day gone by without
an answer. Sometimes it comes to me loud and clear, sometimes in whispers, sometimes a
sense. Sometimes it’s my beloved’s voice, or one of my sons’ or my daughter’s or the family of
someone I’m called on to serve. Once in a while, it’s a dream I have of my mother or my father,
both dead and gone. Often as not it is a perfect stranger, someone at a meeting who says
something true. Or it might be a sign, quite literally, like the one I’ve seen everywhere that says “Watch Your Step,” or a wonder, or a gift outright. But it never fails, whenever I pray it.
“Thanks,” I say, and the answer always comes.
“You’re welcome,” it tells me, from out of the blue.