Years ago, I attended a Christian writer’s conference at a California camp located in redwood country. Before Palm Sunday services, worshipers made an early morning pilgrimage to a cross atop a mountain.
I skipped it. The drippy morning didn’t inspire my jet-lagged body to rise.
Later, though, I set aside the hour I’d been told would suffice for pilgrimage. I spiraled up the mountain road, marveling at enormous redwoods and giant ferns. Homes perched on mountainsides. No sleepwalker, this Hoosier observed, should attempt slumber here without wearing a parachute.
Higher elevations made my head throb, but I inhaled evergreen fragrances and a spring tang that still eluded Indiana’s leafless forests.
As GPSes were not yet common, I carried a map. When the road reversed, then reversed again, I searched the map in vain. What to do? I walked and walked, huffing and puffing like my asthmatic coffee maker back home. Finally, I admitted I was lost. The only directions I felt sure of? Up and down.
Perhaps I’d trusted a pantheistic mapmaker who believed all roads led to the same destination.
Supper aromas emanated from houses I passed. My stomach, unstuffed for the first time in days (“starving writer” doesn’t apply to writers’ conferences) demanded I return the way I came. But I’d climbed an hour and a half to view the cross.
No turning back.
I spotted a fellow writer jogging, hoping he descended from my destination. Smiling, he ran toward me.
I considered tripping him. But my mission drove me to civility.
“Did you find the cross?” I gasped.
“That way.” He pointed, still jogging. And smiling.
Eventually, I spotted the cross.
It seemed to dwarf the cerulean sky. Its thick, wooden beams looked like they could hold a Man in their deadly grasp. Jesus carried something like that through streets of jeering people and up a hill called the Place of the Skull to atone for the sins of humankind.
I carried a water bottle.
I rested on a bench, thanking Him for His sacrifice. For my salvation. I savored alternating lush and dry vistas in Scotts Valley and beyond to Mount Umunhum and Loma Prieta. Then, unlike Jesus, I left the cross.
But because of Him, I, despite energy drain and grouchy stomach, went back full.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you attempted a pilgrimage? How did that go?