Friday, August 26, 2011
A long day again, but this time we were all prepared to deal with the distance. However, the cold, windy weather came as a bit of an unpleasant surprise.

On the pilgrimage the year before I had packed a number of 'just in case' items in order to be scout-wise prepared. I had foregone such preparations this time in order to travel more lightly, and I paid for it that night by hardly sleeping through the chill in my light summer pyjamas. Very wise, Rachela. In any case it was all for the best as it made it easier to get up to help with breakfast--something I had meant to do more often this time around.

The Biblical incident between Mary and Martha had always disturbed me as a child. Jesus had to eat, did He not? Why was Mary to have the 'better part' and Martha not? Concerning that particular situation, the answer became easier as I grew older. Martha was not as keen on listening to Jesus as her sister; Holy Scripture makes it clear that her mind and her worries were mainly focused on the practical, concrete ways of serving Him. But I don't think such could be said of those who nobly performed the role of Martha in our group; they were every bit as contemplative as the Marys.

Realizing that I
myself could not attend Mass that morning made me smart. How much more so did it hurt those who could not walk with us on the day's route, because they were busy preparing supper or pitching tents to help the rest of us? These things had to be done, but they were carried out in the spirit of sacrifice, not because it was was these pilgrims preferred to do. That insurmountable wall between the realm of action and of contemplation will always trouble me to some degree. Though I know both charisms are noble, they still separate the lives of human beings from one another. We are not in Paradise, yet.

4.3 miles later, we were in Studzianna. Perhaps I should have tried wearing my grey hoody on the way, but the wretched thing had still been so damp that I did not think it would have been ver good for me. My 'babcia' kerchief (as a brother pilgrim had dubbed it the year before) was about my neck as a scarf, and I wore my rucksack in front of my body, rather than on my back, in an effort to keep warm. Everyone about me looked dressed for November rather than August. Global warming, you know?

Having once again knelt before the Sacrament there, and gazing on that sweet image of the Holy Family, we made our rest amidst the circle of trees nearby. Now that we had stopped walking, the cold grew worse. The wind also would not abate. I sat next to Ola, and we huddled together as we chatted (or rather I listened) with our brothers and sisters crouching about us.

There are seven people in this picture, where is the seventh? :)

One sister, a woman of mature beauty with mahogany hair hanging in two thick braids, leaned towards me offering a vest. I gladly accepted her kindness.  And as my kerchief had travelled from my neck to my head when we had entered the church, she also offered me a beautiful silk scarf with a sylvan pattern of blue and green. She then spoke, and Ola translated, about a dream that she had had while on a retreat.

In this dream, she had heard a male voice singing something in a beautiful melody, which she remembered on waking. She wrote devotional words to accompany it, and promised that she would teach it to the group as we progressed. She sang it for us then, too. Her natural voice was rich and deep, and the tune bore that air of slumber more wise than waking. I planned on finding her alone later, so that I might both have the words to her song and the opportunity to return her scarf. But she left the pilgrimage before the end, and I was unable to accomplish either end, though in a later message, she told me the scarf was a gift.
On we marched, and though the day improved, with the temperature growing a little warmer due to a light fall of misty rain, matters grew worse for others. Unfortunately, this day got many people a little sick. Yet, it was beautiful! The silver veil hanging between the parted trees above the velvet carpet of emerald moss everywhere we march produced such lush mystique, and I was sure that the sun would requite us for his absence in the coming days of the pilgrimage.

Marching down those long, unbending lanes close to our destination was certainly the longest stretch, so I cannot say I missed the sun in this interim. Our spirits were certainly bristled up, and it was a good thing, for when we entered the town we encountered the usual
crowd of well-wishers waving good-naturedly to us. 
Thank you Marzena!

One amongst them was a very
young boy sitting on his father's lap. He looked at us from one to another as we passed, and then cried out in that incredible volume which mature vocal chords have lost: 'Was śpiewajcie mnie! Was śpiewajcie mnie!' (Y'all, sing to me!) After a hearty laugh, our cantor warmed up his majestic baritone and led us in a rousing hymn for the final leg of the journey.

Religijne - My chcemy Boga

We arrived at the same lovely farmstead where we had stayed the year before. Not being my normal, filthy self at the end of that day, I opted not to wash in the sultry stable as I had the year before. I was exulting in the freedom of only having to wash my hair, when I brought up my head and saw two young girls watching me.

Seizing an opportunity to practice my Polish with easy-going listeners, I asked them their names.

'We're K. and M. Are you from Warszawa?'

'Yes, I live there, but I come from the USA--from Tennessee.'

I was immediately peppered with questions, and we got on like a house on fire. Their grandmother came by a moment later, and I got to chat with her as well.

'So are you single?' she asked.

Thanks Basia and/or Marzena!

'Yes,' I answered, mischievously toying with the idea of asking if she had someone to spare. I don't know if her granddaughter and the little girl's friend connived at it, but later the ladies were treated to a hair dryer for our wet heads, which was more than a blessing as the temperature continued to drop. I did feel a trifle guilty for the modern convenience, but if the gentlemen can do that (see right:), surely a little blow-drying is not decadence?

K. swiftly became my little friend. I was delighted that she wanted to sing Compline with us, and we shared my breviary together over the wan light. Later, it was time to visit the port-o-potty. 'You could go to the bathroom in our house,' she offered.

'Sweetheart, [sometimes English diminutives cannot be dispensed with] if I did that, then everyone else would have to be able to go, too.'

So, instead she stayed with me while I waited in line. It was growing cold again, and as I stood bereft of my hoody, I asked K. to play 'Simon mowi' with me. She eagerly took up the sole duty of being 'Simon' and proceeded to order me about, giving me warming, active orders.

It is one of the lovely things about making a pilgrimage, a retreat, or giving one's self up to any occasion out of the routine order that we may forgo artificial normalities. So it was not strange when K. told me to hug the person in front of me or dance with the brother pilgrim standing three places back. Not even when she had us all links hands and dance together did anything seem odd. There was no one to witness our joviality but the wide stretch of indigo Heaven above us. And when I went to sleep that night, I did not mind the chill.


About Me

My Photo
Warsaw, Poland
Domine, spero quia mundum vicisti. Lord, I trust that Thou hast overcome the world. Panie, ufam, żeś pokonał świat.
View my complete profile