That geographic part of my recent journey is behind me and I’m settling in slowly, transitioning from three plus years on the Pacific Northwest seacoast to the rolling hills and plains of the high desert of western South Dakota. I crossed mountain ranges and state lines and time zones. Traveled through cities, towns and long stretches of nothing as far as one could see. Had wonderful conversations, shared laughter and created memories with my granddaughter, the best traveling companion I could ask for. And, Sophie, of course, made the long journey as if it were merely another day to be savored.
The shape of the internal journey, however, is much more fluid, elusive and subjective. “Why?” is the question friends and family members ask me. I ask myself this important question, as well. Why uproot myself from a generous collective of individuals and families who actively support and care for one another and for the local and global community in thoughtful, ethical and sustaining ways? Why leave a region that is breath-taking in it beauty; wealthy in its capacity to provide abundant water and food for generations to come; and teeming with educational, cultural and recreational opportunities for all? Why move more than 1200 miles away from my children and grandchildren? Why trade nearly daily conversations and family time together for once or twice a year visits? These honest questions require letting go and can leave me feeling sad.
Why return to the places that have claimed my heart and soul for nearly fifty years? Why stand on ground and walk where “sacred” has defined this place for countless centuries, where “sacred” is palpable, yet mysterious? Why live where racial tensions and lack of understanding and acceptance continue? Why struggle for ways to live in respect and harmony? Why move to a small town rather than the big city with its array of activities and proximity to dear, long cherished friends? Why buy an old house with its many projects and possibilities rather than rent a cozy cottage on a farm? Why start again to meet neighbors, discover resources, cultivate an intentional community? These questions express for me a sense of place and of needs that I can fill. They give me hope and peace.
Truly both sets of questions – and a host more – are inseparable contributions to the shape of the inner journey. The answers will change, as we all know. A perfect and permanent decision is non-existent. The rightness of a choice comes about when we know ourselves to be imperfect beings, yet we strive to be and do the best we know in the moment. The journey, for me, is shaped by my answers to a few basic questions that are criteria for decision-making:
Does it do no harm?
Does it grant greater freedom to all concerned?
Does it leave peace in its wake?
Is it life affirming?
I don’t pretend to know the ultimate best outcome in any situation requiring choices. The choosing is often between more than one desirable outcome and can be heart-wrenching. Following intuition, trusting in perspectives gained through living, and tossing in a generous sprinkle of faith, makes the inner journey as intriguing as Jim Harrison’s title suggests.
What is the shape of your journey? I hope that it is, and continues to be, a blessing for you and for those you love . . . .