On the eve of the May 13th feast of Julian of Norwich, after weeks of cool wet weather, summer suddenly arrived. I set out to explore a new walking trail near my home. I’d noticed on an earlier walk that it branched off a snowmobile track that I knew. I was fairly sure it must connect with another walking/skiing trail, leading to a road some fifteen minutes further to the south.
After walking for almost an hour on a narrow path through dense woods, I became lost. The spring rains had left pools of water that swallowed the trail where it dipped. Seeking a way around one of these puddles, I lost sight of the path. I had no idea where I was. For the first time, I realized I was in danger.
I called out to Julian and at once caught a glimpse of the path up ahead.
I walked on, crossed a foot bridge, carefully placed by trail managers…
I continued on beyond an intersection of a snowmobile trail.
It was then that I noticed a small lonely trillium at the edge of the path, one I thought I’d passed already…but the woods were sprinkled with trilliums….I walked on.
Up ahead I saw a painted sign high on a tree: “Peter’s Path”. This I knew I’d already seen. I retraced my steps to where the snowmobile trail had intersected. I understood then that I’d walked a loop that brought me back to where the trail had begun. Soon a tall white pine spoke to me of home nearby….
Words of TS Eliot came to me, something about our end being our beginning. My thoughts on that long walk had been a seeking for direction in an aspect of my ministry. I knew now what I needed to do: circle back to the beginning of the work. I would seek fresh inspiration in a dialogue I’d written with Julian in 2013.
When I got home, I searched for the poem, found that it was the same one, “Little Gidding”, in his Four Quartets, where TS Eliot had quoted Julian of Norwich. I offer the last section of the poem for your delight:
With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time,
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always –
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
(T.S. Eliot “Little Gidding” 1943)