From the collection "Songs of the Company"
There’s an anxiety that snuggles close to you like the carry-on luggage by your knee
as you wait for the call “the elderly, the disabled, those with special needs, those with children will board first …”
There’s an anxiety that percolates in you as you find yourself between places
No longer at home but not yet arrived
you’re in that liminal world defined by bus terminals and airport lounges.
You know your destination but aren’t quite there yet.
Anxious thoughts about the journey, what if …
What if you never make it because some box cutter has sulked in some crazed person’s coat.
You shirk the thought citing statistics that prove air travel is the safest by far, more chances to die in a road accident or while crossing the street.
You rehearse in your mind: pilots training at flight simulators, mechanics checking the airplane with tablet computers on hand or maintenance manuals thick as phone books.
You rehearse in your mind the ground crew keeping the tarmac clean from FOD and the air controllers clearing planes for take off and landing, assisted by radars and computers.
Even when you’re flying and the plane has reached its cruising altitude, thoughts irritate you: what if THEY lose your luggage as THEY did three years ago.
What if in the cramped quarters of coach, the flight attendant accidentally spills coffee on you.
You shoo the thoughts like fruit flies hovering over an overripe banana.
But the anxiety is there because your are
no longer home but not yet arrived.
What’s it then that drives you to journey
to leave home and brave the distance of not yet arrived?
Work, wealth, family, relations, fun. Sun-drenched white sand beaches.
What drives an Iñigo from the comforts of Castle Loyola
to journey to the lofty crags of Montserrat.
The destination is quite clear: to be where the Lord wants him to be
but getting there is uncertain.
Like air travel, routes are not the closest distance between two points
but are determined by terminals, passenger volume, flight routes and the weather.
The journey is revealed to the pilgrim—Monserrat, Manresa, the Holy Lands, Alcala, Salamanca, Paris, Venice, Rome— point by point, terminal by terminal.
The road uncertain, anxiety fraught
yet the pilgrim treads the path,
braving the unease of sitting at Latin class with students younger than he.
Thwarted by the authority that summarily expels him from the Holy Lands or makes him face the dreaded Inquisition because he did not have the proper papers
Abandoned by friends who had the promise of being travel companions
Or not finding passage at Venice because of a Code Red emergency at sea.
Blocked by authority, betrayed, victimized by geopolitics,
the pilgrim plods not always forward but sometimes retreating and advancing, turning here and there in a journey choreographed by the Master.
Unease does not leave the traveler but the traveler continues because the prospect of reaching the destination far outweighs the burden of traveling.
What is important is to take the first step
to get up and go
Because there at the end is the warm welcome, the friendly embrace, the joyful feast: “Enter into the joy of the Father.”
Because there at the end is the glowing realization: “Were not our hearts burning within us ...”
(While waiting for the Peter Pan Bus to Amherst, MA 28 August 2007)