Guadalupe Abbey is amid the valleys of wine country in Oregon, just southwest of Portland and inland from the brilliant Oregon coastline. Appropriately so, the abbey grounds were in full bloom for Easter weekend, and the forest that rested in the background was aglow. I wasn’t sure what to expect at Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey, but I was certain it would feel like home just as every other Abbey has.
Part of me has been avoiding writing this for numerous reasons: 1. It reiterates that this journey is complete. 2. It heightens my awareness of the false need of the next step. 3. As if the world wasn’t loud enough, it reminds me I’m back ‘in’ and ‘a part’ of it – which results in the only thing heard is ‘what’s next, what’s next, what’s next?’
“Sometimes you just have to stop and look. Then you can see the mystery.”
This was said to me numerous times over the course of Easter weekend as I grappled with knowing this was my final stop on the pilgrimage and was bouncing between anxiety and peace over this precise thing.
It’s always been interesting to me that somehow some of the most clear things in ones life are filled with those precise contradictions: anxiety (for others maybe fear) alongside an extreme peace and sense of knowing. While it’s obvious that these things are born of the risk typically involved in such events – if it’s clear, why do we hesitate, stutter step, and practically lead ourselves stumbling towards what we know? What is it about arriving at our goal on the floor that reassures it as the right thing – or what is it about the process to arrive that makes us unnecessarily bask in the pain?
There’s something about challenge that I wallow in, as if it’s a safe space. I’ve often seen myself as someone that starts numerous things and doesn’t finish anything, or someone that runs with things get hard, or someone that turns at the slightest glimpse of difficulty. This pilgrimage showed me both that I can finish things, and I can stick to things when they get hard. I’m still approached and asked how my ‘vacation’ was – the true work of the heart is the hardest of all – there are no breaks or pauses when one is working through and discovering who they really are (which we all know is also a never ending job each of us can choose to avoid or work through on any given day).
So, I’m sure we’re all wondering what this means: what I learned, what’s the outcome, where are the results, who am I, how did I grow, … now what?
I can only say with great confidence and slight ease – I don’t know. While all of this resulted in more questions than answers, it also showed me more of who I am – both the good and the bad. The things that come up in my heart and mind when all else is silent, the noise of who I am and the whispers of who I long to be.
“Sometimes you have to stop and look. Then you can see the mystery.”
By definition, mystery remains unknown – impossible to understand or explain, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be seen, felt, heard, tasted, touched, or seen. With that being said, I’ve unveiled nothing but I’ve finally sensed the most true and pure mysteries this world has to offer. Not because these things can only be sensed in silence or at monasteries – but because that is what I needed in order to sense these things.
“We are so impressed by scientific clank that we feel we ought not to say that the sunflower turns because it knows where the sun is. It is almost second nature to us to prefer explanations . . . with a large vocabulary. We are much more comfortable when we are assured that the sunflower turns because it is heliotropic. The trouble with that kind of talk is that it tempts us to think that we know what the sunflower is up to. But we don’t. The sunflower is a mystery, just as every single thing in the universe is.” Robert Farrer Capon
“All is mystery; but he is a slave who will not struggle to penetrate the dark veil.” Benjamin Disraeli
“No; we have been as usual asking the wrong question. It does not matter a hoot what the mockingbird on the chimney is singing. The real and proper question is: Why is it beautiful?” Annie Dillard