In one of my favorite movies, Jeremiah Johnson, the ancient wisdom keeper Bear Claw Chris Lapp watches the progress of the beautifully ignorant Jeremiah as he deals with the wilderness in his pilgrimage to become a mountain man. After a long series of trials, Bear Claw gives him the ultimate accolade when he says, “You’ve come far, Pilgrim.”
I like the idea of being a pilgrim, of being on a pilgrimage, although that carries with it the idea of a destination. When I think of my journey, a few-days short of seventy-two years, I marvel at how far I’ve come but still wonder where I’m going.
My earliest memories begin in the north woods of Washington … living in a tent. My dad, actually my step-father, my mother having ended her marriage to my birth father shortly after it began, for reasons she would never … or could never … reveal, was a DIY kind of guy. So, as we lived for six months in a large, Army-style tent, he built the garage for the would-be-but-never-actually-happened house. My few memories of that time include seeing grass grow up through the floor and hearing wolves howl when my dad went off to work and left my mother and me to deal with the immense, lonely darkness.
Jeremiah wanted to be a mountain man and he followed that certainty through trials long and challenging, gradually becoming what he imagined. When Bear Claw meets Jeremiah for the last time, he asks, “Were it worth the trouble?” Jeremiah, by now grizzled and worn, mere grunts, “Huh! What trouble?”
|Joyce Wycoff, age three|
Certainty is easier in movies.
My own path, or pilgrimage, seems to be more a long series of dead ends, marked by signs saying, “Try something else.” But, at each turn, there was a token, a gift, a learning, something revealed. When I look at the only known professional photo of my childhood, I see that same beautiful ignorance of what lay ahead, of who I would become, am still becoming.
I am grateful for the gift of a long and healthy life which has given me time to peel back so many layers of this endless onion, discovering light and shadows never imagined.
Writing this in the Mexican village of Ajijic, I'm on my way to Lake Bacalar, known as the Lake of Seven Colors, where a friend and I will stay in an Airbnb home right on the lake ... with two kayaks to explore all seven colors.
I still shiver at the wonder and beauty of it all.
|Lake Bacalar (Photo credit and info)|
Behind my garage of a house in those northern woods, there was a filbert orchard with mounds that called to me. My memory of them is that they were tall and I could climb up to the top of them and see forever. I imagine that three-year-old child, trying to see further than her own height would allow, sitting … alone … on those mounds, and wonder what she was thinking and feeling.
I wish I could reach back and tell her that all will be well, that some day she will be in a beautiful, friendly place, where she is often alone, but never lonely.
About the image: "Dream Genie”
My dreams have been active lately, and, as usual, I wonder from whence they come. Sparks for this image came from a stunning piece of Chihuly glass work seen with a friend at the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas, another beautiful piece of glass seen in Tlaquepaque, Mexico, and a piece of wall art found here in Ajijic, Mexico. Bits and pieces meld together into one message.
Favorite bits from the movie, Jeremiah Johnson:
|Movie Clip: Bear Claw meets Jeremiah|