Slow Pilgrim

There are just too many poems in Scott Cairn’s book Slow Pilgrim published in 2015 by Paraclete Press, that I would love to share. Today, I will share two. I am conscious that in the Christian calendar we find ourselves almost half way through the season of Lent. It’s a long journey from Ash Wednesday to Easter and it highlights the fact that our journey from birth to death is itself a journey and a pilgrimage and along the way there are times and seasons when we are more conscious that our own journey is shaped not just by the contours of the road but by the contours of our hearts, shaped not just by our solitary steps but the steps we take in the company of another. So please indulge yourself today by taking time to read slowly and ponder gently the words from Cairns. Remember, Lent is a season of meditation, reflection, penance, and pilgrimage. Today is full of hope.

Setting Out
Pilgrim: What is it that you do here?
Monk: We fall, and we get up again.

In time, even the slowest pilgrim might
articulate a turn. Given time enough,

the slowest pilgrim—even he—might
register some small measure of belated

progress. The road was, more or less, less
compelling than the hut, but as the benefit

of time allowed the hut’s distractions to attain
a vaguely musty scent, and all the novel

knickknacks to acquire a fine veneer of bone-
white dust, the road became then somewhat more

attractive, and as the weather made a timely
if quite brief concession, the pilgrim took this all

to be an open invitation to set out.

If you’ve ever owned
a tortoise, you know
how terribly difficult
paper training can be
for some pets.

Even if you get so far
as to instill in your tortoise
the value of achieving the paper,
there remains one obstacle—
your tortoise’s intrinsic sloth.

Even a well-intentioned tortoise
may find himself in his journeys
to be painfully far from the mark.

Failing, your tortoise may shy away
for weeks within his shell, utterly ashamed,
or, looking up with tiny, wet eyes, might offer
an honest shrug. Forgive him.

Eternal God,
as I walk towards Easter
my prayer is that your Spirit
will give to my feet and my faith
a hopeful tempo. May my walk be
steady and sure, seeking to be true
to the call of the gospel.
Help me to be quick to forgive,
slow to judge.
Quick to extend help,
slow to keep score of wrongs.
Quick to defend the rights of others, and
quicker still to provide a welcome to those
whose walk has taken them through deserts
and across seas in fear and uncertainty of their
next step.
Lord, in your mercy,
hear my prayer. Amen.

One thought on “Slow Pilgrim

  1. In Setting Out, I see our hesitancies, the not knowing what challenges or roadblocks we may meet, yet we move forward, coming to realize that hope lies ahead. This feels to me a poem of encouragement and yes, invitation. Slow Learning however, in spite of the tacit themes of mercy or forgiveness, speaks of sadness in the absurdity of our expectations of others and perhaps of ourselves during our lifetimes. My own children once found a small turtle about to cross a busy street. Worried that it might get hit by a car, they picked it up and took it to the other side, only to discover later that it had tried to cross back and follow its original plan and was run over in doing so. The kids’ grief was palpable, as was their confusion over their decision to do what they believed was right in the first place. Slow Learning may well be the perfect poem for Lent, the perfect interruption to give us pause. I enjoyed both poems.


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