Friday, August 24, 2007

One more day

We are now one day’s ride away. We’ll arrive at St. Ben’s on Saturday evening. We’ll leave from Westport in the morning, travel 12 miles to Sauk Centre, then sail over to St. Joseph on the flat, smooth Lake Wobegon Trail, which runs basically parallel to I-94.

The nerves have set in. Once we crossed the border into Minnesota, and the culmination of this pilgrimage was one significant notch closer, some of the normal nervousness before a significant step such as arriving at the monastery one has asked to join began to creep in around the edges of my stomach. The waves come and go, seeming a little stronger with each return, and with each pedal stroke closer to the monastery. It’s more and more real that I really, really will be at the monastery, day in, day out, living the rhythm, facing the challenges, living the questions, listening to the tugs at my heart, hoping to find some of the places where my deepest longing meets the world’s deepest needs*, daring to be stretched to love bigger and bigger.

Just as it took us a while to establish and settle into a rhythm to our biking days, and just as it does in any transition, I imagine it will take a while to sink into a sense of normalcy at St. Ben’s. In the midst of these nerves, the best I can do is remember that until a few days ago I was very sure this was the best next step in my life, and that the people who have walked the journey with me must have had good reason to support and encourage my progress in this direction.

As any journey like this is bound to do, it has helped me to let go of some things and see life with a wider, fresher perspective. Numbers don’t matter as much any more--I watch our average speed less and less as the days pass. It’s nice to know the numbers at the end of the day, but I’ve let go of the early habit I had of trying to push us to achieve any particular average for the day while in the “lead” position. We bike as best as we are able, and we get where we need to be when we get there.

We three bikers are all finally finding/accepting/reconciling our individual paces with the group pace. The pushing and pulling and adjusting and second-guessing have mellowed into something more comfortable for all of us. Even the switching of the person in the front position is more fluid and flexible now. And so it is in any community, be it three bikers and a support crew, or nearly 300 nuns and all of their various webs of connection and support.

Most of these past 14 days, we've experienced an array of emotions--from high energy in the morning to a mid-afternoon slump, sometimes including real uncertainty about being able to continue through the wind or heat or pain. The end of some days is full of high energy again, especially if we are blown into town with a tail wind or down a hill, and sometimes we barely manage to crank the pedals the last five miles to the camper, then scramble around for our "recovery" food and fall into a bizarre, endorphin-influenced stupor as we try to prepare to do it all again the next day.

Water towers are one of the joys of my day now. They come much more frequently, as towns are increasingly closer together as we follow old trade and railroad routes. They signify a chance to take a break, rest our saddle sore bodies, our knees that have spun the pedals over 300,000 times.

We pedaled 468 miles on U.S. Highway 12 before turning north on South Dakota Road 25, taking a shortcut across SD-16 and BIA-3 to reach Highway 10 into Sisseton. The 10-mile section of Hwy 10 between Sisseton and the border of SD was the roughest road we’ve been on yet, including the day on dirt/gravel in the construction zone. At the border of Minnesota, SD-10 continues as MN-28. We’ve had fairly narrow shoulders again (with a wide girth of gravel to resort to before the ditch, though we haven’t really needed to). Mercifully, the highly trafficked area around Glenwood and Lake Minnewiska has a wider paved shoulder.

According to the odometer on my bike, we crossed the 600-mile mark today just past Starbuck, MN, and it took us 70 hours of saddle time to pedal that far (much more in clock time, once all of our breaks are added in—still to be added manually).

We’re in glacial lake country now. Rich, fertile soil whose depressions, be they vast or little more than a ditch, hold more water than we’ve seen yet. There are certainly more hills than around Aberdeen, but by and large they are gentle. We’ve been graced with gentle winds these past several days, and they more often scoop around from behind us rather than confront us head-on or tackle us from the side. It looks like this trend will continue on the final day of biking.

Biking all day feels very normal now, and I’m sure I will miss it, but Karen (the other postulant) and I will be busy settling in to the physical spaces and daily rhythms of prayer and work and leisure. Look for one or two more posts tying up the specific pilgrimage aspect of this journey, and possibly more relaying the daily journey of transition into monastic life. Now that I’m getting the hang of this blogging thing . . .

*Frederick Buechner's definition of vocation in the large sense of life calling--perhaps not an exact quote, but close.


SD_pedalpower said...

I just came across your story and it was so interesting I had to share it on my blog. I wish you the best and please see my post below.

Anonymous said...

Oh I do hope you (are able to) continue blogging right on into your days in the monastery! I just learned of your story through another Sister-friend of mine, and I am really enjoying your reflections. What a wonderful pilgrimage.

You have much to say to the world, Stephanie! And there is a real hunger among women in discernment for the real live voices of those of us who are living into our own journeys into religious life. Peace my Sister.

schuhchm said...

I'm so proud of you and your family, Steph. Your Friday evening blog is a real meditation. Be assured that you and Karen will be in my thoughts and prayers as you settle into the rythmn of work, prayer and leisure of monastic life at Saint Benedict's Monastery.
Love, always

Tess said...

I'll be cheering you on past one finish line and onto the next starting post. I, too, hope you will continue writing.

Jennifer said...

By the time I am writing this your biking journey is probably complete and your next stage beginning. I'm thinking of you often and will enjoy continuing to read as you are able and wanting to write! I enjoy your words...

get rhythm said...

Fill us in how it turned out :)

I'm so excited to hear the final details!

kabloona said...

I guess since you arrived at the monastery that you don't have access to a PC to give the final blog entry???