I love riverboats of all kinds. So I was glad to meet the Dixie Belle through the Kentucky Holy Land Pilgrimage led by Marlene and Stanley Kropf in the spring of 2011. We called ourselves “pilgrims” for several nights at Shaker Village Pleasant Hill in northern Kentucky.
Morning – One morning, fortified by coffee, group centering prayer, and a hearty breakfast, I decided to walk downhill to the Kentucky River. I knew the river was running fast, so I wasn’t optimistic the Dixie Belle would even operate that day. It hadn’t all weekend. But I was determined to at least see the river.
So I climbed over the locked gate and began walking down the river road, preoccupied with the steepness of down, knowing it would later mean the steepness of up. I felt quite alone – fearful even – as the road entered the bush with no sight or sound of other humans.
Finally, there it was – the Kentucky River – high and muddy and fast down in the canyon. I watched it for a while, then turned back.
Walking uphill at a sedate pilgrim’s pace, I finally noticed my surroundings. I heard woodpeckers and frogs, then the train whistle through the canyon. Water splashed loudly over layers of rock. A red-winged blackbird flitted among thistles. I saw traces of humans – a muddy path, old stone fences, mowed fields. And as I reached the locked gate, the way to open it was obvious.
Why, I wondered, is the journey deep into canyons or into ourselves so fearful?
And how is it that noticing simple things around us gives such pleasure?
Afternoon – Surprise! I’m on the river with 13 other pilgrims.
Our riverboat captain enunciates with flair and with Kentucky pride, telling of the varieties of trees, fish, birds and turtles the river hosts. We see a high, cascading waterfall flowing into the river over and over again.
I’m sorry to miss our waiter singing Shaker songs that afternoon, but very grateful to be on the Dixie Belle….
Evening – A time to wind down the day, releasing it to God in gratitude. How better to do this than through beautiful chamber music in a barn, with birds trilling along with the string quartet playing the young Mendelssohn?
How wonderful – later in the evening – to be greeted by the Large Village Cat on the doorstep as we left our meeting room. The Small Cat walked back to our dwelling with us, lying down in the pathway from time to time as cats will…
I enjoyed Shaker Village Pleasant Hill so much that Sam and I returned with friends at least twice. But alas, the Dixie Belle river tour lost its luster for me the second time around, and wasn’t available in late fall.
Questions for Reflection:
- Why is the journey into canyons or deep inside ourselves so fearful?
- How is it that noticing simple things gives such pleasure?
- When has a second experience of a special place lost its luster for you? When has it retained its special character?
Next week: TBA