“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I would not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…” – Henry David Thoreau
On the eastern most edge of Clearfield County in Pennsylvania is a ghost town named Peale, a coal mining company town that died as quickly as it blossomed. This ghost town has a particular way of drawing me to itself. The last time I was there, more than a decade ago now, there were only two small buildings remaining in this former thriving town. They were someone’s’ homes back then I assume. But if you had an old map, you could find many of the streets lined with small stone foundations. As a wanderer, I used to spend many hours walking those overgrown, almost indiscernible streets, imagining what it would have been like to live there…imagining and wondering.
Imagining is not just for children.
Wandering is not about what and how. It is about why and who. Wandering is about being: soul, spirit, and body. It is about oneness with creation as a creature, and the God who created.
Wandering is also not just walking in green spaces, the field, the forest, and with the dog; for all is natural and part of creation. I have wandered in cities, suburbs, on airplanes and in cars. I have wandered in used book stores and public parks, alone and surrounded by people.
Wandering is a state of mind that elicits…something other.
About 20 years ago now, I set out one early Sunday morning to wander the streets of Peale. With a map and a few copies of old black and white photos of the town in my back pocket, I drove out at the crack of dawn as the sun stretched itself over the eastern horizon, somewhat blinding me. I wandered the streets of Peale that morning and it came to my mind that one of the photos in my possession subtly featured a small church edifice. At that moment, I had an idea of where my wanderings were taking me.
As I deciphered the map juxtaposed to the photo, I made my way over to where the church building probably stood. After some searching, I found one of those stone foundations. But this one was different. This one was a little bit larger. I knew I had found what I was looking for. But what I experienced was a surprise, and divine.
“You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.” Psalm 139:5
As I sat on the stone foundation that early Sunday morning, although I missed the gathering of the church my family attended, in my mind, I found myself worshipping with the people of Peale, joining them as they walked down the dusty street, entered the building, and performed the liturgy of their time together before God. I was with them for the better part of an hour.
God was there before I was. He is still there.
“But will God indeed dwell with mankind on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less the house that I have built.” 2 Chronicles 6:18
I wander because I don’t know. I wander because, sometimes, life, society, and culture doesn’t make sense. I wander when I am afraid. Mostly, I wander for inspiration, because I wish to wonder.
He comes to me in my wanderings.