Full of Grace
Sunday morning I loaded my stuff up again and headed north to San Francisco. I’d thought about going over to the beach, but Half Moon Bay (the nearest one) would be jammed with 18,000 extra people watching The Maverick surfing competition. Plus there was a special art installation I’d love to see at my alma mater.
I’m proud to say that upon encountering a traffic jam near South San Francisco, I actually did some lane splitting! And I’m proud to say that when my heart rate got too high, I stopped and settled back into a lane.
I know the way to Grace Cathedral by heart.
It’s up on Nob Hill. Key word being “hill.” I looked at the street parking and couldn’t even imagine which angle I’d need to use to balance a motorcycle and have the wheel curbed appropriately and be able to get in AND out. So I found a nice parking garage, stowed my gear, and mentally gave my mount some oats while I was gone.
I thoroughly enjoyed the beauty of the high-church ritual and how all the words and observances came back so easily. The boys’ choir sang chants in Latin while the deacon spread incense.
The presiding dean was an English woman and it was startling to hear more casual wording in use now spoken in her accent. Her homily centered on the anniversary of the first woman ordained priest in 1944, and how that wasn’t truly adopted by the church until the early ‘70s. Both the bread and the wine were brought to me by women.
During the service, I enjoyed what I could see of the art installation – 20 miles of ribbons hung from the cathedral vaulting.
Afterward, I walked around and took the pictures.
I’ve always received beautiful insights when I’ve visited Grace, from the time I was in high school a couple hours south and expected the Call to the priesthood myself. I chose not to walk the indoor labyrinth since being out in the beautiful California weather was part of the purpose of the trip. So I headed outside.
A labyrinth isn’t a maze with decisions to make and opportunities to get lost. It is a single path, designed as a very compact pilgrimage for those who could not go to the Holy Land during the crusades. On this sunny day, right after service, I got to share it with a few young pilgrims.
Standing at the entrance, I asked my question to guide today’s revelations: “Please make clear what obstacles or blocks I am to overcome in order to take my next career step.” And I quietly and slowly began walking in my hiking boots and grungy touring jacket.
It’s rather a long walk, 10-15 minutes. Holding my question, I was also aware of the children hopping in anywhere to walk a few turns, then skipping straight out. I smiled to hear, “Nana, look at this flower!” and Nana replying, “Grace! You can’t go in there!” I thought, “there’s no place Grace can’t go…” and placed one foot in front of the other.
I reached the center rose and turned my face to the sun, quietly repeating my question. “What obstacle or limit am I to overcome?” Nothing. Warm sunshine. Children’s laughter. Within… nothing.
Huh. Well, that’s a first.
Non-plussed, I opened my eyes and considered whether I’d retrace the whole labyrinth or just walk straight out. I mean, it’s not like there are any labyrinth police there who would scold me. Or really even any rules about it. And I’m not so big on following rules anyway. Then again, I LIKE walking. In the sunshine. In California. In front of Grace Cathedral. I’ll do what I like. And on the first step, the thought, “It’s not like the edges of the path are big walls I’d have to climb over. They’re not even ridges to stumble on. There’s actually nothing there… nothing…”
There are no obstacles or walls I am to overcome. There’s actually nothing there unless I make it up that way, make up rules, make up walls. And then make them real by thinking about them. I’m free to go my own way. I’m free to LIKE walking the path I choose.
I smiled as I felt each step of my path on the way out.
As I came down the cathedral stairs to the street, I snapped this: