There is No Trail From Here


Easter Monday is always hard. Us pastor folk like to joke about a post- Holy Week hangover. There have been so many hours and so much thought and prayer put into the week that when it’s all over it can be kind of deflating. Normally my family goes camping after Easter as a way to breathe out and celebrate, but that has been cancelled.

In fact, everything from here out has been cancelled. My calendar looks like Easter was the last known spot on the map. From here on out we’ve lost all trail markers. The trail had been marked by a half marathon, the end of our daughter’s daycare “school year,” friends coming to visit for the Derby, and a long awaited vacation. One by one the events have been deleted.  Everything from here on out is just time.

Even in the church year it feels like we’re unmoored. Thankfully we’re still in Eastertide and then we have Pentecost and then the most unordinary ordinary time we’ve had in the church. But what we expeince is that Easter is done and now what? My church celebrates Pentecost just as much as Easter, but that’s still more of a church marker than a life marker.

There is no trail from here, and we don’t know when it’s coming back. The problem with losing the trail is that sitting in the woods being lost doesn’t help you find it. And we’re clearly too far in to turn back, not that life works that way. So our only choice is to keep moving forward. Or as my favorite book, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt says, “We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, Oh no! We’ve got to go through it.” And like our dear friends on the bear hunt, we’re looking for something without a set location.

How do we move forward without the markers that guide our days? What might it look like to have to set our own markers? If the trail makers are missing, what can we put down to mark our way?

In Scripture we see the people of God stacking stones, making pillars of stones to mark a place or a covenant.  Across cultures people have stacked rocks, sometimes referred to as cairns, to mark a place – either for navigation, burial sites, or ceremonies. They’re not official trail markers and yet they show that we’ve been here, someone has passed this way before.

What will our stones be? What will our cairns be? Will we mark these days by new rituals? Pancakes on Sundays and large family zoom calls? Pictures of mundane moments with children marking each day? Rediscovering the joy of calling people on the phone at a weekly time?

Those are happy marker, but what stones shall we stack to say, “our loved one passed, and we could not be there.” How shall we mark that time? Because there was the path before that time and the path after that time is not the same.

I don’t know what your pillars of stone might look like. I pray that some are joyful. I pray that some bring closure in grief. I pray at the very least that they mark this time and the passage of this time.

When the calendar before us stretches out empty and devoid of all the markers that signified joy and anticipation, we may still leave our mark. To say we were here, to bear witness to the joy and the sorrow, to mark the path for those who follow. We may not have seen the hands that built this pillar – but we are not alone on this unmarked trail.

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