From July 8 through 11, 17 individuals joined together to experience a multi-generational time of spiritual formation sponsored by The Bishop’s Ranch and conceived in partnership with and supported by St. Dorothy’s Rest. With the oldest participant nearing 80, and the youngest just graduated from high school, the group of EcoPilgrims paddled for two days down the Russian River and hiked two more days from the redwoods to the sea, learning intimately the contours of land and water. As in any pilgrimage, EcoPilgrims left the rhythms of daily life behind to grow in body, mind, and spirit, and were rewarded with a deep appreciation and experience of the natural world that can come from letting the land dictate the path.
Brendan Swift helped the group to identify edible and poisonous plants during the hikes through the redwoods and coastal scrub, and Sean Swift, executive director of The Bishop's Ranch and longtime student of the ecologies of the Russian River and redwood forests, taught the group about the delicate and often troubled balance between human desires and natural processes in the watershed. EcoPilgrims camped together, ate together, sang, talked, and prayed together every night, under the guidance of Rev. Pat Moore (who paddled her own kayak down the river as a Pilgrim).
Some participants particularly valued the chance to learn so much about the Russian River watershed. Others remember the chance to make new friends, to challenge their ideas of what they could accomplish, to watch shooting stars, and swim in the river's current during the sunny heat of the day. The taste of wild huckleberries, the excitement of racing the rapids (and staying upright), the crash of the surf and watching sleepy seals where the river meets the ocean — all these memories — encourage EcoPilgrims to continue their engagement with God in creation. Consider engaging in this EcoPilgrimage yourself and experiencing the special gift of deep time in God's creation. Contact Andrea Foote, firstname.lastname@example.org, to stay in the loop as next year’s EcoPilgrimage is planned.