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Backpacking with the SaintsWilderness Hiking as Spiritual Practice$
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Belden C. Lane

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199927814

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199927814.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 08 December 2021

Venturing Out: The Irish Wilderness and Columba of Iona

Venturing Out: The Irish Wilderness and Columba of Iona

3 (p.33) Venturing Out: The Irish Wilderness and Columba of Iona
Backpacking with the Saints

Belden C. Lane

Oxford University Press

I put in at Greer Crossing, planning to float the twenty-one miles to Riverton over the next three days. Canoeing the Eleven Point River—a National Wild and Scenic Riverway near the Arkansas border—is a quintessential Ozark experience. The stream skirts the western boundary of the Irish Wilderness, a 16,500-acre area of the National Wilderness system. It’s a pocket of dense forest, sparkling creeks, and limestone caves as wild as the wooded glens of Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains. The place abounds with white-tailed deer, bobcats, raccoons, gray foxes, brown trout, and songbirds galore. A Celtic mystery lurks in this secluded Missouri landscape. I like to think of the Irish Wilderness as connecting me with my family roots in Ireland and Cornwall, near Land’s End in southwest England. It takes me back to a spiritual practice of wilderness wandering firmly rooted in the Celtic tradition. The Druids would have loved this part of southern Missouri. A dozen species of oak spread their branches overhead. Colonies of mayapples thrive along the trail. The limestone bluffs above the river are scattered with dolomite crystals. Canoeing downstream, you hear the sound of a beaver tail slapping the water to warn its kits as you round a bend. Ducking under the branches of an overhanging sycamore tree, you’re surprised by a harmless rat snake resting on a limb. With each stroke, the paddle dips into crystal-clear water rising from underground springs. There are times in your life when you realize you need a discipline. You have to decide about where you’re going (or not going). That’s why I’m here—to renew a spiritual regimen in my life, venturing out so as to find my way back in again. Salmon do it instinctively as a part of their life cycle, swimming upstream to their source. Naturalist Freeman House says that humans and salmon are a lot alike: “We are related by virtue of the places to which we choose to return.” I, too, need to revert from time to time to the primeval wonders of great blue herons and hazelnut trees . . . to an untamed Celtic landscape.

Keywords:   Celtic spirituality, Druids, Eleven Point River, Ozarks, Sufi spirituality, Trinity, apokatastasis, discipline

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