Finding your way
This summer we spent a lot of time “up north” in Bayfield, Wisconsin. One of our favorite restaurants, The Manypenny Bistro, featured the best pancakes ever and the service from the waitstaff was just as sweet. One waitress, who we visited with on several occasions, would ask us every time we came in “Have you gone to pick strawberries yet?”
Bayfield is known for its berries and our waitress, a local enthusiast for the small town’s orchards, wanted to make sure we didn’t miss an opportunity to pick our own before the brief season passed. I half-listened to the directions she gave us for how to find the best berry patch, but then – don’t laugh – wound up at a nearby winery instead. When we got out of our car and walked around an outdoor venue that was clearly not an orchard, but benefited from its “fruits,” I noticed an interesting feature of local flair at this winery: cairns.
In every direction and of every size, cairns were artistically stacked by the doorway and along the side of the house up the driveway and by their large sign, pronouncing that the were a winery, not an orchard. We were a little bit lost, my family and me, in pursuit of an orchard, but peeking in on some happy adults – most of whom were not with kids – sipping wine, laughing and smiling with great frivolity.
Cairns, if you aren’t familiar, are those simple structures of a few rocks stacked on top of each other meant to mark a path and show you the way. I first encountered cairns in the high desert mountains of the Salt Lake Valley. My colleague, Beth, shared that in Scotland (where her people come from) cairns are even larger structures and have become meeting places or landmarks. It can be easy to get lost in a supermarket or an unfamiliar town. Mile markers and directions can help in these circumstances.
But what about in the life of faith? What solid ground can we hold onto, who in our midst can point us back to the path we’re meant to be on? This is what I think is so beautiful about Christian community. We’re like cairns for one another; a few humble rocks, reaching upward and standing firm on a path that points us back to God’s love. We did eventually make our way to an immense berry patch with strawberries as far the eye could see. Our kids got a kick out of eating them right off the vine and remarked more than once that they tasted just like candy.
That’s what they’ll remember from that day. What I recall is that I should have listened closer to directions, but sometimes life’s paths include entertaining details.