The time has come: after months of preparation, prayer, practice and performance we are going to Turkey. Today! Who could have predicted that the "Arab spring" would have taken place - toppling despots all over the region - and sending thousands of Syrians into refugee camps on Turkey's border? Who could have imagined that we would find new friends eager to help us bring jazz and conversations for peace through the Internet? Who could have predicted that we would be asked to open the Second Intercultural Arts Dialogue Days in Beyoglu and play for up to 10,000 people?
In so many ways this strange little pilgrimage feels like something out of a story from a contemporary St. Francis: the Spirit calls, a small group responds and blessings open up in unexpected ways. Like the State Department helping us connect with bloggers and musicians - like a club owner in Iznik opening up his seaside home to us in return for a gig - like our local Turkish friends calling their friends in Istanbul on Skype to say: "these are good people, help them, ok?" (check it out: )
As travel writers with a bent for spirituality seem to agree, when we meet strangers who attract and intrigue us along the journey, we are also meeting a part of ourselves that longs to go deeper. Poet John O'Donohue put it like this in To Bless the Space Between Us:
Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.
New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Our places that know you well\Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.\
When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:
How you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening a conversation
You want to take in
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will heart
What your heart would
Love to say.
A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies that deserve to claim you.
May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.
May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched - and free -
To balance the gift of days which call you.
And so... away we go!
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