Short Trip to the Edge: Where Earth Meets Heaven--A Pilgrimage
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While walking on the beach with his Labrador, poet and literature professor Scott Cairns ran headlong into his midlife crisis. A fairly common experience among men nearing the age of fifty, midlife crises are usually manifested in the form of sports cars and younger women; not so for this Baptist turned Eastern Orthodox. Cairns had a realization that as the advancement of his spiritual life was moving at a snail's pace, time was running out, and his crisis emerged in the form of a desperate need to seek out prayer.
Told with wit and exquisite prose, Slow Pilgrim is the story of Scott's spiritual journey to the mystical island of Mt. Athos. With twenty monasteries and thirteen sketes scattered across its sloping terrain, the Holy Mountain was the perfect place for Scott to seek out a prayer father and to discover the stillness of the true prayer life. His narrative takes the reader from a beach in Virginia to the most holy Orthodox monasteries in the world to a monastery in Arizona and back again as Scott struggles to find his prayer path. His story includes accounts of the relationships he forges with several different monks and priests along the way, as well as life-long friendships he makes with other pilgrims.
From Publishers Weekly
As a former Baptist who passed through the Presbyterian and Episcopal churches on his way to the Orthodox Church, Cairns, a poet and professor of literature and creative writing at the University of Missouri, offers readers a unique and often compelling perspective on life as a pilgrim on Mount Athos, Orthodoxy's holy mountain. Recounting three visits to the mystical bastion of male monasticism and another trip to an Orthodox monastery in Arizona, Cairns writes transparently of his struggles to grow in the life of prayer as he searches, mostly in vain, for a spiritual father who can help him. His accounts of traveling to the various monasteries on Mount Athos are earthy and blessedly not saccharine, yet beautifully accented with descriptions of times when he was particularly moved by an experience of worship. Especially touching is his narrative of the pilgrimage he makes with his son, Benjamin, who affords a fresh perspective on all that his father has previously seen and related. Cairns includes several of his poems, which serve as well-placed enhancements to the text. His open attitude in explaining matters of faith makes this book suitable for a broad audience of readers on spiritual journeys. (Mar.)
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"Scott Cairns is the ideal guide -- relaxed, invitingly conversational [...] but always evoking the awe that these mysteries deserve." (Frederica Mathewes-Green, author of Facing East )
"This is a gem of a book, a lovely, funny, touching account of a poet's search for wisdom..." " (Philip Zaleski, coauthor of Prayer: A History and editor of The Best American Spiritual Writing series )
"[Cairns] opens his heart and ours to the holy mysteries of his Orthodox faith." (Rodger Kamenetz, Professor of English and Religious Studies, Louisiana State University and author of The Jew in the Lotus )
"While highly personal, this book provides at the same time a revealing insight into the meaning of Mount Athos." (Kallistos Ware, Bishop of Diokleia, author of The Orthodox Way )
"A skilled poet on an arduous prayer pilgrimage..." (Eugene Peterson, author of The Message )
"Enlivening, intelligent, occasionally rich in irony but never cynical..." (Pam Houston, author of Sight Hound )