Bruce Chatwin, author of What Am I Doing Here? writes: “[Sherpas] are compulsive travelers; and in Sherpa-country every track is marked with cairns and prayer-flags, reminding you that Man’s real home is not a house, but the Road, and that life itself is a journey to be walked on foot.”
The cairns serve many purposes: they mark presence, help to guide others coming behind, and often mark a change in direction – a turning point.
One of the turning points on Aaron’s life journey brought him from Toronto to Vancouver. He aimed to gather a fresh perspective, both about the past and for the future. After 5 years on the coast, he was ready to return to his home city.
A thoughtful man, he wanted to mark this transition intentionally…to bid farewell to those whose friendship he had come to cherish. He wanted people to have the opportunity to “share”…food, fellowship, and feelings. Aaron wanted to both thank people for their support and also to give them the chance to speak as well.
But that’s not always easy in a larger group…1) speaking in public 2) about personal feelings 3) to a group that’s not necessarily familiar can rank up there with root canals and bungy jumping.
The first ritual I designed for the evening gave people a comfortable and meaningful way to be present. Guests were asked to bring a simple symbol (recycled or maximum value of $2.00) of their friendship/time spent with Aaron. The concept of sherpa cairns was linked to Aaron’s personal journey: “each turning point in our lives means that we leave behind people and places that have mattered. In turn, we have mattered to people in those places and their lives change as well”. People were invited to build a cairn for Aaron, adding their symbol while describing its meaning. The process was safe, easy, fun, meaningful and a little tipsy (the cairn, not the guests..:)
Aaron hadn’t given much thought to what happened after the “good-bye” – when his real journey would begin. So we added a ritual that allowed people to give him words of support that he could take along with him…sort of a “cheerleader” on paper process. Again, it allowed people to express themselves in a comfortable way.
Both rituals were easily delivered by a friend of Aaron’s.
The evening’s remnants were easy to pack, and perhaps the lightest and richest were the memories. Because travelling light is always easier, whether it’s a vacation or on the road of life..:)