The cairn as a symbol of connection.
We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.
For me, the deepest beauty found in cairns is the bond it forms between hikers. There is a special relationship between the hiker who served as the cairn creator, all the hikers who have since passed by and left the cairn untouched, and all the hikers yet to come. When I see delicately balanced cairns still standing on paths or beaches, I am touched by the respect others give them. This serves to remind me that we are all connected, and that perhaps there is a special unity among hikers, as we honor those who have gone before us as well as those who will come after us.
The cairn was created to cherish a moment or mark a location, and also to guide and bless those who follow. It continues to offer us grace and encouragement, even though the hiker who made the cairn may be long gone. In this time of social distancing, what a gift we have in the awareness that we can still remain connected beyond time and space. Cairns represent community, they symbolize connection, and we honor both as we appreciate them – and leave them as a blessing for others.
I recently learned about a phenomenon called Quantum Entanglement. In (my) simplest understanding, there are energy fields that exist between particles, and this energy continues to influence the particles even after they have been separated. An action performed on one will affect the other – even if one is on earth and the other on the moon! We are all connected, more than we can imagine. Our interactions, our words, and our thoughts might create waves of energy that make an impact, even over great distances. (Think of the times we hear from someone and we say, “I was JUST thinking about you!”)
Carrying a stone from the bottom of the valley to be placed on top of an existing cairn has become part of Scottish folklore and custom. Over time, cairns have grown into large mounds and are an intriguing and curious sight. An ancient Scottish blessing, “Cuiridh mi clach air do charn” means “I will put a stone on your cairn”.1
Every act of kindness, every bit of care for our earth, every prayer said, every cairn created, will create positive energy waves that may make a greater difference than we can even dream. I am reminded of the time after my first miscarriage, when my friend Rick went to Mass and lit a candle for me. The tenderness of his gesture brought tears. I was so deeply comforted to know that after Rick left the Mass, my candle remained, along with his spirit of care and concern, the community of other candles, and the prayers said for us all.
Paul’s words from prison to the people of Colossae remind us of our spiritual connection beyond physical presence:
For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, and I rejoice to see your morale and the firmness of your faith in Christ.
(Colossians 2:5 NRSV)
(As you place your stone today, consider these words) “Today I place this stone on my cairn and lovingly bless this person…”
I place this stone with an incredulous awareness of your deep connection with me and all of humanity. May I carry this holy connection with the people I love, with the friends who are doing this with me, and with all people near and far. Today, may I especially join with you in surrounding (this person)… with your love, comfort, peace, and joy. Remind me of our universal humanity, God. Remind me that all of us are your beloved children. Amen.
(This post is dedicated to all the friends who have touched my life with love. You will always remain with me, no matter the time or distance between us. Thank you!)
Next week’s cairn theme will be A Memorial Marker.
Photo credit: Cairn Gorm Summit Cairn, Scotland © Nick Bramhall / Flickr