For some reason I tend to think it’s my job to carry all the world’s troubles and problems on myself. I worry about what people are doing around the property where I work, how many times the police are being called, and the local politics involved in defending the rights of unsheltered homeless people to camp outside without being hustled along or arrested or doused with gasoline and set on fire in an alley somewhere. So during one crazy moment wherein I was angrily unburdening myself in the basement to my wife at the top of my lungs so the whole house could hear it, she simply replied, “You need to go on a walk and talk to God about it.” So after my apologies to everyone for my language, which the children know we’re not supposed to use, I set off for a sacred spot I learned about on the internet. Perhaps my favorite recreation thing to do is to get out and walk. I unburden my mind in prayer, saying things to God that he knows already.
I walked up Broadway past the exit onto Hwy 55 north and then on to Gasconade Street. I realized I had gone past the right road and I needed to be on the other side of the highway. So I looked at the map on my iPhone and thought I could hang back south down 1st Street. It became clear that I was in an area of South St. Louis not welcome to pedestrians. Look at these pictures. They look like nowhere else I’ve seen in the city. They don’t look like the city at all. From the signs I learned I was on private property and so I had to head back up to Gasconade and retrace my steps.
Back on Broadway on the east side of the street but heading south, there’s an empty storefront.
I finally made it onto the right road I had passed. There’s some kind of art factory here.
A little further up are two acres for sale.
And as I get closer to Sugarloaf Mound there’s a billboard for personal injury lawyers hanging right over the spot.
You can tell from the giant concrete planters at the entrance, this is an important place.
Sugarloaf Mound was purchased in 2009 by the Osage Nation. My pilgrimage here caused me to question myself. What was I expecting to find? It has become more overgrown than it was three years ago. I watched this video about the site days previous.
And now as I encountered it myself with my dog, Daisy, I was grateful to be witnessing something primitive and secured in the modern world. No one lives in the house on the mound anymore. There are other residents nearby who saw me walking by, but this little mound remains unremoved. Why should it be removed? Primitive space. The high point of the city overlooking the river.
Jesus asked the crowd, “And what did you go out into the desert to see?” Matthew 11:7 There was something wild and primitive about the Baptizer preparing the way. They were looking for a prophet that the ancients spoke of. Here on this lonely hillside, a patch of ground is secured by America’s indigenous people against what would surely become a new development that would in turn be sold and discarded in time. A little mound remains to warn us about what it is we do to the land, to each other, and to our future. That it remains is an anomaly. All thirty nine other mounds in Mound City were gone over a century ago. This is all that remains of a once great civilization.
My walk with Daisy made me feel better. The site of this preserved place brought me reassurance that there are still sacred places and that many still remember. I have much to learn about listening and seeing and remaining still. I have much to learn about sacred space and appreciating all of God’s creation. And I know I am still far more the contrarian than I am a prophet of the Kingdom of God. I have a sermon to preach on Friday. Speak Lord, your servant is listening.