The Cloisters, New York City
When I was a teen I belonged to an organization called Pathfinders, similar to Girl Scouts but sponsored by my church. We did typical scouting activities like camping and hiking, multi-church gatherings, campfires, singing and merit badges. I can’t remember which badges I received but I was once “Pathfinder of the Year” so I must have done my work. My sister and I still sing the Pathfinder song when we get together.
I think there should be merit badges for adults. I would have finished several this year. My most important badge is Driving in New York City, followed by Combining Two Houses. I have also received the badge, Traveling with Elderly, which has lots of complicated requirements. In the past, I got Suzuki Violin Mom, a particularly arduous one and the 9 Seasons of Nutcracker Ballet, which was lots more fun
In 2014 I’m planning for my biggest merit badge yet, Walk Across Spain. Alexandra and I are headed out on an epic mother/daughter quest to walk The Camino. We leave just after she finishes spring term and days after my 50th birthday. We are getting our gear together and putting in lots of hours walking and learning the ancient pilgrim songs
The Camino is a 1000 year old pilgrimage from southern France, across the Pyrenees to the Western Coast of Spain and the town of Compestelo. There, pilgrims gather at the Cathedral to Saint James (Santiago) to have their names read and receive certificates after their long walk. You must walk at least 60 of the 500 miles to qualify
I went back to New York City in December to pick up Alexandra and I had a few things I wanted to do there. I wanted to go to the Metropolitan Opera, see Lion King on Broadway, and go to the Cloisters, the Metropolitan Museum’s medieval collection. I’ve wanted to go to the Cloisters for many years to see the Unicorn Tapestries. I’ve seen other Unicorn Tapestries in Paris and I wrote about them earlier. I love the mythical stories and the amazing craftsmanship of the tapestries. It was snowing the morning I went and was a challenge to get to there but worth it. I took my time and looked at everything.
My surprise came at the very end when I went to an out-of-the-way display case and read the descriptions of some very plain pieces of metal. They were merit badges and souvenirs from the medieval pilgrimages to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compestelo and Canterbury Cathedral.
Merit badges are not easy to get but in the doing bring immense gifts and joys. The deeper knowledge of the world and self are the true merit received and never needs to be displayed. So, in 2014 find a merit badge you would like to work on and let me know how it goes.
Unicorn Tapestry Pilgrim Badges
More on The Camino:
The Camino—Shirley MacLaine
The Way–movie by Martin Sheen
What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim—Jane Christmas