There are as many sacred spots as there are pilgrims, for each person has a unique call to their soul. Pilgrims may be standing at the same place looking at the same mountain or cathedral, but the experience is always processed through the individual heart and soul. I tend to love very traditional pilgrimages such as stone circles and churches but that might not make your heart sing. It is our unique expression of the soul that gives the place meaning.
Over the years Hamilton and I have traveled to sacred spots together, particularly in England, Peru and Cambodia. Sometimes we are drawn to the same site but sometimes we are called to different experiences. But one of the great joys of traveling with other pilgrims is to witness and share their joy when a moment or a place touches their hearts. A few weeks ago, I read an article in the paper that a B-17 (WW II bomber) was coming to town and available for tourist flights. I insisted Hamilton take advantage of this opportunity. He is always so supportive of my journeys and work that I wanted him to have his own special day to follow his bliss.
Hamilton is a voracious reader, particularly of WWII history. He watches documentaries of the war and is always asking me to identify the planes—of course I can’t so I always reply B-17. Just the sound of those historic airplanes makes him misty-eyed as he admires the skill and bravery of the men who sacrificed their lives to keep our world free. He can tell you the names of the planes just by the silhouettes and sounds and knows all their histories.
On a beautiful September morning we drove an hour to Sevierville, the gateway of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. There on the tarmac of the small private airport was the B-17, Madras Maiden. We walked over to inspect the exterior and peek into the cramped fuselage. There was a magical aura to the whole experience: the cool morning breeze, the misty-blue layers of the mountains, the well-loved airplane. I took pictures and listened to the 96-year-old veteran talk about being a crew chief on a B-17 in Africa. Soon it was time for nine happy fliers to board the plane. One by one the four engines started up and made the characteristic roar and gave off a big puff of smoke. I took videos of the take off. About 30 minutes later the plane was heading back, slowly flying against the back drop of perfect mountains until it gently landed. Hamilton crawled out the back hatch with a big smile. During the flight the passengers could explore the plane and watch the pilots. Everything about that experience made him so happy and in turn made me happy. We watched the B-17 take off with another load of passengers and then went and had a lovely lunch before driving back home through the mountains. Although not a conventional pilgrimage, it was a beautiful experience and just perfect to feed our souls.