About theperpetualpilgrim

Come and share my past journeys and join me in my future adventures both in my mind and heart and in the world.

St James of the Field of Stars (Santiago de Compostela)

 

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This month is the 5th anniversary of my Camino walk. The Camino was life changing and I miss it often.  Enjoy this lovely memory with me.  My daily posts on the Camino can be found in the archives in May and June 2014.

My book Pilgrimage: A Modern Seeker’s Guide was inspired by my walk on the Camino and many other pilgrimages around the world and close to home.  The e-book is now priced at $5.99.  Check it out at Amazon. 

First Published June 2104

It wasn’t until the last week on the Camino that I could even think about Santiago, yet that was always the goal.   Every day I concentrated on the next 20 km or talked about the next big town, Pamplona, Burgos, Leon.   After Astorga, Santiago started to come into focus.   There were rumors about a celebration in Santiago about the time I planned to get there.  That was when I realized that if I arrived one day early I would be in Santiago for Pentecost, a holy day and a guaranteed Botafumeiro, the mammoth swinging incense censer in the nave of the Cathedral.   See a video of the Botafumeiro here.

Pentecost is the graduation day for the Apostles, including St. James, after Christ’s Ascension.   The Holy Spirit came to them in the Upper Room and sent tongues of fire to anoint them to go preach the Gospel.   No more perfect day to finish my pilgrimage and graduate to the next stage of my life.

While Alexandra slept I spent Pentecost with St. James.  I first listened to the beautiful chant of the Rosary.   Next the Botafumeiro made its mighty journey through the Cathedral to the sounds of the organ and choir.  I dreamed of this moment along with the centuries of pilgrims who had dreamed that same dream.   I went to a chapel to celebrate Mass in English with an Irish priest.  He read the story of Pentecost and we sang songs and lit a candle for all of the continents and peoples.     I joined the main Mass where the Archbishop presided over Confirmation.   I was having my graduation ceremony.  I had completed my task.

I didn’t realize how much I was going to need those extra days in Santiago to process my experience.   I saw pilgrim friends I hadn’t seen in weeks and we hugged and congratulated each other on a job well done.   It was special to be at Pilgrim’s Mass with my fellow travelers, a shared experience to the end.    I saw everyone I had hoped to see again and exchanged contact information.

I went to dinner with my friends and we talked about our favorite and least favorite Albergues, tales of the food, injuries and blisters and things we learned.  One pilgrim was in tears because he finally forgave his father, others had come to terms with their past or had new hope for their future. We were all proud of our strong bodies and loose hiking pants.   I cherished every moment of the language of the pilgrim, I miss it so much.

The next day my friends arrived by car with clothes for me and to share my triumph.   It was hard to move out of the pilgrim world.   The first day I put on a new shirt.  The next day I put on different shoes but still wore my hiking pants.  I had to reenter the world gradually.   We went to Mass together and they were treated to the Botafumeiro, and I was glad to see it another time.   We went behind the altar to touch the statue of St. James and went below to the crypt where his bones are kept in a silver casket.

All of my pilgrim rituals where complete and it was time to go.   I left my worn out shoes and some clothes I couldn’t bear to wear again and a piece of my heart in Santiago.

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Worn out shoes

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A Pilgrimage and Ebook

My Book:

Pilgrimage: A Modern Seeker’s Guide is now available in e-book at Amazon and currently featured as a selection on Kindle Unlimited.  I would love if you would leave a review, it helps others find my book.

A Pilgrimage:

This October I’m going on a pilgrimage to Japan and inviting you to join me.  I’m not sponsoring this pilgrimage but there are spaces available for the tour. This is a chance to walk part of the 88 Temple Trail on the island of Shikoku with like-minded friends.  This two-week journey along this ancient trail is fully supported by an English-speaking guide.  We stay in traditional accommodations and walk a few miles with just a daypack to some of the best Zen Temples on this famous path.  The tour begins in Osaka and does include shopping at local markets and historical sites.  For more information go to www.okujapan.com.  This is a sister pilgrimage to the Camino, but this tour is not as rigorous as the Camino I walked five years ago.

My Blog:

This summer I’m finishing my last classes for my Masters in Depth Psychology and speaking at the Jungian Society for Scholarly Studies in Asheville this June. As I work on my last few papers, I’m going to take some time from writing new posts.  So please enjoy my favorite posts from the past and I will be back in October with new adventures.

 

Basho

Breaking the silence

of an ancient pond,

A frog jumped in to water —

A deep resonance.

This haiku by the poet Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) is one of the most recognizable poems in Japan. Haiku is a short traditional form of Japanese poetry consisting of seventeen syllables divided into three sections of five-seven-five. It was Basho who perfected the haiku form, but he also wrote beautiful prose in the form of a travel log with the haiku inspired by his experiences. The Narrow Road to the Deep North is his best-known work and read by almost every Japanese high school student and translated more than any other work of Japanese literature.

I first learned of Basho while researching pilgrimage. I was already familiar with the haiku form and its popularity in both Japan and the West but going deeper into Basho’s life and work expands my understanding of the form, but more importantly informs my own pilgrimages and soul journey. Although Basho spent a great deal of time traveling, it is this pilgrimage to the Deep North that called his soul. To wander in nature and discover the world was not a luxury for Basho but a necessity for his poetry and the calling of his soul.  On this journey, Basho developed a new form a writing called haibun, which alternates prose and haiku to describe his journey. The prose, equally as beautiful as the poems, explains the physical aspects of the journey where the haiku illuminates the internal images and experiences. He walked 1200 miles over five months with his disciple Sora and planned part of the route to include places described by other writers. Basho’s call to a pilgrimage was not a specific place but to experience whatever unfolded before him. “I myself have been tempted for a long time by the cloud-moving wind–filled with a strong desire to wander”.

Basho’s words are beautiful in their simplicity and grace. He uses a lightness and gentleness to describe nature and life itself. Beauty becomes an essential element in the soul’s journey. Basho found beauty on his journey: in the change of seasons, fleeting moments of sun on dew, a hazy moon, the arch of the Milky Way. He found beauty in the smallest details of cherry blossoms, pine trees, wind and water. Life is fleeting and these details captured the ephemeral moment when life is perfect beauty. Basho took great delight and wonder in these moments that fed his soul’s path. It is in these brief moments that Basho experienced eternity and left a trace in his haiku.

Walking pilgrimages are inherently simple. Life is reduced to what you can carry on your back. Basho’s haiku perfectly alludes to the essentialness of his journey. Pleasure is found in the simple moment of a flower, the soft breeze, or sound of a cricket. Basho left behind the comforts of home and community to see the world in the simplest moments where the sacred is found. Basho doesn’t analyze or offer opinion on what he sees, rather he relates pure experiences as they happen in the moment and in his heart. Haiku becomes the way he expresses his journey. Although haiku is simple in form it is not simplistic for the subtly expressed by the image associations and verbal play enter in the depths of the human heart.

In the essence of his work, Basho is above all a nature poet. All his senses were tuned to the natural world and Basho misses none of the subtleties of the wind, seasons, smell and sound, often bringing him to tears in the moments of pure wonder and grace. His poetry and prose are words of praise and thanksgiving for life in all of its forms. The sea, rocks, stars, mountain, trees, flowers, all participated in Basho’s poems to the ineffable mystery of our world.

Although written almost 400 years ago, Basho’s story and poetry are timeless. His experiences and observations reflect his deep understanding of nature and his own interior life. Pilgrimage, as a time of solitude in nature, becomes a catalyst that opens an important soul space.  Basho heard the call of this soul space and left a beautiful account of what that interior pilgrimage looks like. His words are those of the mystic that sees the sacred in all things and in all places.

The title of Basho’s story, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, reflects the physical road and is a metaphor for the quality of the interior journey for the sacred does not come with broad highways and neon signs. The sacred is found with effort on a narrow path that takes time and sacrifice, suffering and joy. There is no easy and quick way to a lasting relationship with nature and the soul. Hard work and dedication are needed to find these numinous moments when the world becomes alive with wonder as we step out of time into the timeless.

Later this year I am going to Japan to see for myself what inspired Basho. I will be walking part of the 88 Temple trail on Shikoku island, a 1000-year-old spiritual pilgrimage and a sister pilgrimage to the Camino. Basho did not walk this particular trail, he walked north of what is today Tokyo, but the landscape and culture as well as the search for the heart and soul of nature aligns me with the spirit of Basho.  Basho wrote on many subjects that moved him to live in relationship with his soul and thus offers me language to seek the same beauty.

 

 

Amid mountains of high summer,

I bowed respectfully before

The tall clogs of a statue

Asking a blessing on my journey

 

To talk casually

About an iris flower

Is one of the pleasures

Of the wandering journey.

 

In the utter silence

Of a temple,

A cicada’s voice alone

Penetrates the rocks.

 

 

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Apalachicola

photos by G. Smith

For the last four winters, I have traveled to the Florida panhandle to the little out-of-the-way town of Apalachicola. Along this long expanse of white-sand beaches outlining the Gulf of Mexico is an almost forgotten land where time stands still, and Florida remains as it was before air-conditioners and high-rises. My aunts were looking for a place to find refuge from the arctic cold of northern Minnesota where they live most of the year. Apalachicola is just a bit north for warm weather in February, but it is still moderate, much more moderate than the icy north and just right for their winter retreat.

The first two years, I drove my mother the 9 hours to the coast to visit with her sisters. The last two years, I flew the two short flights to Tallahassee–and it is still another two-hour drive. This part of Florida is not on of normal tourist routes but that is its charm. These last two years, my aunts rented a home on St. George’s Island, a long drive across the bridge from the mainland. Family, food, chatter, movies and naps fill the day between my walks on the beach. I love the beach, any time and in any weather. I can’t get enough of water, sand and sky—this simple landscape that feeds my soul.  I love the salt air, breeze, sound of waves and gulls and water lapping at my ankles. I’m a beach girl to the core of my being.

But last year this almost desolate coast endured the ferocity of nature–Hurricane Michael. The third strongest hurricane on record, Michael hit the coastline on October 10, 2018. Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe were devastated. Apalachicola was damaged but not quite as severely and by the time I arrived in February much of the brush was cleaned up. But there was no turning away from the destruction. The roads are being rebuilt and I got a flat tire from the construction debris. Along the road were tall piles of rubble that was once someone’s beloved home. I drove down the streets of Mexico Beach, but I couldn’t really comprehend what all those empty lots meant for the residents of that small town. I was seeing the aftermath from an outsider’s perspective months later.  I know how much I love my home; how could I ever recover from having it destroyed. But the resilient human spirit seeks hope in the face of overwhelming adversity. Small campers now stand next to the rubble as homeowners work to rebuild a life.

Apalachicola has become a new refuge for my family, a place to be together. This new place has come from our own loss of land and home in Minnesota. So, we, too, have found our resilience, knowing that life and family do transcend place. It isn’t what we wanted, but we found a way to build new experiences that nurtures our bonds

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Take Joy!

When I was a little girl, I spent many a happy hour reading The Little Princess and The Secret Garden, books illustrated by the artist Tasha Tudor.  The delicately drawn pictures and watercolors add to the enchanting story.  I particularly remember the illustration of the robin showing Mary Lennox the key to the hidden garden.   Tasha (1915-2008) illustrated and wrote dozens of children’s books during her prolific career.

A few years ago, I became fascinated with Tasha again, not just for her art but because of the unique life she crafted for herself.  She was fascinated with the 1830’s and moved to a farm in rural Vermont to recreate a life from that time.   She lived without electricity and wore clothes of the period.   She had a prolific garden and a barn full of animals which she tended with her beloved Corgis.   As an artist, she created the life she imagined and lived it to the fullest.   She used the words “take joy” to express the way she experienced life.   Her darling Christmas book and a documentary about her are also named Take Joy!

So in these last cold days of winter, before the spring comes, I want to encourage you to also Take Joy by finding beauty in the everyday and crafting your life to reflect your joy.   I find that we are so bombarded with everyone else’s ideas and desires, or just what the culture tells us to think and do, that we don’t take the time to really create our unique world.   This week I have been reading Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism.  This is a new manifesto on how to loosen the control of media in your life so that you make more conscious choices about how you spend your time and what influences your thinking.  Take steps to mindfully use media so that life isn’t spent in front of a screen but out in the beauty of the world.   The constant bad news causes such anxiety and stress that the beauty all around is missed and then lost.  Choose media that brings happiness to your life, not that glorify the worst of human behavior.

Enter Tasha’s enchanted world for a bit and find that Joy and Take it into your life and then consciously look at your world to find the beauty.   In my world it is the chickadees having their breakfast, the wind ruffling the lake, the early spring frogs croaking in the shallow pond, the lichen on the fallen tree, the smell of the daffodils from the flower market…

I ❤ Books

Blood Wolf Supermoon rising

January has gotten away from me all too quickly.  Christmas delightfully lingered until Epiphany and I barely got the Christmas trees snuggled into the basement when I got a cold that then became bronchitis.  School started up, our water main broke and Caroline needed some surgery (fully mended now).  Whheeww! And I didn’t feel like I was ready to leave 2018 yet.  I want to reminisce a bit about some lovely moments from last year.  There were trips to Taiwan, New Mexico, New York and of course Los Angeles. But what I want to remember and hold on to are some of the lovely things I read and watched so let me share some of my favorite literary moments of 2018.  Hopefully I will inspire something for you to enjoy and I would love for you to leave a comment on what was your favorite book or movie/series of 2018 for me to enjoy in 2019.

Last winter, one of my classes was on dreams.  I have taken classes in Jungian dream work before but there are new and interesting ways of processing dreams.  Dream Tending: Awakening to the Healing Power of Dreams by Stephen Aizenstat takes dreams from strict interpretation to learning how to have a relationship with your dreams and let them enter your waking world.  I spent a morning in a class with Dr. Aizenstat working on dreams and it was a magical experience to see this master dream tender at work.  If you are interested in knowing more about dreams, this is the book to get.

Although I didn’t read this next book for class, it combines work I did in two class on vocation and archetypes.  The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling by Stephen Cope, is a beautifully written book that uses the story of the Bhagavad Gita and weaves it with stories of people (famous and not famous) finding the vocation that comes from the heart.

In November, Alexandra and I went to the LA Opera to see Philip Glass’ opera Satyagraha.  This is the story of Gandhi during his time in South Africa as he developed his ideals of non-violent resistance.  Once again, the opera uses the ancient Indian story of the Bhagavad Gita, to underscore Gandhi’s struggle to find the courage to fulfill his destiny in India.  A unique and powerful work sung in Sanskrit, it is Philip Glass’ masterpiece of opera and social change.   If you love music, I recommend Words Without Music, a memoir by Philip Glass about this remarkable composer’s life and work.  I have several of his albums on my iTunes and I wrote a paper on this amazing opera.

During a week off of school, I read Feet of Clay: Saints, Sinners, and Madmen: A Study of Gurus by Anthony Storr.  A well written scholarly look at the phenomena of gurus, good and bad, this book helped me understand the psychology around gurus and the people that follow them.   Coincidently the Netflix show Wild Wild Country about Bahgwan Rajneesh came the same week I was reading about him in this book.  You know I had to watch it.

A few other books I enjoyed:

Sacred Space, Sacred Sound: The Acoustic Mysteries of Holy Places by Elizabeth Hale

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors by Sarah Stodola

A Life Less Throwaway: The Lost Art of Buying for Life by Tara Button

Some TV series/Movies I enjoyed: 

Howards End (2018 and 1992), The Miniaturist, Durrells of Corfu, Leave No Trace, Jane, Loving Vincent, Darkest Hour, This Beautiful Fantastic

 

 

 

Gifts

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As we enter the traditional season for giving, I am reminded that gifts are always a part of the journey, on a pilgrimage and in daily life.   All you have to do is become aware the abundance of life and open your heart to receiving these gifts so freely given.  I offer these three gifts for this holiday season.  Gifts to give yourself and then in turn give to others.
Joy:   The poet Leon Bloy says, “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God”.   Finding joy, living joy, sustained joy are the moments the pilgrim has put down their burdens, worries, sorrow and let the light of the Divine show through to your life.   This is a moment of transformation where just being alive and open hearted is all there needs to be.   On the Camino I had the experience of sustained joy where just walking and being in nature made every breath a thank-you.

Silence:  In our noisy world we don’t find much silence and if you do happen to encounter it most people find it uncomfortable and immediately fill the void with more talking or scrolling.   Silence is where you take time from our frenetic world.   You can’t hear the voice of your heart and the Divine if you are talking or distracted.   Practice sacred silence as you move into sacred space.   Take time to sit in silent wonder and just be with the experience.   You need time to be without distraction to connect your being to your special place on earth.   Before and after visiting a special place give yourself the gift of coming into silence so you can prepare, receive and then integrate this experience.

Music:   Music is part of spiritual practice in all traditions, hymns, chants, toning and other types of music that enhances your personal experience.   As always these should not affect the experience of others near you or the nature of the site.   Sing a song in your mind, quietly chanting, listening to a song on an iPod can greatly enhance your experience.   I like to link a specific song with a specific place or experience.    Sometimes I have chosen that song ahead of time, sometimes I let the shuffle setting choose the song, sometimes I like to have a song spontaneously come into my mind.      When a song is sung or listened to at a site the song is then imprinted on your energy at that site.   In the future when you hear that song then you can be instantly transported back to that place and time.   It is a way of being part of that place forever.   In the cathedral in Burgos, Spain during a Mass in English the congregation sang a hymn I learned as a child.   I sang the words that I knew but hadn’t thought of for decades.   Now my voice is forever in the stones of that chapel.