Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Longing to Go on Pilgrimage

Chaucer said that it was Spring when people long to go on pilgrimage--but I often find myself longing to go on pilgrimage in summer.

I associate long walks on tough trails with summer.  I was rarely an autumn backpacker, and even if I went in the fall, the walk wasn't long.

No, my backpacker memories come from Congaree Girl Scout Camp, where I was one of 3 backpacking counselors.  I'm still amazed at what we accomplished:  we were dropped off at one point, and we would be picked up 4-7 days later, after hiking almost 30 miles during one trip and 15 miles during another. 

Those were the days before cell phones.  If anything happened, we had to figure it out ourselves.  And we did.

You've never experienced a thunderstorm until you've huddled under a tarp with 10 frightened teenagers.  What a night that was.  In the morning, I was ready to go home.  Luckily we had a leader (just 2 years older than me) who declared we would go on.  And in the afternoon, we made camp, spread out our soaked things to dry, and enjoyed the sun sparkling on the water of the river.

Yes, it's that time of year when I think of hiking the Appalachian Trail.  But these days, I might choose something more spiritual, like the Camino de Santiago in Spain.  This post made the important point that even during a spiritual hike, one must deal with all the elements of a long hike:  aches and pains, frustration and boredom, heat.

I found the hiking part of backpacking to be spiritual even when I wasn't doing it for spiritual reasons.  It's wonderful to be far away from civilization and to revel in the diversity of God's creation.  I'm not as good at doing that in my everyday life.

I want to run away for all sorts of reasons these days.  I would do well to remember my Chaucer.  I could tell myself that I was going for lofty spiritual reasons, but it's better to be honest.  It's good to remember that if I did go on pilgrimage, I would meet plenty of people making their travels for all sorts of reasons, few of them lofty.

It's better to stay put and learn one's spiritual lessons while sheltering in place.  At least, for this season in my life, that's what I'm discerning.

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