Upon returning from my recent journey to Paris and Barcelona, I have been thinking of the idea of pilgrimages—why we feel called to make them, what they mean to us, and how these journeys affect us.
What is it that draws us to a make an intentional journey to a hallowed or historic place? I don’t just mean those of a religious nature or the pilgrimages to shrines or holy sites, though I have made many of those journeys as well. The kind of pilgrimage I’m talking about is my desire to order coffee at Cafe de Flore,
to buy a book at Shakespeare and Company bookstore,
to see the six-toed cats at the Hemingway House in Key West,
and wander down the lane in the West Village in New York where e. e. cummings once lived.
I have done all these and many more.
After I wrote about “Writer as Pilgrim” in my last newsletter, a friend sent an email telling me about a book that touched her deeply: The Art of Pilgrimage by Phil Cousineau. I ordered the book the next day and though I’ve not yet finished the Introduction, I know already this book will take me deeper into my exploration into the concept and the call of pilgrimage.
I know it was more than the coffee I wanted at Cafe de Flore, or the book I bought at Shakespeare and Company. I wanted to be in a place and touch a piece of history that carries meaning for me and to allow the experience to inform my life as I continue to live it.
In my book, Wild Women, Wild Voices, I devote a chapter to Life Journeys and include a section on pilgrimages. The epigraph at the beginning of the chapter is from Miriam Beard: “Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the idea of living.”
I don’t know where my next pilgrimage will be, but I know there will be one, and another and another and another. I’ll know I’ll write about them, too. For me, writing is another kind of exploration that allows me to discover what has meaning and what matters.