"Blessed is the one whom you choose and call
to dwell in your courts...
You keep your pledge with wonders;
The hope of all the earth
and far distant isles..."
~ Psalm 65
The ancient life-practice of pilgrimage extends to far more than a limited journey. Yes, there is a setting forth, with a destination that combines spiritual and physical places. The way-stations in between are limitless in form and personage. My own life of pilgrimage has involved numerous homes, roads, vehicles, airports, diners, offices, and welcoming ambulatory personal spaces. They are unpredictable, and that is the beautiful and formless nature of a pilgrimage of trust on earth.
In 2002, after an immortal experience- and nearly home to my doorstep in Portland- I stopped at a convenience store at about 1:30am, realizing that for a long absence from home, I'd not left any perishables at home. Setting the half-gallon of milk on the counter, the equally-drowsy cashier exhaled with, "what brings you out this time of night?" I simply responded nonchalantly with "I just drove fourteen hours from Toronto," that was enough to bring the cashier to tears. Apparently, she had been watching the World Youth week of events on television; over and over she said, weeping, "I know where you were. I know where you were. I prayed for all of you." Somehow, she knew correctly. The moment was as poignant as anything I'd experienced as a simple musician amidst a million pilgrims with Pope John Paul. My own extraordinary pilgrimage wended right through the aisles of a Cumberland Farms store on Woodford Street.
We needn't deceive ourselves into thinking that our journeys are without significance. It surely isn't about pursuing the next morsel of personal recognition, or making achievement into a narcotic. And once that burden is thrown off, but the positive momentum maintained, the pilgrimage continues as a flourishing voyage instead of a closed loop. For myself, the sea change is so powerful that with this return I will cultivate what has taken root. Moving from belief to convincement is to realize the pilgrimage of trust is eternally hopeful- and- that just as those I welcome are strength for my travels, the welcoming souls I encounter embrace me in turn along their ways.