The Multiplicity of Pilgrimages

And I also do believe that we have this possibility of doing a pilgrimage every single day. Because a pilgrimage implies in meeting different people, in talking to strangers, in paying attention to the omens, and basically being open to life. And we leave our home to go to work, to go to school, and we have every single day this possibility, this chance of discovering something new. So the pilgrimage is not for the privileged one who can go to Spain, and to France, and walk this 500 miles, but to people who are open to life. A pilgrimage, at the end of the day, is basically get rid of things that you are used to and try something new.       Paul Coehlo

A friend turned me on to a podcast interview with Coehlo. Too late to listen, I was able to read the transcript.

I’ve been on a pilgrimage to clean the house, well, the upstairs. Basically, that was my try something new part. My husband cleaned the downstairs a few days ago. He got the kitchen, me the bathrooms and the office and the writing room. He managed the work in one day; I’m on day two with the writing room still to go.

I could whine a little, say all the stuff on shelves and layers of saved pieces of paper on the desk and the bookcases were harder than the kitchen where things all have their place, but I won’t.

In many ways, cleaning the upstairs is a sort of pilgrimage. I cleaned windows and floors, washed and put away the extra fleece blanket I keep on my side of the bed for cold nights, hand washed the rabbit wool socks and retired them for the season.

While we’ve had a lot of rain and chilly days, the sun is now out and growing warm. As I cleaned the little office window, I saw the purple iris are blooming in the back garden. The purple iris are often a topic in my blog posts. There’s one here, and another here, but if you simply put iris in my blog’s search box, there’s several. Seeing them reminds me of the pilgrimage involved in going home.

The office shelves are full of photos. Some of my husband and me, and that takes me on a journey in time, remembering when that photo was taken; another I took of my sister when I lived in Hawaii. There’s a little blue Chinese teapot with gold dragons my son gave me one Christmas, and a small silver kaleidoscope he gave me another year. And books, mercy are there books.

On the top shelf are the art books from when I was going to be a sculptor, forty years ago. The History of Art. That’s a big one. Downstairs, I still have a bust I sculpted from clay, made a cast of, and poured in molten something or another. It’s not metal, but it is heavy. I call her my Bedouin Woman.

The office also holds Cliff’s pilgrimages. One corner shelf, defying easy dusting, is filled on one level with hockey pucks, including one signed by Patrick Roy, my favorite goalie, one year, years ago, when we were in Denver. Another shelf is full of baseballs from various stadiums where he’s watched games.

A spring-cleaned room is a destination one can rejoice in. Yes, yes, I still have the writing room, which, if you could see it, is a little scary. Talk about pieces of paper and books! I am not a tidy writer.

Four floor to ceiling bookcases, filled, mind you, cover one wall and wrap around one corner. Another corner holds a antique built in corner shelf with frilly cut sides (it came with the house) and is filled, mostly, with stones and tiny collections from the places I’ve traveled. Another corner shelf, matching with frilly cut sides, is filled with books and one ceramic lady whose wide skirt is open at the sides for flowers. I painted it, once, so long ago I don’t know when except childhood, and there’s layers of papers and old manuscripts.

I have left this writing room for last. It will feel like 500 miles to Santiago de Compostela by the time I’ve finished, and I will surely feel virtuous.




A Hero’s Journey

Friday of the Second Week of Lent

Here comes the master dreamer! Let us kill him…                         Genesis 37

Here is the one who will inherit everything. Let us kill him….   Matthew 21

Interesting to look at these two readings, the incidents separated by about four thousand years, and see the same pattern. The first reading is the story of Joseph, beloved son of Israel, who is sent by his father to his brothers. His brothers hate him because of the attention he receives from their father but instead of killing him, they sell him to a caravan going into Egypt.

The second reference from Matthew is a parable Jesus tells. The tenants at a vineyard conspire and kill the owner’s messengers until finally the owner sends his son. They kill the owners son, thinking they will now have the vineyard.

As we move through Lent, we’ll hear more references to the death of the promised one. It’s like what we say when we talk about someone being on a pedestal and getting knocked off. We seem to get a perverse pleasure in it. They weren’t so great after all! we tell ourselves. Look at the many stories of Tiger Woods or Charlie Sheen or Lindsay Lohan. They’re not so great after all! Let’s knock them off their pedestals and kill them with our judgments.

When I work out at home, I usually watch a movie to keep me going. Yesterday, I was watching a Harry Potter movie. He is the “chosen one” although he doesn’t particularly want to be: it’s clear the fate of most chosen ones. Harry Potter is the hero’s journey myth in a modern setting. Joseph and his amazing coat of many colors is the hero’s journey. As is Jesus’s journey: life, battle, transformation. As is Tiger Woods or Charlie Sheen or Lindsay Lohan.

We are all on a hero’s journey. Oh, I don’t mean you are Jesus or Joseph or even Charlie Sheen, for that matter; you are, in fact you. And your life is just as much a hero’s journey. Haven’t you had your battles? And you have won or you’ve retreated “to fight another day.” Haven’t we all been on a pedestal to someone and been knocked off – by an unkind word, by jealousy, by anger, by judgment?

The stories of life don’t change – the settings change, but the stories don’t. The details change, but the stories don’t.

Where, right now in your life, does your Golden Fleece lie? What must you do to find it; how must you transform to bring it back and make it useful to your world?

Here’s another verse you can take with you today. It’s from the Psalm response:

They had weighed him down with fetters, and she was bound with chains. Till predictions came to pass and the word of the Lord proved true.