One week from today, I’ll leave on my yearly pilgrimage. For months those days have been blocked out on my calendar with very little thought about the actual journey. Now that I’m almost one year into my retirement from school nursing, I find that my life has been filled with new activities to take the place of those forty-hour weeks in my middle school. Just like the previous fourteen journeys, I’m working right up until the day I’ll leave for Florida.
The beginning of my trip, I’ll travel by myself but stay with family. The first night will be with my son and daughter-in-law in Charleston, South Carolina. The next three nights will be spent with my cousin on the Gulf coast of Florida, and the final three days will be by myself on the Atlantic side—the truly Solo part.
Over the past few years, I’ve planned my trips so that some of my time is spent with family. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that as one of my favorite artist, Van Morrison sings, “Precious time is slipping away.” Not only have I seen the value of being intentional about time alone with new eyes for sacred travel, I’ve realized the importance of intentional time with family. With my son, Brooks, and his wife, Emily, we’ll have our last visit before they have their first child in May. Life will change for all of us when our baby boy arrives.
With my cousin, Linda, I have a chance to know her life at her winter home. I’ve written before in two blog posts, Second Chance to Know You (Nov. 19) and Distant Cousins (July 12 ), about the value of spending time with my cousins at a different point in life. As I feel the rush of time whirling by, I want to grab onto those opportunities while I still can.
I’m glad I decided to focus this blog on getting ready because my life has been so busy with working part-time as a research nurse and completing my book proposal—that I’ve been totally absorbed in tasks. Now I’ve pulled out my ‘guidebook’ for my sacred journeys, Phil Cousineau’s, The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred and I’m reminded of what I need to focus on before I head out next week.
In the book, Cousineau encourages the pilgrim to prepare carefully, believing that intention is everything. In the chapter entitled Departure, he notes the importance of being able to completely disconnect from everything at home—the pressures, tasks, responsibilities, in order to leave. Stepping over the physical threshold of your house is symbolic of leaving the known behind in order to encounter the unknown and divine in the journey. There’s a natural resistance to doing that—we don’t want to leave the safety of the known.
It also requires energy to transition from everyday life to a new pattern of physical, mental, and emotional preparation for the journey. For me, that means reserving a rental car, pulling out spring clothes for what I hope is typical Florida weather, completing my paperwork at the research job, and finishing sections of the book proposal.
Meanwhile, I need quiet, meditative time to prepare for my journey, praying with intention for God to ‘bless me and the people in my path.’
Like Cousineau points out, a pilgrimage doesn’t have to be to a place far away. Having that same intention with new eyes for seeing the sacred, can transform a trip around your neighborhood—if your heart is open.
My hope as I write this is those who read these words will feel the call to step over the threshold of the familiar and into the sacred unknown, finding blessing along the journey.
How about You?
What is the resistance you feel against crossing the threshold to the unknown?
How would setting an Intention help to move beyond that resistance?