Last evening I grabbed my cane and headed out the door for a walk around the neighborhood. A simple pleasure, which I have missed, and now am grateful I can add back into my life. My intention now is to expand the circuit in order to build strength and stamina and to restore a normal walking gait and pace. Besides, this is my neighborhood now and I want to know it better. As I locked the door, I heard the chimes from Nativity Church just a couple blocks away. A blessing for "ready, set, go."
Walking as Pilgrimage
What if I treated my neighborhood walks as a kind of pilgrimage? What would that mean and how would that feel? For a pilgrim the journey is what is most important, not the destination. On a pilgrimage one is encouraged to pay greater attention to the path beneath one's feet, and as I regain easier walking ability, I realize how focused I am now on the physical act of walking. I don't have the same rhythm I once took for granted. Now I must pay greater attention to the path itself, including the changes in the sidewalk levels and what is just ahead that could trip me up. I am conscious of how fast (Actually "fast" is not in my vocabulary these days!) or how slow I am going, and I tell myself to bend at the heel and not shuffle and to work at eliminating the limp and shuffle, which have almost become habit.
Stop, Notice, Bless
I thought about a book by Joyce Rupp about her 37-day pilgrimage along the Camino De Santiago in Spain. The book is called Walk in a Relaxed Manner, which is the just right description of how I need to walk right now. I walk much slower than I have in the past and at times that is frustrating, especially when I am walking with someone else, and they either sprint ahead of me or I sense how hard it is for them to slow down, in order to stay connected with me. Walking by myself, strolling, taking on the aspect of a flaneur, the French word for stroller or saunterer, being relaxed, I only need to be conscious of my own ability and needs. I am a lone pilgrim.
Last night I intentionally stopped when I glimpsed a vignette of beauty. For example, I noticed the way some people had planted not only their front yards, but also the sections between sidewalk and street. In Ohio they call those "tree lawns." I love that name. I noticed iris beginning to bloom and peonies, too, and I wonder if the artist blue hydrangeas Bruce has planted at our house have given pleasure to other passers-by. The homes with passionate gardeners are evident, and I hope there is a time when I spot them weeding or watering or wandering in their gardens that I can compliment them for all they have created.
I also stopped in front of homes that look lonely, neglected, unkempt and forgotten and wondered about the story behind the front door. I offered a simple blessing that all may be well.
When we first moved to Shaker Heights, Ohio, I enjoyed taking early evening walks when inside lights were just being turned on, and families were transitioning from life out in the world to life back home. I wondered in which home my new, but yet unknown, new friend lived and when we would meet each other. I was lonely, but hopeful. I had similar thoughts last evening, but with more wonder than desperation, for our life here is a return. We are in our book's next chapter, instead of starting a whole new book, and while I am open to the new, I have a base here, a loving and welcoming base from which to build. Still, I sense promise as I walk past these sweet houses where young children are being tucked into bed and dishes are being cleared from the table and stories from the day are being shared. Early on this walk I spotted two teenage girls, long legs, long hair, sitting on top of a garage roof. The contrast between me, the old limping lady, and these young, fearless girls, was startling and amusing, and I offered them a blessing for a safe, but adventurous summer.
Soon I was back home, but I had walked a bit longer, a bit further than my previous neighborhood walk, and I hope to expand my territory with each walk. How happy I was to walk up the few steps to our front door, to greet the three baby robins, fluffy and prehistoric looking, awaiting Mama's return to the dead pansy basket nest with more food, and then to unlock the door and step inside to our sweet home. A pilgrimage leads one to the sacred, and that is how this felt to me. For a short time at least I was a pilgrim, seeing what is sacred, moving from mindless to mindful, soulless to soulful. I felt blessed.
A Pilgrimage Blessing
May flowers spring up where your feet touch the earth.
May the feet that walked before you bless your every step.
May the weather that's important be the weather of your heart.
May all of your intentions find their way into the heart of God.
May your prayers be like flowers strewn for other pilgrims.
May your heart find meaning in unexpected events.
May friends who are praying for you carry you along the way.
May friends who are praying for you be carried in your heart.
May the circle of life encircle you along the way.
May the broken world ride on your shoulders.
May you carry your joy and your grief and in the backpack of your soul.
May you remember all the circles of prayer throughout the world.
I invite you to walk as a pilgrim--wherever you walk and no matter the distance. I would love to know what you learn and feel and experience.