In 2007, I was so fortunate to go on my first ‘official’ pilgrimage to Iona, Scotland. I started that particular journey as a tourist I think, and returned home as a pilgrim. My time away on the tiny island of Iona began literally and symbolically with a ferry crossing.
Looking back, my heart and soul knew, if not my head, that I was crossing a threshold to what is known as a ‘thin place’ — those places where we feel the presence of the Holy — whatever that means to us. Sitting across from me was an older couple, reminiscent of my own grandparents, in particular my Nana, who’s family had come from Scotland. As the ferry sloshed back and forth across the windy channel from Mull to Iona, the gentleman began to hum what felt to me, like an ancient song. It was then that I could sense the threshold and the so-called veil beginning to lift. I was crossing not only the channel, but to a place that felt sacred, known and yet unknown at the same time. It was a holy moment. Deep within, I felt I was being held in the rocking back and forth of the ferry, and held by something-so-much greater-than-me. Following in the footsteps of travelers before, I had begun my pilgrimage.
Since that time I realize that I have been on many pilgrimages – that place of entering the unknown; stepping out (sometimes getting kicked out) of my comfort zone, experiencing the sacred in the ordinary. These are just some of the signs of pilgrimage I have come to recognize. And what’s that all about? Sometimes when I go out to my back yard, or walk Old Dock Road to the harbor where I grew up, see in to the eyes of a stranger, or feel my granddaughters’ arms around me, I am reminded of the holiness of our human pilgrimage.
Phil Cousineau writes in The Art of Pilgrimage, “In each of us dwells a wanderer, a gypsy, a pilgrim. The purpose.. is to call forth that spirit. What matters most on your journey is how deeply you see, how attentively you hear, how richly the encounters are felt in your heart and soul”.
Such a gift and a blessing to be a pilgrim on this journey; to have so many opportunities to experience these thin places in our lives, those places and experiences where we feel deeply at home in the world. No matter where we are, that is a holy place.
So fellow pilgrims, where is your pilgrimage taking you?
What are your holy moments?
Blessings on ‘the path on which you go’, Dawn.