Tag Archives: pilgrimage

Contrast Between Joy and Sadness

Summer Solstice, 21st June, 2014:  Walking on Dartmoor.

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a pilgrims view of her feet – her most important asset!

This is the third day of a 4 day pilgrimage across Dartmoor, beginning at the church on the hill, St. Michael de Rupe at Brentor and finishing at the Church of the Holy Cross, Crediton, following the Mary/Michael Line.

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It is also the Summer Solstice and promises to be another hot, dry day on Dartmoor.  By the time we have finished tucking into Caroline’s delicious breakfast, the mist has dissipated from the tops of the distant moors.   With sun cream liberally applied to exposed areas of skin and full of anticipation for the day ahead, we leave Moorgate Cottage behind us and walk up once more onto the open moorland heading towards a stone circle near Belstone called Nine Stones Cairn Circle.  A couple of pilgrims stop for a quick dip in the stream at Gulliver Steps on the way where I am only prepared to bare my feet to dip into the cooling water.  Nine Stones is a small and intimate circle where we place a couple of heart-shaped stones picked up along the way in celebration of this, the longest day, and re-arrange a bunch of wild flowers left by a previous visitor into a mandala shape around them.

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an offering of thanks for the Summer Solstice

I am reminded of the many Summer Solstices I have celebrated in the past at Boscawen-un Stone Circle in Cornwall.

As we head out on the other side of Belstone towards what will be our steepest climb of the pilgrimage, to Cosdon Hill (550 metres above sea level), I am wondering what I should do with the stone that is still in the bottom of my backpack.  It was discovered lying on the river bed at the base of the waterfall at Lydford Gorge which we visited a couple of days ago.  It bears the cross of St Piran on it, the Patron Saint of Cornwall and has been given to me presumably because of my Cornish connections.  I know there has to be a place along the way where I must leave it, but at this point, I don’t know where that place is.  Somehow, I know that when the time comes, it will become clear what I should do with it.

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the falls at Lydford Gorge, like a stream of light which reminds me of the depiction of the holy light in the stained-glass window above the altar in Belstone church.

It is a long and hot trudge up to Cosdon, with the benefit of a cooling breeze the higher we climb.  The 6 kilos of weight I am carrying on my back feels more like 12, and sun hats are dunked into Lady Brook on the way up to cool over-heated brows.  The footpath is not always clear, either breaking up into animals tracks or we find ourselves making our way across rough, tussocky ground  between squelchy boggy patches of springy heath and cotton grass.

This long climb is easily the most challenging part of the whole pilgrimage and just before we reach the summit, my mobile phone rings.  I manage to dig it out from one of my zipped trouser pockets.  It is Paul, the vet who is treating Sadie for a ‘spontaneous prolapsed disc’.   He tells me her condition has deteriorated and there is nothing we can do now to reverse the situation.  That the time has come for us to end her suffering.   Barely able to splutter out the words, I make David promise to hold Sadie for both of us so that I can be with her too in her last moments.  In that moment, I understand why I have been carrying the ‘Cornish’ stone.

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After my cooling bathe, I decide to walk barefoot up the stone row

On the descent from Cosdon on the other side of the hill, we stop to walk up an ancient stone row.  With the Cornish stone now burning in my hand, I walk up the narrow alley between the stones, imagining Sadie by my side, running up the track for the last time.   I see her elegant body gliding along in slowed, poetic motion, embodying all the runs she has ever done, in joyous harmony.

At the end of this stone row is a small cist or burial mound.  Here I carefully place this stone which now represents my little Cornish whippet, tucking it into a cosy corner amongst the fallen boulders and vegetation that covers the mound.

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cotton grass grows in boggy moorland patches (photo taken from image on greetings card)

I discovered later that this stone row is known as ‘the graveyard’.  I know I will come back to this place one day.   After that, the remainder of this joyous Solstice day is a bit vague, except I remember the large granite standing stones at Spinsters’ Rock (Burial Chamber).  I remember them particularly because they were humming.  A low-level hum in response to some toning we had done which I found strangely comforting, and something I have never heard before.  It was hard to comprehend why I was the only one that seemed to hear them.  Then the long road walk to Drewstaignton, and welcome rest.

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long winter beach shadows of long narrow dogs – Sadie feels like that shadow now

Sadie’s body now lies buried in a shady corner of my paddock where she once frolicked with her pack.  And I am reminded of the stained glass image of St Michael in the chapel on top of the hill at Brentor at the start of our pilgrimage.   In one hand he holds up a sword-cross and in the other hand he carries a pair of scales.  A reminder that life is a precarious balancing act.  In St Michael’s case, a balancing act between the forces of good and evil: lightness and darkness.   I do not think it is possible to have the one without the other.

Even so, perhaps I should have been more prepared for what was to come knowing that the best laid plans can go wrong.  Before I had even begun this pilgrimage, I had missed my train connection and the bus I was travelling on to catch up with the rest of the party had broken down, its engine simply ‘cutting out’, as if to reinforce the notion that rare incidents do happen.

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passengers waiting by the broken down bus for the next one to come along

This pilgrimage for me has represented the fragility of life, the acceptance of unexpected things that happen that probably have some meaning for us if we care to examine them.  The synchronicity of being in certain places at what felt like the right times, and how in a single day, it is possible to experience both the joy of nature at its zenith, and the sadness we feel at the premature passing of a precious life from this earthly world.  Yet another poignant reminder that the cycle of life (and death) goes on regardless of our best laid plans.  Rest in peace, my darling Sadie.

Contrasts

 

 

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Spriggans of Light: A Pilgrimage from Carn Lês Boel to Come to Good.

About half-way through a recent 6-day pilgrimage, (lead by Richard Dealler of Mary/Michael Pilgrims Way), I learnt a new word.  Spriggan.   It was used by our overnight camping host and transformational healer, Annie Turner, to describe the sparks of light coming from the fire in the pit, a warm and welcoming focal point for weary pilgrims to gather around after a full day of contemplative walking.

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A little research and I have discovered that a spriggan is a nature sprite or changeling in Cornish folklore.  Not a particularly savoury character by some accounts, to be found guarding hoards of ill-gotten gains.   Used to describe sparks from a fire, then I can easily embrace spriggans as nature spirits dancing in the flames.   It occurred to me that, as pilgrims, we were not unlike spriggans: little beings of light  breaking free to sparkle in the darkness before finally evaporating into the ether.

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West Cornwall Beltane Pilgrimage organised by Mary Michael Pilgrims Way guided by Richard Dealler.
The Node Stone
Be still, for this is sacred ground,
A place to stand and pause. Reflect
upon the pathway here –
The lessons learned, the gifts received.
Be still, and listen to the voice
That sings a song of unity,
Blessing the journey still to come
With love and deep humility.
Brenda Desborough.
This poem was read out by Richard to mark the start of our pilgrimage.  We are standing on the node point at Carn Lês Boel.  The point where the Michael and Mary Lines make landfall and come together after snaking their way across the waters from Ireland, (I dowsed it that way on this day, but initially dowsed by Hamish Miller).  The reading perfectly sets the tone for our next few days together.

12 pilgrims in all set off on that journey together: a dolly mixture assortment of backgrounds and eccentricities, such as artists and photographers and, not surprisingly the majority of people from various caring professions which includes a homeopath, a psychotherapist, an Alexander technique practitioner, a few musicians and healers, an ex-lawyer, a songstress and one couple.  And me.   Then there is Christoffer, the backup team: driver, cook and provisioner for the duration, a cauldron of bubbling energy.  He scolds us when we left tea bags lying around the camp, woos us with poetic observations or serenaded us with soulful sounds skilfully bowed from his violin strings.  He also fills our bellies with welcoming, tasty curries and vegetable stews flavoured with foraged herbs.  We could not have done without Christoffer.

This is not just a walk-and-camp holiday as a couple of participants had thought it might be.  The word ‘pilgrimage’ in the title is a bit of a give away.   Walking in silence and sharing this intense experience of internal and external journeying is part of what constitutes the difference between a ‘walk’ and a ‘pilgrimage’.   But due to the nature of silent walking, we rarely get to know our fellow pilgrims  over and above what they do for a living.  For instance, I can’t tell you about family matters or how many children other people might have had.  But that doesn’t seem to matter.  Just being with other people and experiencing their essence overriding words is enough, understanding a power in people being together, body and soul, in the natural environment.  When we do talk, other than the daily natterings, what is slowly revealed, skilfully guided by Richard and Christoffer, are mirrors of our own thoughts and feelings as most of us manage to summon up the words to share deeper aspects of ourselves to each other.

The week is not without its moments of tension that spontaneously erupts and ripples through the group from time to time.  Richard’s experience in working with offenders of domestic violence meant that these troublesome niggles were ‘aired’ and dealt with in the group circle sessions.  But it wasn’t all heavy and introspective either.  There are many, many  light-hearted moments too and a lot of joyful banter and much laughter.  Singing and bright conversation.  Poems recited and musical instruments played.  So that by the end of our time together we felt more like a family of friends, embracing our differences and sharing our truths, than a band of weary pilgrims.

 

Then there is the walking.  Lots of it.  About 60 miles following the Mary earth energy line across the hidden parts of the west Cornish countryside to visit quiet country churches, holy wells, hill-top markers, stone circles and standing stones that accent points along the Line.  What should have been familiar territory for me often felt like we were walking in a foreign land, tacking across it, this way and that, in Mary’s gentle, energetic field.  A couple of themes begin to emerge.   For one,  there is a definite heart vibe going on: everywhere you looked there are shapes resembling hearts, even heart-shaped puddles.  The other theme is a cross, like the cross of St.Piran (a black cross on a white background), the patron Saint of tin-miners (and of Cornwall).  They were on rocks on the beach, like the one I photographed at Nanjizel….too big to put in my pocket.  The turn stile on the path leading to St Piran’s Well, in the gardens of Bryher Cottage, Perranwell was in the shape of a St Piran’s Cross.  (Or were they kisses?)

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When we came to St Michael’s Mount, I was invited to try out my new Chakra Walk on the group.  Realising why I had been prompted to throw my coloured silks into my bag at the last minute, this seemed like a good way to elevate our visit above just a tourist experience as we tuned in with Mary once again on the Mount.  (you can find a report about it on the Mary Michael Pilgrim Way Facebook page)

Then there is Richard, our steady leader and pace setter.  I knew the moment I met him, we were all in safe hands.  A special red-coated leader, often a sweater skirt tied around the waist, ready to hand out the blister plasters or dispatch a casualty or two in a taxi to the next camp when the need arose.  As it did on a couple of occasions.  Once when a ‘gent’ got one of his new boots stuck between a couple of granite boulders whilst crossing a stile, falling backwards into a bed of stinging nettles and leaving his foot wedged at a precariously twisted angle.  The sort of thing you see on ‘you’ve been framed’ only it wasn’t very funny at the time.   After untying laces and a lot of wriggling and a bit of man-handling, the boot is finally freed from its stoney vice together with its occupant.  Luckily with no more harm done other than a pilgrim who was a little bruised and shaken by the event.

As we settle into the rhythm of the days, ‘about half an hour’ becomes a measure of distance to the next resting stop / the first lunch break / the second lunch break / the day’s destination.    Creases of anxiety are gradually ironed out as stresses in the ‘outside’ world get left behind and concerns such as time and distance become blurred, responsibility happily relinquished and the focus placed on simply following our leader.  His quiet, even step, leading the crocodile of pilgrims along the path.   Then just when I was beginning to feel like I could go on for another week at least, all too soon, we had reached our destination: Come to Good, an atmospheric little Quaker Meeting House near Playing Place on the Fal estuary.  Then as suddenly as it had all begun – in the rain – that moment had arrived to say goodbye – in the rain.  Goodbye to our fellow foot travellers and go our separate ways once more, splintering away from the community of pilgrims to scatter across the country and breaking the spell.

Summing up that experience?  For me, it has been quite cathartic.  At many points along the way I was very close to tears, and on some occasions not able to control them from flowing at all.  The experience: a richly woven tapestry of poetry, chanting,  early morning Qi Gong (a form of Tai Chi), a few tears spilt, a bit of gentle snoring and a little toning (or droning from me).  The sound of Skylarks and mesmerizing kinetic wind turbine sculptures:  moments that turn into memories.  I ached in my gluteus maximus and had a coffee withdrawal headache for the first day, but once I got into my stride, quite literally, I took off and flew!  Like a butterfly whose wings are a little tattered at the edges.  I think we have all fluttered our wings a little more and I, for one, wouldn’t have changed a thing.  I am a little wiser and more nourished by the pilgrimage community.  “Basic human contact – the meeting of eyes, the exchanging of words – is to the psyche what oxygen is to the brain. ……….” Martha Beck.   Thank you fellow pilgrims.

If you would like to experience one of these for yourself, Richard is in the process of organising the next pilgrimage.

Dartmoor Summer Solstice Pilgrimage, 4 days (tbc) from 19th June. Contact Richard, contact@marymichaelpilgrimway.org.

For a taster, here is a lovely film about last years’ Dartmoor section of the Mary Michael Way made by Rachel Cornish who was with us on the this years’ Cornish section.

But don’t take my word for it.  Here are some of Richard Dealler own words (which he has kindly let me reproduce here) in his poem, Cuckoo Calling.   He was reminded of it when we heard those distinctive cuck-oo, cuck-oo notes whilst walking in the middle of the Cornish countryside, a true harbinger of Spring and new beginnings. Thank you Richard.

Cuckoo Calling

Yesterday,

I walked in search of the cuckoo,

Around Bickleigh and Cadleigh,

Up the valley of the Dart.

I wandered into an old world of marshy meadows

Where cuckoo flowers abounded

But their namesake was absent.

Most unexpected was the heronry,

Where birds vulture-like perched and looked me in the eye,

As if spotting the silvery glint of a tasty morsel.

I got lost, missed an unmarked path,

And ended up knocking on the door

Of a cottage at Little Silver

Where a person 5 feet tall

Would have had to stoop to enter.

Back in Bickleigh, a fading poster

Pinned to the bus shelter, caught my eye.

It advertised Awakening Albion,

A walk from Cornwall to Norfolk

From shore to shore

Between Beltane and Summer Solstice.

It spoke of pilgrimage and community,

Two words close to my heart.

Today,

The incongruity of speaking to one of the pilgrims

As he neared St Austell.

In my mind he was garbed in medieval robes,

With staff, gourd, scallop shell – and mobile phone.

Part of me longed to up sticks and go

To break through to a different life.

Leave the washing up in the bowl, the lawn unmown,

My own message pinned to the door,

“Away on pilgrimage.”

To re-awaken in me that joy of days and weeks

When walking was my life,

The pace and rhythm so unrushed

That my senses like a fairy tale princess kissed, revived,

And where, a long, long way from home

I heard the cuckoo call.

Richard Dealler.

 

 

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Piety and Blisters

In the post today, I received a Sunday Telegraph article from a friend, dated 1st December 2013.  She had saved it and promised to send it to me so when I picked the letter out of my mailbox, recognising the writing and feeling its crackley paper contents, I knew what it was.

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The article is about the nature of pilgrimage, ‘A Pilgrim’s Progress’, and was written to accompany Simon Reeve’s TV programme that was aired about the same time.  It was a three-parter in which “Simon Reeve retraces the adventures of our ancestors, and learns about the forgotten aspects of pilgrimage – including the vice, thrills and …” delving into the minds of early ‘spiritual’ travellers and why they sought to make pilgrimages.  Simon Reeve’s own journey in the making of the programme turned out to be a revelation to him.  ‘Like many of us, I had associated pilgrimage only with piety and blisters‘.

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So, in this most holy of holy weeks, it seems fitting to ask why many of us still seek spiritual enlightenment through pilgrimage, even though, like Simon Reeve, my own pilgrimage is also of a secular nature?  And how might I define my own interest in the nature of pilgrimage?

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To answer this question, I revisited some of the ideas I put together to form the basis of my research project.  (As it is written in academic speak, I have since created a more easily digestible version, have a look at my website: terra incognito).  And quite by chance, I took these 3 pictures when I recently took shelter from the rain in the doorway of the former Bucca Gallery in Newlyn.  It appears that someone has made a bonfire in this space and taken wood from the door surrounds to fuel the fire.  It struck me that the blistered and peeling paint represented a liminal space so I have included them in this post to illustrate my point.

peeling paintwork: state of suspension

cracked and peeling paintwork: state of suspension

burnt paintwork: state of suspension

burnt and blistered paintwork: state of suspension

crumbling paintwork: state of suspension

crumbling and brittle paintwork: state of suspension

The most difficult thing in any research project, is to find the right questions to ask (and this is before the addition of a horse entered the equation even though it makes no difference to the fundamental question).  Perhaps the question can only be fully formed when I am closer to the answer?  Even the title has gone through many variations – with many more to come, I’ll vouch.  But my thinking at the time was along these abridged lines:

To Be A Pilgrim? : the thin veil between Gravity and Grace.

In a post Descartian world, how might an aesthetic framework that relates to the duality of immanence and transcendence associated with the activity of walking be conceived?  For research based on a visual arts practice, how might advances in science and digital technology be used to visualize an art form that expresses an abstract metaphysical state of being which is understood intuitively? 

Outline of Proposed Research:  Initially, my aim is to examine some of the ways in which people seek transformation through the activity of walking, where the liminal space might simply be the distance between ‘A’ and ‘B’.  In particular how the embodied landscape experience might transcend connection with materiality and how that might be represented within my own practice that uses blogging, drawing, collage, light, video, photography and emerging digital technologies?  It will form the culmination of 10 years of research and experimentation in a personal area of interest.  Pilgrimage as ‘threshold’ to New Realities.  The desire for pilgrimage is a defining feature of humanity and sets the journeying nature of walking apart from man’s primal need to gather food or building materials for shelter.  The anticipation is that a transformation of some kind is expected to take place.  This will form the fulcrum of my research.   The state of suspension between one level of consciousness and another.  Noting the growing trend towards the tourist-pilgrim who is looking elsewhere for realities far removed from the mundane, everyday existence, ‘in search for a revitalising centre’ (pg. 298, Walkscapes: Walking as an Aesthetic Practice, (2001), by Francesco Careri).  And John Brincherhoff Jackson, an observer of landscape, ‘roads no longer merely lead to places, they are places.’ (ibid, pg.14).  For the purposes of this thesis, the act of pilgrimage will be used as a metaphor for a symbolic walk in the journey towards spiritual awakening: paths in a landscape as trains of thought.   Which poses the question, how might one image such an activity which at its core requires no outside assistance?    etc.etc.

If you would like to check out this particular pilgrim’s progress, follow my journal blog: pilgrim on horseback.

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The Adventure Starts Here: Establishing Some Ground Rules

With temperatures nudging 30c and hot enough to melt tarmac, it is high time I set off on my first ‘Pilgrim’ walk.  For my research, I have decided to focus my attention on the St. Michael’s Way – a 12 mile coast to coast route in West Penwith from St Uny Church in Lelant in the north to St Michael’s Mount at Marazion in the south.  I have chosen this path, not only because it is on my doorstep but also, by becoming familiar with it and learning about how a ‘walking with awareness‘ pilgrimage might function, it will form the basis for a point of departure later on.  What might I learn from this first excursion?  What sensory delights await my attention?  Much of the route is familiar to me as I have already walked sections of it from time to time.  My intention is to approach this venture without any preconceived ideas and with an open mind to see what unfolds rather than anticipate an outcome.  However, what should have been a straightforward walk from a to b, in the event it turned out to be a journey of self discovery and was to prove I was woefully ill-equipped for what actually happened.

You can see a map of the route here.

Keen to get going, I gather together a few essential items into a small rucksack to sustain me along the way, patch up my shorts with the material from one of the pockets and hope my new walking shoes will not give me too much trouble, but pack the blister plasters just in case.  It was to prove providential.

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Sunday, 14th July, 2013

In these current heat-wave conditions, I am keen to get as much of the walk done as early in the day as possible, so as soon as the night begins to lose its inky darkness, I jump into the car and set off for my starting point at St Uny Church.   Driving through the early morning stillness and seeing the blood-orange red orb in the sky lifts my spirits.  However, as I approach the north coast, I am plunged into a dense white fog which hugs the coastline.

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Leaving the car by the church, I set off into the cloud of white fog with a feeling of excitement for my new adventure.   What were muddy pathways only a couple of weeks ago have been transformed into dry, dusty tracks.   However, the moisture-laden air clings to my hair and my eye lashes making my eyelids feel surprisingly heavy, and it isn’t long before my clothes are drenched and my legs bathed by the dew from the overhanging verges and running down into my shoes.  I had assumed I would not be needing my mac and waterproof leggings!  It was at this moment that it dawns on me that this journey is going to be all about the lessons I might learn along the way.

Lesson Number One: Never Assume Anything / Always Expect the Unexpected! (that’s two)

The ambient temperature is already quite warm so I know it won’t be long before the sun burns through the fog and I will be dry once more.   I am surprised how bright the colours are in this creamy light: the soft yellow flowers of the evening primrose appear even more primrosey.  It’s a pity, however, that I am denied even a glimpse of the view.  Tantalizingly, I can hear the swooshing of the sea only yards from me as I track along the shoreline.  It sounds so close, I know it is high tide and I calculate that the sea will be low by the time I reach St Michael’s Mount.  This means that it is likely I will be able to walk across the granite-cobbled causeway without getting my feet wet.  (again).

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It feels good to be out and walking at this time of day whilst most folk are enjoying a Sunday morning lie-in, being the first person to break through the dew-laden threads thrown across the path by some busy nocturnal spiders.  Every now and again I catch the scent coming off a plant I pass by and hunt around to see where it is coming from.  The elder flowers smell particularly sweet and delicious as do the heavily laden flower bunches on the palm trees.   The constant buzz of flying insects grows to a crescendo as the day wears on and as the heat intensifies it causes the Monterey pine cones to crackle loudly.

my kind dog-walking guide

my kind dog-walking guide

My first encounter is with an early morning dog walker.   She appears out of the mist from the beach at Carbis Bay where she sees me examining the map obviously looking a little lost.  Taking pity on me, she kindly offers to show me the way to the next marker post.  She says she has never known a fog like it.   It turns out that together with her husband, she has travelled the globe in search of places to take the perfect photograph, the latest being a trip to the North Pole to photograph Polar Bears!  She lets me take this picture of her.

Now back on track, and up the road towards Knill’s Monument where I take this picture of the way marker against the sun, still low in the sky forming a beautiful mandala like a stained glass window.

Sun Mandala

Rose Sun Mandala

Reaching the obelisk at the top of the hill with John Knill’s coat of arms (2 rampant lions surrounded by 8 swords?) and his ironic motto, nil desperandum, it is here that I take the wrong path.

the well-worn path leading me astray

the well-worn path leading away from Knill’s Monument and leading me astray

From what would have been a magnificent vantage point on any other day, my view is obscured by a thick layer of fog that still hangs in the valley below.  As beautiful as it is (think Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich, and you get the picture), I have the sensation of being in a foreign land, reminding me of glorious mornings in the Tuscan hills.  It is impossible to make out familiar landmarks and without any visual clues my usual good sense of direction is severely tested.  I am unable even to place the sea behind me because I cannot see it and whichever way round I turn my map, I have to admit I am totally disoriented.

Lesson Number Two: Make sure you have adequate navigational aids.  (If I had been thinking straight, I could have used the position of the sun to guide me.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing!)

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this little way marker could have acted as a sun-dial if only I had thought about it.

With Knill’s motto ringing in my thoughts, I forge ahead blinkered by my ignorance.  Leaving the monument behind me, I decide to take the left-hand fork in the path ahead, the most well-worn path.  Wrong choice!  Thinking about it later, I figured that the most well trodden path would more likely lead me back to a conurbation.  Thus I find myself on the outskirts of Carbis Bay once more, and spend another hour trying to find a way out of it.  I spot an elderly couple in a car and inquire in my most charming manner if they know where I might find St. Michael’s Way.  They look at me as if I am from an alien species, say they are in a hurry, can’t stop and speed away.  Deciding not to take the short cut across the field that warns ‘Beware of Bull’, I finally stumble upon my way marker, half obscured by vegetation, and with some relief, once more rejoin the track.

its hot enough to melt the tarmac as this imprint of a tractor tyre proves

its hot enough now to melt the tarmac as this imprint of a tractor tyre proves.  Perhaps they are arrows pointing me in the right direction!  Another sign I have missed?

Lesson Number Three:  Trust what your dowsing rods are telling you!  Once I knew I had gone wrong, I did not believe the direction the rods were telling me to go in, to my cost, as it turned out.  I won’t be so dismissive next time!

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By the time I reach the half-way point at TrenCrom, I am well on my way with only a minor unplanned detour putting another mile or two onto the journey.  I find a granite trough under a shady tree and decide to take a rest and an early elevensis.  I take off my shoes and administer the plasters whilst sending David – who is looking after my dogs for the day – a text to find out how they are doing.  He suggests I use the gps signal on my phone.  Now why hadn’t I thought of that?  I had forgotten too I also have a compass app.  Boy, do I feel stupid.

Lesson Number Four: Learn from your mistakes!   Getting lost was completely unexpected, and something I had not prepared for.  My inadequate attempts at navigation have been highlighted because there is a valuable lesson to be learned from this experience.

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Now, with a clearly visible means of knowing exactly where I am positioned in the landscape,  and with sightings of the Mount with every brow of a hill reached, my destination is getting increasingly closer and I am well and truly on the homeward stretch.  I drop into The White Hart at Ludgvan to refill my water bottles, (though I could have downed a pint of lager with ease), the final leg is literally downhill all the way.  I notice the glint of sunlight reflecting off what appears to be many cars at Marazion.

fording the stream at Boskennal

fording the stream at Boskennal, I am very tempted to take off my shoes and paddle across

Strangely, I am not prepared for what happens next.  This has never been designed to be a route march or a test of endurance but having moved through the landscape at a leisurely 2 mile an hour pace, allowing plenty of time for stops and starts, and largely in my own company for the past few hours, I suddenly come up against a fast-moving, solid wall of metal and noise going in opposite directions which is the A30.  Instantly, I feel very small and vulnerable.   This sudden assault on the senses seems  particularly violent.  Yet, behind the wheel of my car, I am part of it!  For a split second, I know how it must feel to be a wild animal meeting this for the first time.  The combined heat coming off the tarmac and reflecting off the cars is intense, adding to the onslaught of extreme sensations.  Somehow, I have to find a gap in this liquid metal flow in which to negotiate a crossing.  My judgement of the speed of trajectory seems momentarily to be impaired but I manage to weave myself across and continue on my way with a renewed respect for our hidden creatures, eager to put some distance between myself and the noise and heat of traffic.

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On through the bog at Marazion Marsh along the boarded walkway (just as our ancestors would have done), across the railway track for the last time, and into the nature reserve that runs along the Red River, the Mount looming ever larger.  As I emerge onto the road leading into Marazion I am thrown into a throng of humankind making its way into the town.  ‘Obby ‘os drumming is coming from that direction and any plans to go to the Mount today are immediately shelved.

Lesson Number Four: Things don’t always go to plan, but that’s OK.  (Improvisation is the mother of invention).

Going against the flow of people, I head the other way to the old railway cafe next to the beach, find a seat in the shade and wait for David (and the dogs) to rescue me.  My visit to the Mount will have to wait for another day.

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To Recap and Conclude:

In the coarse of writing this post, I concluded that the lessons I have learnt on this, my inaugural pilgrimage walk, could easily be applied to life.  In the same way that the life line on your palm symbolizes a personal route map of your life, each journey will be a unique experience for that individual.  This has been a seminal experience for me and despite the many setbacks, I don’t think it could have gone any better or I could have wished for a better learning opportunity.

In establishing some ground rules for life:

  • Make sure you have adequate tools to navigate a meaningful path through it
  • Assume nothing and always expect the unexpected
  • Follow the light
  • You may take the ‘wrong’ path from time to time – maybe because it is the easiest path to follow – but sooner or later, you will find your way back to where you want/need to be
  • Listen to what your guides, teachers and helpers have to tell you and notice the signs and signals that are gifted to you
  • Learn from your mistakes – every now and again, it is good to feel humbled
  • By slowing down your pace, you will be more aware of the beauty of things around you – often the things we most take for granted.  It says STOP, LOOK, LISTEN on the railway crossing sign
  • Be prepared (flexible enough) to make decisions to change the course of your life.  Often these changes happen for a very good reason, though you don’t always know it at the time
  • It’s alright to read the map upside down if it gets you there.
  • Remember, Nil Desperandum!

Of course, I anticipate this list will be added to in future walks.  If you can think of any glaring omissions, dear follower, I would love to hear from you.

The making of a book:

Just as a book has a beginning, middle and an end, so too a ‘pilgrimage’ walk takes a route from A to B.  It is not necessarily a linear path but one that may take diversions, planned or otherwise.  Sometimes the path might go around in a circle like a maze.

all the participants had to make up a name tag!

all the participants made up a name tag!

To celebrate this walk, I plan to make an informal ‘collage’ book like the one I made on the Writing for Creative Practice course recently.  One of the facilitators wrote about it in her blog: Tactile Academia (and a picture of my book!)

IMG_0209Thank you for joining me in walking my path.

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Filed under Pilgrimage Walks, St. Michael's Way, The Artist as Pilgrim, Walks

On the Right Track

Track 1 (Baker's Pit)

Track 1 (Baker’s Pit Puddles)

If you think you have suddenly landed on the wrong page in the wrong blog, then ‘bear with’ dear friends.   You haven’t gone mad.   It is I who have decided it is time for a minor change!  After not much deliberation, I have opted for a more fitting title for this blog.

Track 2 (scorched earth, Bodrifty)

Track 2 (scorched earth, Mulfra)

My sketchbook pages will, from this moment onwards, be ‘morphed’ into: The Artist as Pilgrim.

Track 3 (granite, moss, lichen and blond grasses)

Track 3 (granite, moss, lichen and blond grasses)

This change of title marks a shift in emphasis from a retrospective view of my artistic practice to a more reflective view of what the future might hold in store and in particular, what is currently happening ‘now’.    Much less about a sketch pad and more about the philosophical splutterings of my mind.  As I enter into this new phase, I wanted to mirror more closely what is going on in my creative world.   Ideally, you will not notice much of a change because the content will continue in the usual vein following the same threads of enquiry, visual notes, occasional pontifications on my understanding about the meaning of life and sometimes, rare snippets from the internal workings of my soul, recorded in the ordinary textures and patterns of my often, extra-ordinary daily life.  Yes, and sometimes ‘sketches’ too!

The Nature of Pilgrimage

A pilgrimage is a journey embarked upon in which an expectation that inner change or transformation will take place along the way.  For example, the writing of this blog has become a kind of metamorphosis in itself.

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To Be A Pilgrim

Unlike the title of this famous Christian hymn, my quest is a secular one.   People have many different reasons for undertaking a pilgrimage.  Apart from adopting the pilgrimage as the creative theme for this blog, I do also intend to undertake an actual, physical pilgrimage at some stage, quite soon.  It has been a secret ambition of mine for many years and I feel that time is drawing nearer to a reality.  The nature of the journey will be revealed to me when I am ready, as will the actual route / place.  For the moment, I have no idea where, when and how this might take place.  All I know for sure is that it will happen.  (see the ‘brief encounter‘ when this was first revealed to me).

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An American ‘wise’ woman called Mildrid Norman, otherwise known as the Peace Pilgrim (check out video on YouTube), crisscrossed the American Continent 7 times and gave up counting the miles after 25,000, convinced that her message of peace would prevail.

She said, ‘a pilgrim is a wanderer with a purpose.  A pilgrimage can be either: to a place or for a thing.‘  Hers of course was for a thing: Peace.

My motives are far less altruistic, I’m afraid.  I intend to use my pilgrimage as a means of finding a framework for a new aesthetic by investigating our sensory connections to landscape.

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As much as I like the idea of following in the steps of countless other pilgrims on well-worn paths such as the Camino de Santiago trail in Spain or walking to the mouth of the Ganges in India, I feel drawn to finding a path less well trodden.  Perhaps another sort of wilderness, or rediscover a path that has been hidden for generations.  A creative path I can call my own in which I can make my own discoveries ‘unburdened’ by the souls who have gone before.  And in the process add to the pool of knowledge by making a  contribution (albeit small) to the understanding of our presence in this world.  I hope you will continue to keep me company as I navigate this new path?

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Filed under About My Blog, my sketchbook pages, Nature / Nurture Project, Paths of Enlightenment, The Artist as Pilgrim, Walks