So there we have it: I have just walked over 300 miles in 3 weeks, an impressive feat (though I say it myself) and a wonder-full, beauty-full, exciting, moving, and (I hope!) life-changing experience. In fact, Luca and I completed a full circle with this arrival, as we walked from Lindisfarne to St Andrews in 2015 (180 miles) and then St Andrews to Iona in 2020 (220 miles); this year's route, and today's train journey, brought us 'home' in more ways than one.
Let me recap: at the start of this walk I decided to restrain myself from taking photos, and from complex over-thinking and endless processing (typical me), but instead to endeavour to remain open, simple, and curious as I walked, looking for 'one thing' each day that came alive for me. And then just to paint a tiny image of 'today's gift'. I loved this (even if I admit that I sometimes felt frustrated by the simplicity of the challenge); I love my teeny weeny paint journal that fits in the palm of my hand but holds precious my 24 special experiences.
So, what has changed in me with this experience, what has happened since returning home?
Three weeks on, I am noticing some things that I didn't used to notice, and I like this.
I notice, for example, that I want to notice things. The daily practice of waiting and watching for 'something' to emerge and reveal itself seems to have opened space in me. The possibility of a new way of being, with open eyes and an open heart; more curious, perhaps, less judging. I hope so; that sounds lovely, and life-ly, doesn't it?
I notice that I am noticing things about myself - about places, moments, conversations, thoughts, intentions, feelings, and all and all - with a new sort of detachment. I mean this in a good way; it feels like a healthy spaciousness inside, that has me less fixed, less entangled inside, and more able to choose how I want to respond to my environment. (I wonder if I have expressed that right?)
I notice that I notice when I am not doing these things. That too feels healthy. I am happy if I am able to not do the (unhelpful) thing I was about to do, or to change my action or reaction.
And I notice that I miss the simplicity of the step by step day by day activity of the pilgrimage.
So I am wondering how to maintain something of what lies behind me, even when I am re-submerged in ordinary home life.
These are some of the words I have used in this post. Wouldn't you too want to experience these things more?
lovely and life-ly
At the start of this journey I asked the question what makes a Very Long Walk into Pilgrimage. And really all I could find as an answer was 'intention': the attitudes and habits that I carry and practice, What I think and what I do. Not a lightly claimed paste-on title, "Pilgrimage", as if the geography of my walk could claim automatic status, but a decision of the heart. I did that, for this trip; yes, I feel satisfied that I made my trek into something significant, by the attitudes and habits I practised, step by step, day by day. Perhaps I might even dare to claim that by the intention of my heart and the practice of each moment this walking adventure became something sacred. Is 'pilgrimage' perhaps intrinsically a holy thing?
And now the question needs to be asked again, phrased for my stay-at-home existence: what will make my ordinary life - of home, work, family, friends, community - into something sacred? Again, I notice that intention may be the key. And, to my relief, I begin to glimpse the reality that this may be enough. That it will be the small decisions I make, and the small acts that I carry out, that make the difference.
And how I relate what I think and do, indeed who I am, to the bigger reality that is wonder, beauty, love, life (and all the other expressions and experiences that I described) ... that is, to God.
That is what I want.
Yes, that is what I really want.