(This post is a sneak peek at part of my Gaian Soul Practices for Spring e-course. Enjoy!)
When April comes and with its showers sweet
Has, to the root, pierced March’s drought complete,
And then bathed every vein in such elixir
That, by its strength, engendered is the flower…
And when small birds begin to harmonize
That sleep throughout the night with open eyes
(So nature, stirring them, pricks up their courage),
Then folks, too, long to go on pilgrimage…
– Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales (translation by Sheila Fisher)
Even if the air is still chilly and there are still patches of snow on the ground, most of us have a bad case of spring fever, and want to get the heck out of Dodge when April arrives. It may still be cold, but it’s easier to get out and go for a walk or go on a trip than it was even a month ago.
In Chaucer’s day, it was common practice for people to pack a bag in April, and head towards the cathedral at Canterbury. Today students head for the beach on spring break, and in my area we go for hikes and take our boats and kayaks out of winter storage. Even when the journey is a mere vacation, and has lost its spiritual significance, it still helps us to make the transition between the stillness of Winter and the liveliness of Spring.
“Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road,” wrote Walt Whitman. Everyone, it seems, longs to ramble in Spring.
A pilgrimage, of course, is a special kind of journey. It is taken with intent, even if that intent is rest and relaxation.
Phil Cousineau, the author of one of my favorite books, The Art of Pilgrimage, says that a pilgrimage is “any journey with the purpose of finding something that matters deeply to the traveler.” In other words, it’s a journey towards something that you hold sacred.
It’s worth getting very clear about what it is that you hold sacred before embarking on your pilgrimage.
As I prepared for my first visit to New York City in the spring of 2004, I wondered: What then, is sacred to me in this context? As I wrote in my journal, it became clear to me:
- The female face of the Divine
- Art, music, books
- Myth & symbol (most especially the tarot)
- Spiritual community and friendships
So I set my intention to be open and alert to discovering “the sacred” on that journey to the island of Manhattan. I wrote about my adventures in my ebook The Practice of Presence and Place, where I discovered Goddesses around every corner in New York, and experienced a profound synchronicity at the site of the World Trade Towers. (You can read about my NYC pilgrimage here.)
This week, I encourage you to go on a pilgrimage. It can be a short day trip to a special place in your local area, or if you are already planning a longer journey, you might want to set an intention to treat your trip as a pilgrimage.
For example, I plan to pay a visit to a labyrinth in a local park this week — a very short pilgrimage! — and am also preparing for my annual trek to Maine and New York later this month to visit my granddaughter Gracie, and then attend the Readers Studio.
I’ll have more to share about going on pilgrimage next week. Until then, enjoy this corny-but-cheery song from Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers, “Rambles of Spring”: