March 14, 2017
“When that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote…
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages”
-Chaucer, Canterbury Tales
(When April with showers sweet, the drought of March has pierced to the root…
And small birds make melody, that sleep all night with open eye
So goaded by Nature in their hearts, then folk long to go on pilgrimages)
For centuries, perhaps for all of Homo sapiens history, humans have made pilgrimages of one kind or another. Dictionary.com defines a pilgrimage as “any long journey, especially one undertaken as a quest or for a votive purpose, as to pay homage.” Wait a minute, what does that actually mean? A quest, as defined by that same dictionary, is a long and arduous search for something. I continue to rely upon the dictionary as I learn that a votive purpose can be an action performed in fulfillment of a vow, or in gratitude or devotion.
Long journeys, arduous searches, clinging to a purpose, these activities transcend customs and boundaries. Many cultures have their youth partake in a rite of passage, seeking inner enlightenment or a path upon which to direct their lives. Perhaps I am a late bloomer, only now beginning to think of my adventures in terms of pilgrimage.
I love how Chaucer describes Spring as being the time one most wants to begin a long journey, a quest, a pilgrimage. When I hear birds singing, and see flowers beginning to bloom, my feet long to tread woodland paths, searching for … what?
On March 22, as Jay and I begin the Pacific Crest Trail, I hope to keep this idea of pilgrimage in my heart, staying open to new experiences to stretch my inner self. In this, I will be joining about 6,000 PCT permit holders – those planning to hike more than 500 miles of the 2,650 mile trail. Many of these hikers know they are on pilgrimage, they are actively searching for answers in their lives. Others may not begin the hike as a pilgrimage, but will find, by the end, that their hike was performed in fulfillment of a promise, to express appreciation, or acknowledge a sense of new-found spirituality. I know I am blessed, to be able to participate in this grand adventure.
Blessed are those whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
-Psalm 84:5, Holy Bible, New International Version