Walking in the World

Pilgrimage

Unexpected Pilgrimage

I love it when a pilgrimage finds me. Usually the pilgrim goes off in quest of the the pilgrimage, with the destination firmly in mind, but once in a while, just when I need it most, I stumble on to a place or shrine that seems to have called me in.

A 15th century stained glass roundel from the Abbot’s Palace

King Edmund was the king of East Anglia from 855 to 869 when he was martyred by invading Danes because he refused to renounce Christ. The Danes beat him and shot him with arrows, then beheaded him and threw his head into the forest. His head was later found when searchers heard a wolf calling out to them in Latin. A great Abbey bearing Edmund’s name was established, and his shrine attracted pilgrims from around the world for over 500 years.

Bury St. Edmunds is a lovely city about an hour and a half north of us, Its welcome sign proclaims it as the jewel in the crown of Suffolk, and I’m inclined to agree. I had heard the name before, but knew nothing more about it. The old city centers around the grounds and gardens of the ruined Abbey of St Edmund, and would probably still be recognizable to the pilgrims of old.

A medieval pilgrims badge commemorating having arrived at St Edmund’s shrine.

After wandering through the gardens, we spent some time exploring the Cathedral, a beautiful building which began life as a parish church in the 12th century. A series of renovations has brought it to its present size and glory. Even now, there is still scaffolding down the nave as new work is being carried out. We tiptoed in just as Sunday Worship services were ending and the choirboys were processing out; I was touched by the friendly welcome given to two camera-toting tourists. I hadn’t realised how much my soul needed a pilgrimage experience, even just a brief encounter with the spirits of pilgrims past. Finding this unexpected pilgrimage gem so close to home felt like a gift.

And yes, there was a labyrinth, too, with time for a walk…

 

03 Jul 2017

Layers of Pilgrimage

pilgrimstad

I didn’t mean to be a tease. When I last posted, I was heading off on pilgrimage, full of intentions to blog my journey. Oh when am I going to learn? Pilgrimage inevitably takes on a life of its own that has very little to do with intentions and goals. By Day Two, it was clear that blogging was going to distract me from my path, and the further I traveled, the less inclined I was to connect to technology at the end of the day.

pilgrimsign

Fortunately for me, I dropped more and more deeply into the unfolding layers of my journey. Unfortunately for my readers, I disappeared from cyberspace without warning or explanation. For weeks.

notredame

I’m home now, slowly unpacking my experiences and insights. It was a pilgrimage of pilgrimages as we moved on and across a number of pilgrimage routes in both Sweden and France. Each one felt unique and enticing, each continues to call to me. Along the way, we acquired passports, met fellow pilgrims and kindred spirits, and were inspired by the saints in whose footsteps we followed.

lorudden2

And who can be the same after an experience like that?

sisters

I don’t think I can recreate a day-by-day travelogue for you, and to even attempt it moves away from the immediacy that defines this particular blog. And yet I really want to share some of the magic of my travels with you. So, I’ve decided to indulge in a bit of time-travelling hopscotch. I’m going to stay current by posting some of my daily walks, but I’ll also weave in a few posts about the highlights of our pilgrimage. Watch this space!

26 Sep 2016

Setting Forth

Another adventure begins! Jeff and I drove around the dreaded M25 to rendezvous with my long-time pilgrimage companion, Lisa Moriarty. Jeff will keep the home fires burning while Lisa and I head off on a multifaceted pilgrimage to Sweden and France.

Today was simply about catching up on our deep friendship and reestablishing the rhythms that let us travel together so successfully. We began by returning to the Watts Chapel and Gallery in Compton for lunch and a visit to the art centre that never fails to stir the soul.

Visiting the pilgrim cross that Mary Watts erected alongside the old pilgrim route to Canterbury seems the perfect start to any pilgrimage.

As usual, we found new art nestled in amongst the old, a testament to the vitality of the Watts foundation and its commitment to fostering new generations of artists. 

Further up the road, we visited the Watts Chapel with its lavish colour and symbolism.  

The red building looked splendid against the deep blue sky, and the angels with their labyrinths offered departure blessings for our own journey.

Returning to the maze that is Heathrow, we settled into our hotel for a quiet evening of fine dining and pre-pilgrimage dreaming.

01 Sep 2016

Canterbury After Dark

Canterbury1

Like most of us, I grew up associating Canterbury with pilgrims, and as my experience of pilgrimage expanded and deepened over the years, so did my appreciation for this wonderful old city with its magnificent cathedral.

Canterbury4

We didn’t go inside the cathedral this week, but after a lovely dinner down near the river on Monday evening, we took advantage of the opportunity to stroll through the deserted cathedral grounds. The golden cathedral seemed to hover above both the city and the moonlit gardens.

CanterburyShadows

I hugged this immense and ageless tree, wondering just what it has seen in its privileged lifetime. Pilgrims have come and gone over the years, their feet marking the cadence of the human heart along with the passage of time.

25 Feb 2016

Pilgrims Walk

We love Canterbury; it’s an old city that never disappoints, no matter what the purpose for our visit. Our primary reason for this trip was to stay with a colleague who is also dear friend. We are all busy people, so most of our visits are built on business meetings with our friendship growing up in between the items on our respective agendas. This visit, however, worked in reverse. We were invited to come just for the fun of it, and while we were there we indulged in a bit of labyrinth walking and community building simply because that is what we all love doing.

PilgrimKim2

After a lovely lunch, we headed out along a portion of the old Pilgrimage Way heading towards Canterbury Christ Church University where we met up with Sonia Overall, a writer and walker who was instrumental in getting a labyrinth mown into the grass in one of the university gardens. The 7-circuit labyrinth is quite stunning, and I’m sure it will become well-loved and oft-walked over the course of the spring and summer.

Christchurch Labyrinth

As I walked the sweeping paths, I felt myself deepen. I love the feeling of losing track on my place on the path, surrendering to the rhythm of simply placing one foot after the other. It is in that place of non-vigilance that I often hear my own voice welling up from within. It is there that I am most able to touch my writerly soul. Poetry arranges itself in my head, essays find new direction, words dance with fresh partners.

Book

After coffee, we wandered through the University bookstore where I quickly located a shelf of Sonia’s books, including this one which insisted on coming home with me. I feel inspired. Energized. Companioned.

Gate2

And from there we headed through old neighbourhoods where wit and history combined to tell an ageless story, and in my next post I will share our evening walk down into the old walled city with its spectacular cathedral that has drawn pilgrims to its heart for centuries.

Gate

 

24 Feb 2016

2016 Swedish Labyrinth Pilgrimage

VisbyLaby400

Regular readers will remember my posts about our 2015 Swedish Labyrinth Tour, and we are now working hard on plans for returning in 2016. Once again, we’ll be working with Lars Howlett from Discover Labyrinths, and this year we’ll also be working with Veriditas to weave in an increased emphasis on the spiritual aspects of pilgrimage. Yesterday we recorded a WEBINAR to talk about this year’s journey and show photos of places we’ll be visiting. (Thanks to Anne Bull and Veriditas for making this webinar happen!)

If you long to explore Swedish labyrinths and culture with a small group of like-minded labyrinth enthusiasts, please consider joining us. For more information, please click here to go to the appropriate page on the Veriditas website.

VisbySunset

 

22 Jan 2016

Revisiting Limnerslease

LimnerleaseSign

We returned to the Watts Gallery today for a second look at the fabulous Richard Dadd exhibit before it closes at the end of the month. With a bit of time to spare, we also booked onto the tour of Limnerslease, the home where George Frederic Watts lived with his wife, Mary. (Mary, you might remember from my earlier posts this year, is the creator of the exquisite Watts Chapel, which was build as a memorial to her husband.)

Limnerslease

The Watts Gallery Trust has been working to acquire and subsequently restore Limnerslease, the house where the Watts’ lived and had their studios. We saw the house about a year ago, just before the current restoration work was begun in earnest — it’s a huge undertaking, and we’ve been eager to see how it’s coming along. It is, in a word, stunning, and it is clear that the work is deeply meaningful to the entire team of professionals and volunteers who are working on the project. The Watts’ studios will officially open early in 2016, and we’ll visit again then, but for today, we were very happy to be allowed to peek into the accessible areas of the house and the extensive gardens and grounds.

Crosses

Once again, I found particular delight in seeing the Pilgrim’s Way that runs across the bottom of the hillside — these crosses on the bridge were the work of Louis Reid Deuchars, who intended them to serve as both trail markers and inspirations. Follow the trail far enough, and it will eventually lead you to Canterbury. Just off the trail is this memorial cross created by Mary to honour her husband after his death in 1904. Now that we know it is there, we make a point of stopping to see it whenever we are in the area.

GFWattsCross

24 Oct 2015

Ancient Ipswich

StGeorge

We had an appointment in Ipswich this morning which gave us the chance to have lunch and explore the old town for a bit. Located on the estuary of the River Orwell, Ipswich is one of the oldest towns in England, dating back until at least Roman times. In the hour or so that we had in town, we barely scratched the surface of its rich history. This tile of St George is on the wall of what is now the Conservative Club, across from the church that now houses the tourist information office.

During the Middle Ages, the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Grace made Ipswich a popular pilgrimage destination, though the statue disappeared during the Reformation. Chaucer wrote about the merchants of Ipswich in Canterbury Tales. Clearly this is a place I want to know more about!

I was intrigued by the name of this street near the center of town, and want to know how it got its name:

Silent Street

Sounds like my kind of street!

 

15 Sep 2015

Life, Death, & Art

 

Angel2Watts

Our wandering took us to a favourite place today, the Watts Chapel and Gallery in Compton. For me, this is a place of pilgrimage on many levels. There are labyrinths and pilgrim crosses to be seen, great (gluten free) cakes to be eaten, and interesting art exhibits to be experienced. We always enjoy ourselves, and every visit seems better than the last. (You can read about our last visit here.)

FairyWatts

The current exhibit features the Victorian artist Richard Dadd who, despite spending much of his adult life in psychiatric hospitals, left a legacy of amazingly intricate and imaginative Shakespearean and fairy paintings. Not only is his art strikingly beautiful, but his keen perception and brilliant expressions of his inner world moved me to my core.This is a close-up of one section of his stunning masterpiece Contradiction: Oberon and Titania.

AngelDeath

The Gallery is also hosting a long-term exhibit of works by William and Evelyn De Morgan, which literally made me weep with emotion. I don’t often have that reaction to art, and I felt positively enlivened as stood in front of Evelyn’s vivid portrayals of classical scenes and insightful characterizations. The Angel of Death touches me in a deeply personal place, reassuring me of the love with which one is carefully carried across the threshold of death. At this time in my life when I am increasingly aware of my own mortality, I am grateful for reassurances like this. Morbid? Not at all.

WattsPilgrim Cross

The old pilgrimage trail runs through this little corner of Compton, and no visit is complete without a visit to the cross erected by Mary Watts after the death of her husband G.F. Watts. As a pilgrim, I treasure every re-connection to the Path that means so much to me.

 

20 Aug 2015

Pilgrimage with a Difference

image

Back on the mainland, we made a pilgrimage of a different sort. Our friend and travel companion is a golfer, so today we journeyed to his holy grail, the Old Course at St. Andrews. Even I felt a bit choked up when they let us walk out across the green to visit the wee Swilken Burn bridge on the famous18th.

image

And no visit would be quite complete without drinks at The Jigger, reputed to be the 19th Hole on the course.

04 Jul 2015

%d bloggers like this: