I am in what can only be described as the Practice Phase of pilgrimage. I am testing everything now, well ahead of time, doing everything I can to make things easier for myself when it is time to walk.
We made a short local pilgrimage on Sunday to one of our favourite Sunday destinations, St. Peter’s-on the-Wall, a small chapel on the coast near Bradwell in Essex that was built by St. Cedd in 653 using materials from a ruined Roman fort. To get to the chapel, you park in a tiny car park and then walk down a track that leads through the fields to the chapel.
Behind the chapel, another path leads down to the coast where you can walk along the sea wall or drop down to the beach for for some beach-combing or even swimming when the tide is in. We merely walked this time, following the beach where we looked for shells, stones, and small critters, including jellyfish – all of which let me test my new hiking sandals and old walking poles on the sands and moss. It is always important to test your equipment and apparel in as many conditions as possible. I’m happy to say that my combination of toe socks and sandals are proving to be an unfashionable godsend for my tender toes, and my walking poles are still perfectly functional.
While our purpose might have been to do a practice run (and even this post is my attempt to blog on the go, using only my phone – please forgive any layout messiness!), I remembered an important lesson: a pilgrimage is a pilgrimage. There really isn’t such a thing as a practice pilgrimage. The adjectives don’t matter as much as the pilgrim’s attitude and experience. Touching into this sacred spot and immersing ourselves in the natural world surrounding it took us directly into our hearts. With only the wind and water whispering into our ears, we had time to listen to ourselves and we returned home renewed.