It's been way too long since I've taken a solitary pilgrimage. I'm in need of one. They are a tiny bit stressful for me. You'd think I'd be okay all by myself. I spend a lot of time alone. But I usually take up the space in front of the computer connecting to friends in cyberspace or I cook or read to kill time. When I go on pilgrimage I strip down the stuff that fills up space and try to just spend time alone. Hiking alone is one of my favorite things to do. It used to freak me out, and believe me I'm very, very cautious and do not put myself in harms way, but there are times when you need to just get out and be free with your thoughts and walk.
When I lived in Glendalough this was a spot I would go often and walk the labyrinth quietly to clear my mind. I can't believe I found these wonderful photos on the web. Thank you Mary Kuhn, whoever you are, for taking such gorgeous photos of Ireland and sharing them. It made my heart jump a beat to see this special place again in photos.
If you look up the hill to the far right, you'll see little trees on the top of my "mountain". This was the very first hill I hiked all by myself. I was seriously so scared I didn't know what to do. Ireland is a very safe place to hike and Glendalough even more so. When you are all by yourself and haven't seen another human being for two hours, it can freak a girl out. But the mountain was calling to me. I had a witch hazel staff that I had just purchased in Scotland. It had an antler handle and I knew I could take someone out with it if need be. Girl power. I had a sense I needed this deep sense of solitude and where better to be quiet with God then on top of a mountain. It was awesome. Before moving to Ireland I purchased this book called The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker's Guide to Making Travel Sacred. In it, I read this poem the night before I set off to bag my first mountain.
Staff by Milwaukee poet Antler
I have worn smooth with the grip of my hand
branches found by the trail,
Caught by my eye and lifted,
Thrown in the air and caught by my hand and tested--
if it's not too long,
if it's not too short,
if it feels just right,
I say to myself--"This is my staff!"
and thump the ground with its end.
Carry me far! Take me where I must go!
Miles away from miles away from every road,
every road, every human voice
or voice of machine,
Through woods I love,
Past lakes where no one is,
Beyond where the footpath ends,
up where the mountains glow
and the sky has never been breathed!...
My walking stick urges me on,
takes my hand like a friend,
Comforts me, steadies me
over rough terrain,
Beyond where it's ever been mapped,
Where no human ever set foot,
Following the voice of the stream
up where the mountains glow
and the sky has never been breathed!
My staff sits at our front door reminding me that the wild un-breathed air is still out there for me. E loves to go for long walks in the woods too, which is nice.