Pilgrimage to the sea

Which is the branch and which is the shadow?

Earlier this month I read Joan Anderson’s book “A Year by the Sea:  Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman”.  This is the story of a woman searching for herself, attempting to connect again to her deepest knowings.  She leaves her husband and settles in their cottage in the Cape along the Atlantic Ocean and moves steadfastly and deeply into her confusion and inner despair.  By the end of the year she’s carved out a space of independence and connection.  She’s swam with seals.  She’s celebrating her “unfinished” nature, the way that life will keep unfolding and spiralling through her.  She’s put some of the jigsaw pieces of herself back together.  It was a sacred year of pilgrimage.  

Kind of reminded me of the book “Gift from the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  Anyone who reads this book is struck by the possibility of moving away from the everyday world into nature and allowing something larger than the everyday self to lead the way.  The cycles of the seasons teach us how to better connect with our innermost selves.  Both Anne and Joan emerged from their pilgrimages with a deeper connection to spirit, to the earth, to others, to life. 

Follow the tracks to the sea

Reading stories like these have spurred me on to carving spaces in my life to dive deeper into myself.  I have truly worked to make these spaces priorities amidst the busyness, the ordinary days, the hours of glassy-eyed staring at the computer or in work-related tasks.  Whether in the garden or by the lake, in the woodstove-heated basement or sitting on a lawn chair on the deck, I have dedicated hours to silence, to returning to center, to seeking the inner jewel which gleams in colors of peace, freedom and joy.

I have been wondering if most women and men consciously do this.  Find alone places.  Find places where “doing nothing” is more important than “doing something.”  Places where being shines more brightly than our actions.

It feels, to me, like one of the most positive contributions we can make to the planet.  To seek for the places inside which are already whole, which don’t care about appearances as much as essence.  To find the center inside where we shine brightly from our completeness rather than our fragmented shards of personality and accomplishment.

Designs and patterns along the way

This morning I hopped in the car for a mini-pilgrimage to the Mouth of the Huron.  This is a long stretch of sandy beach open to the public at the edge of Baraga and Marquette counties.  People camp out here on the sand; smoky fires dot the horizon in the morning and evening and the sound of laughter echoes across the water.  You can see the Huron Islands offshore about five miles, beacons for travelers in boat and kayak and canoe. It is an amazingly isolated area with incredible natural beauty. 

Before departing I posted my Facebook status:   Heading out for a solo pilgrimage to the Mouth of the Huron…just a few hours sitting by the lake…thinking, dreaming…seeing if there are any wild blueberries left.  (All good pilgrimages should involve something good to eat, right? However, be forewarned.  Most of the berries which remained were dark huckleberries with pithy seeds.  Although I later found a handful of blueberries closer to the ground.)

The shining shore

Here are some possible guideposts for a pilgrimage:

1)  It will probably take you a while to relax.  Plan to spend at least 2-3 hours, minimum.  More if possible.  The first hour will be spent unwinding from daily cares.

2)  For better relaxation:  breathe deeply deeply deeply for that first hour.  Breathe into any aches and pains.  When the mind starts thinking about planning, figuring out, yesterday’s dinner, what so-and-so meant by the last thing she said…gently but firmly bring your attention back to the present moment.  Maybe keep your attention on your feet if it wanders outside the present moment.

3)  Spend some time sitting.  Even if it’s dewy and your jeans get wet!  Let your eyes travel across the horizon and up close.  Let your ears hear the seagulls.  Your nose smell the pine needles on the path to the beach.  Your fingers linger on the tree bark.  Taste a blueberry, if you’re lucky enough to find one.  Engage all your senses.  

Beautiful sea

4)  Let spontaneity determine what you should do, if anything.  I recommend diving into the blue waters if you’re brave.  Don’t let thoughts of cold stop you.  The thoughts are wrong–especially this summer!

Innocence

Doesn’t sound too hard, does it?  Have any of you been on a pilgrimage recently?  In the past day?  Week?  Month?  Year?  If not, what thoughts try to convince you not to go? 

One of my friends said recently she really really really needed a break.  But she couldn’t go, couldn’t leave her family.  I suggested, hey, how about four hours at the beach?  Four hours alone?  Can you arrange for a babysitter for those few hours? 

Her eyes opened in amazement.  Her face lit up.  Yes, yes, yes!  She could do this.

Why is it that we don’t give ourselves a pilgrimage every week?  Once a month, at the minimum.  Unless we care deeply for ourselves, unless we fill the well of ourselves with sustenance, we’ll run dry without having any leftover to share with the ones we love…

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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30 Responses to Pilgrimage to the sea

  1. Kathy, I so appreciate your words, “To find the center inside where we shine brightly from our completeness rather than our fragmented shards of personality and accomplishment.”

    I’m heading out the door right now on a solo pilgrimage to see, “Eat, Pray, Love” ALL BY MYSELF. I’m so excited I can hardly stand it 🙂

  2. Susan Derozier says:

    Thank you for this reminder of what is missing from my life right now. Your pictures are stunning and calming to the spirit. When I lived up north I had my many special places (like you). It is more difficult finding places of isolation where I now live, but I realize I need to accept the challenge. At least for the time I can close my eyes and take myself back to the quiet beach and lake and the music of nature. Lovely!

    • Kathy says:

      Susan, your comment made me so happy when I read it yesterday. So glad to hear that you are accepting the challenge. Good luck in meeting those difficulties and carving your own sacred space!

  3. Kathy you have captured the essence of my solo exhibition of oil paintings and photography “Sea, Land and Time” opening Sept 3rd which captures much of last years pilgrimage – sometimes alone and sometimes with my partner. It was a healing year… for both of us.

    So many times I come to visit your blog Kathy and I find my own thoughts echoed back to me in your words. I often wonder – how can this be? But the answer seems only to be a smile of recognition. Thank you so much for sharing your gifts with readers. I for one am ever so grateful. hugs Terrill

    • Kathy says:

      Terrill, how exciting about your solo exhibition! I am sure people will be amazed at the beauty you’ve been creating. Glad to hear that your life is rich with pilgrimages. Smiling in recognition at the synchronicities of our lives… I, too, am grateful.

  4. Celeste says:

    Creativepotager/Terrill, where will your exhibit be shown? I’m interested! Kathy, as always, your blog is a bright spot in my day. I may need to make the grueling one-day drive up to the Lake and back for my dose. I enjoy the little places near my home, but the Lake provides something my spirit needs. Thank you for your blog!

  5. Dawn says:

    You have made a very important point. Why DON’T we give ourselves a break regularly? Why do we feel that to do that we are selfish…or that our families wouldn’t survive a period of time (even four hours?) without us? Why do we assume we are just too busy?

    I’ve had the luxury and good fortune to be able to spend weeks away this spring and summer. Though I can’t say that I spent even four hours of any of those days in contemplation. The most I did was sit on a log last March for about 30 minutes. But it was a good 30 minutes. I don’t know if I COULD breath deeply for an hour! LOL But I should learn how, that’s for sure.

    I’m ever grateful to you for reminding me, even me with no job and no real commitments, to take the time to slow down even more, and to slow down with more purpose.

    • Kathy says:

      Dawn, we all have to keep inspiring one another to this! Our minds are formidable creatures at times…the habit-loving parts of our minds, that is. I’m laughing…guess breathing deeply for an hour might even be beyond MY ability and I breathe/meditation a LOT. Maybe ten minutes of breathing? Five? Whatever it takes to relax… This slowing down and connecting with our inner purpose…a gift we should all give ourselves every single moment we can.

  6. Cindy Lou says:

    Stunning photos – wise words…..a most wondermous post!

  7. Carol says:

    My tie on my front deck is my alone, quiet time. But it’s so much better by water – I wonder why I don’t occasionally drive the few miles to sit by a river or creek? Our lake is not appealing, but the rivers and creeks are wonderfully clear, quiet and cold. I must do that. I’m assigning Tuesday for that.

    • Kathy says:

      Carol, your comment catapaulted me off the couch and over to the lake (5 miles away to a good swimming beach) this afternoon. There! We can do it! I am so happy about your Tuesday assignment. Hurray!

  8. Sue says:

    Beautiful!!

    Did you know that this is a spot I’ve never visited?? I think the next trip should be to this spot……to sleep on the sand and listen to the universe breath.

    ~*~

  9. Susan D. says:

    This is one of those blogs when words don’t do justice. Sinking deeply in to your peaceful, beautiful offerings…

    • Kathy says:

      Susan D, thank you. This was one of those blogs that seemed to come through the ethers. Love it when that happens…then nothing need to be said!

  10. Kathy –

    And while I THOROUGHLY enjoyed the movie, I liked the book even better 🙂

  11. Karma says:

    You speak very true words, Kathy. Our blogs are somewhat similar in photos and it thoughts today. While I didn’t speak it quite so eloquently as you did, this is the essence of how I tried to spend my vacation last week, especially on my morning walks.

    • Kathy says:

      Karma, I shall have to go over and visit and catch up on your vacationing adventures. Can’t wait to see! Glad to hear you took morning walks…so often mini-pilgrimages of delight.

  12. Jeannie says:

    Kathy, Thank you for your healing words. Filling our space and connecting with Nature, the Universe, God. Be~ing in an Alive Awakened state. I Love You Dear Friend, Jeannie

    • Kathy says:

      Hello, beautiful Jeannie! I know how much you love nature, Jeannie… It IS a place to connect to divinity. Aren’t we lucky? And I love you too!

  13. Robin says:

    “…to seeking the inner jewel which gleams in colors of peace, freedom and joy.”

    What a beautiful way to put it. 🙂

    I feel as though I just came back from a pilgrimage. It has taken me a day or two to emerge from the inner to the outer, and start getting back into the busyness of everyday life. Even so, I do take a little time out here and there to reconnect, even if it is just a quick stroll around the pond.

    • Kathy says:

      Robin, gently smiling at your re-integration as you attempt to merge your pilgrimage into everyday life. May pieces of it glitter like stars throughout your day…

  14. bearyweather says:

    I have been wondering if most women and men consciously do this. Find alone places. Find places where “doing nothing” is more important than “doing something.” …. I try to do this. It is much easier to do when I am on summer break … harder when the demands of school take over my life. But, i agree, it is an important thing to do for yourself.
    Don’t you think that sometimes when life is not going well, the alone time is more difficult .. it is when you need it most, but when you can purposefully avoid it … to avoid the problems in your life?
    Nice relaxing pictures.

    • Kathy says:

      bearyweather, I think you have stated this perfectly. When things are not going well, it’s often hard to do the very thing that would bring us more inner peace. We don’t want to face alone-time because we think we’re just going to run-around-in-mind-circles in our head. But so often just being out in nature actually frees us momentarily from that trap. Sometimes. Thank you.

  15. psufroggirl says:

    enjoyed your post and the reminder to carve out personal and reflective space, or maybe even more simply – just a place ‘to be’. Here’s to a new day to do just that!

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