Scallop shells, the traditional symbol of the Pilgrim
Where and why does a journey begin? Does it begin with a dream, an idea, a conversation, a guidebook or the first step? Does it begin with the glint of high snows on sunlit peaks, the glimpse of a trail winding into the forest, the sound of wind in a lonely canyon? Perhaps its the twinging regret that we may never know these things, a fear of missing a great gift, for as John Muir said, “In every walk walk with nature one receives more than he seeks”.
Is a journey a whole lifetime in gestation, a culmination of our decisions, inspirations, chance events that bring us to our first footstep on the trail? And where does the journey end, does it ever really end? Many things bring people to walk GR11, the Camino de Santiago and other great hikes such as the Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trails. Others set off on undefined routes along the bye-ways of the world, finding their own paths. One thing is for certain, the paths walked are as diverse as the reasons for walking them.
Some love the challenge and fitness of walking, of pitting themselves against the terrain and elements, others love the outdoors and nature for its escape from the routine of busy lives. Others simply seek the freedom to be themselves, away from obligations and pressures. Some are at a transition in their lives, a moment of decision or indecision. The trail offers the chance to step outside of everyday life and reassess priorities Many are modern day pilgrims of sorts, subscribing to no faith, but still seeking something that modern life does not deliver. The unwinding trail offers a continuity that can help weave together the outer and inner world, and provide a way forward, step by step, when other paths seem blocked.
For each of us the journey to the trail is unique, and walking it has it’s own significance. For me the trail is about finding my own balance with the world, experiencing its wonders more deeply, and seizing the day to do so. This is summed up well by the words on the final ‘Norfolk Songline’ stone, just before the Peddars Way joins the Norfolk Coastal Path, it goes:
“And being here I have been part of this, caught and thrown like sun on water, have entered into all around me”
Resting by the final Norfolk Songline with our Jack Russell Oscar
Ultimately I believe the journey never ends, to be a pilgrim (or wildpilgrim!) is really a mindset and a way of being in the world. May you find what you seek on your own pilgrim trails……