When I first start thinking about plans for my sabbatical more than a year ago I knew that I wanted to incorporate walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, also known as the Way of St. James, and also fulfill a long-time dream of walking the coastal path in Wales.  Someone recommended to me at that time a new book, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, which I read soon after it was suggested to me. I found it to be an enjoyable, easy read.  Charming, yes, but it must have made very little impact on me because I couldn’t remember almost anything of the story when the book was again mentioned to me while I was in England in July.  I resolved to re-read it upon returning home, which I’ve done now.  Such a fortunate thing to have a second chance with something, isn’t it?  After my two long walks this summer, the book now seems to be a treasure of great wisdom.

There is something about walking that causes us to clear out our minds and allows us to notice what is around us.  Just as computers and air travel collapse the world, walking expands it again.  In both Spain and in Wales I felt that the world had slowed, and my place in the continuum of time seemed clearer.  The rootlessness of my sabbatical made me all the more aware of my rootedness in a life of family and faith.  It became clear that we need to find our joy in being the connection between past and future.  T.S. Eliot’s first line of Burnt Norton frequently echoed in my head…Time present and time past… 

Harold Fry, in his unlikely pilgrimage from one end of England to the other, found that by living completely in the present as he walked, he was able to understand his past more fully and have hope for his future. On the face of it, his pilgrimage made no sense, anymore than walking the Way of St. James across northern Spain makes sense.  Harold was walking because he believed that as long as he did so his friend would not die, and near the end of the book he wonders if what the world needs is “a little less sense and a little more faith.” I couldn’t agree more.


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3 Responses to Walking

  1. Rich Turner says:

    Jo has been recommending the Joyce book to everyone (I finally read it, too). I’m guessing she may have been the culprit in your case as well. I liked it, but also am going to re-read it in a few months and savor it a bit more. As far as the being in the moment, it seems harder and harder as we get busier and busier. There seems to be more time spent “context switching” to get into the required moment. I’m going to try to do less multi-tasking to see if it provides more access to being in the present. (He says, as he sits on a telcon and reads his mail and replies to the Daily Cup!)

  2. Carlyle Gill says:

    On a retreat long ago in the high desert of So. Calif. I came to understand simply walking – padding, as I called it – simply in order to notice, to pay attention. I thought, padding is something I could teach! Love your Cup and you.

  3. Sonya Sutton says:

    Jo was indeed the “culprit” who recommended the book to me. Doing one thing at a time, and taking time to notice things are the two things I would dearly love to hang on to in my daily life. Trying…

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