My husband and I are Tuesday Pilgrims. Each Tuesday, our day off, we walk the beach. The first Tuesday we began at Cotton Tree, on the Sunshine Coast, and headed south along the coastline. Returning after a long walk, we sought a cafe, for a caffeine and cake fix.
The following Tuesday we began where we left off the previous week. And so it goes each Tuesday. We walk as far as feels good on the day, then retrace our steps along the beach back to the start of the day. So actually we have done the whole length twice! No matter the weather, no matter the tide, we walk.
So far we have made it to the Caloundra beaches.
Our destination is the path. The path is the coastline. It’s not an arduous journey. We seek sustenance and caffeine at a local nook after each walk. It’s our Tuesday thing.
We are Tuesday pilgrims.
So why pilgrimage?
I call it a slow pilgrimage; spaced out over time, it is timeless. There is no time constraint as each Tuesday presents a new opportunity to continue the journey.
I call it a pilgrimage.
My husband challenges that description!
So I asked him, what would constitute a pilgrimage? What qualities does it take?
He answered that a true pilgrimage would:
1. Follow a ritual or tradition within a culture, religion or practice, or fulfil a cultural or spiritual requirement
2. Aim for a destination
3. Involve challenges, or be a testing journey
4. Involve hope or faith in a spiritual reward as a result of achieving the destination/goals of the pilgrimage.
“Well”, I say, “It has been rather challenging finding a decent cafe some Tuesdays!!!” He laughs!
But it made me think. Why would I call it pilgrimage? For me it’s about finding a tradition; a new way. The commitment is to the time taken away from the hum of usual life to follow one of nature’s paths, the coastline. The destination is the beach, the sand, the sea, the elements in all their rawness. Neither storms or heat keeps us from going. We go regardless, and enjoy the weather of that day, or the surf, or the rain on our hair, or the wind whipping up the sand onto our legs.
And the reward? It is our smiles as we trek back along that day’s length of beach, realising we have once again taken time to relish the incredible place that is a privilege to make our home.
I achieve a kind of spiritual peace and happiness on a Tuesday. I have reached my destination.
A new definition
So my new definition of pilgrimage?
It is TIME plus a way to decide the journey’s PATH.
It does not need a specific destination, just a path to travel on. Of course historically the destination is important. Pilgrims have sought Mecca, or Jerusalem, Uluru, head waters or healing waters. But I would argue that pilgrimage can be about the path alone, and what that particular path has to teach us.
Maya Ward expounds on this rather eloquently in her book, The Comfort of Water : a river pilgrimage. She walked the path of the river from the sea to the source., learning from the river as she went. Her journey is certainly modern and ancient pilgrimage, all at the same time. I relish her descriptions of pilgrimage and place.
My Tuesday Pilgrimage is not in the same league.
But it is only a Tuesday pilgrimage after all.
It gives me an opportunity to learn from whatever Tuesday experiences are tossed our way.
One day we were devastated by the amount of dead mutton birds (actually Short Tailed Shearwaters)along the beach. Challenged by weather along their migration from Russia to the southern coasts, many don’t make it. Their very real annual pilgrimage is a true testing journey, and part of their survival. We found one, tired but very alive. This one may eventually make it after a spell with Seabird Rescue volunteers.
My pilgrimage by no means has anything to do with survival. Yet my well being has improved with Tuesday Pilgrimage in my life. I have more to give because of it. I am very grateful.