To be a pilgrim
(from the Latin, peregrinus, a traveller)
I wanted to be thoughtful today. I thought I should meditate on what creates the best sense of inner calm and being at one with the world. I would like to see if I can stop this inner jangling that always makes me hop from one thing to another – or if I can’t do that, maybe find out whether it is a good thing for me anyway.
Instead of Reiki or crystal healing or yoga retreats people used to take time out for pilgrimage to ease their troubled minds (I know some people still do, but I speak as a Western atheist), so I figured Walsingham would be as good a place as any for a little excursion to see if I’m missing something obvious. I’ve been there before (many years ago) and been put off by the number of shops selling what I can only describe as religious tat. It is a very pretty village, and the Shrine itself is a relatively recent addition. For the first time, I decided to go inside – previously I’ve always turned away at the door because I feel a little bit of a cheat, wandering around places like that where I imagine everyone else is devout and thinking godly thoughts. Inside there were a great number of little chapels and one main altar and a ‘Holy House’ which is supposed to be built on the site of the original 11th century shrine. I sat and looked at the altar and lit a candle for a friend, and tried to feel something. An elderly Indian lady in a sari was on her knees at the altar step, kissing the floor. It was odd because I knew she was feeling something very intense, and there I was, in a state of blank expectation. I took a few pictures of the shrine and the gardens and wandered off to the café for a slice of lemon drizzle. Churchy people all around. I was perked up by noticing a cleric who ordered a gin and tonic. Perhaps they are human, but my sense of alienation stays with me.
I couldn’t get in to the Abbey – apparently it closes at 4. Did they think I would make off with the ruins? Such a shame; I thought the crumbly remnants of something old would possibly get to me in a way that machine-made bricks didn’t seem to reach.
So next I thought I should try Mother Nature. So I headed off to Blakeney and took just a short walk along the quay. The sun was low on the water, and families were still out crabbing with their buckets and bits of bacon on a line. I was listening to the musical tinkling of the halyards against the masts and the cries of the seagulls and it made me feel so much more awake and actually here.
I’m following Socrates (of course) and the idea that an unexamined life is not worth living. So I’m examining mine. But Socrates never suggested that the asking of questions meant that you got an answer.
PS This was written yesterday evening but not posted because my computer went kaput at the critical moment, so it is still technically day 3 even if posted on day 4! More to come later.
These are a few images from Walsingham, a pretty little village that makes its living from the Shrine and appears to have been entirely taken over by it
Clearly a place that time forgot
I wish I could have recorded the sounds that went with these images of Blakeney
This was a little detour from my journey home; this is Glandford unbridged ford, and a small notice in an adjacent field that intrigues me….I will have to pay the little cafe in the woods a visit.