Saturday, November 14, 2015

Day 14 - There were 20 miles to Ogallala...

There were 20 miles to Ogallala when the 'blizzard' hit... such advanced warnings, such turmoil and discussion... bah, that was no blizzard!  A tad of blowing snow in the morning, turning to slush when it hit the ground... all rather pedestrian, a strong northerly wind, ok, but the sun was out by mid-afternoon... the kids off from school hadn't a chance to even make a snowball before it all evaporated away.  Yawn.  Everyone was of course very kind to me, insisting on giving me a ride - which I did for two short distances just to get off the road and not be a hazard.

I'm having a grand time walking eastward - the corn harvest is full on with giant machines and haulers in the fields, mice scurrying everywhere and hawks swooping without noticing me at all.  I'm trying to stay on the little roads, mostly north of the South Platte and south of the North Platte.  Despite the one morning of snow, the weather's been nice for autumn walking, though a bit on the warm side, keeping my pack full and at the weighty ready for real winter weather.

I'm still happily engaged with the folky history indicators - on the Mormon Trail, the Oregon Trail, the Pony Express Trail... - and meeting loads of people everyday, many of whom have never heard of a pilgrim before.  I'm happy to educate them =D  In a delightful village named Paxton, several different people implored me to stop in Sutherland where there is a local newspaper, to give them the opportunity to write a little story about why a little woman carrying snowshoes is walking across their communities... alas, the office was closed when I walked through, so I wrote a little note as I sat for a rest on their autumn-decorated bench out front - a pilgrim passed by, heading east, thanks for the resting place!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Day 8 Along the Overland Trail

For those thinking that I'm some sort of super-pilgrim, rest assured, my feet hurt just as much as the next pilgrim's.  With them elevated and resting after a particularly asphalt-y day, though, I can put aside the tender throbs and report that I'm again a happy little pilgrim.  Middle America is as good a pilgrimland as anywhere... people are friendly, gracious, and generous, especially with that left-over Halloween candy that seems to work its way into the side pockets of my backpack so easily.

Walking out of the city limits along the South Platte River - described in a novel as being 'too dry to drink, to wet to plow' - I haven't let the rustling golden cottonwoods out of my sight for these nearly 200 miles.  When I've been wedged away from the banks of the river, the farm tracks and stubbly cornfields have been by and large serving me well, although I've popped out on paved country highways a few times to walk the hypotenuse rather than the right angles when necessary... the farm roads commonly seen from the air score the earth into a grid with tidy one-mile spacing - due north, due east.  Songbirds entertain me; flustered pheasants startle me; leaping deer and pronghorns delight me; and whatever little critters slither beneath the ground cover politely keep hidden from me.  Approaching the border with Nebraska, I'm traveling on the Overland Route used by countless westward pioneers back in the day, 150 years ago, and there are scattered information plaques telling some of the details, mostly where sod houses used to be, cornfields and feedlots now.

I yearn for proper winter weather as soon as possible, since carrying my snowshoes and heavy winter clothes has made for an uncomfortable first week of hazing for my legs... on the wee pilgrimages I led from San Luis to Chimayo in September and from Oneida to Auriesville in October, I carried an airy 12 pounds; it served as little training for the compacted 22 pounds I'm now hucking on my back waiting for some good cold highs.  Since it's cold enough in the morning, I can bundle up and make good time until late morning when the bold sunshine forces it off my body onto my pack, only to slow my progress.  The vistas are expansive, so provide huge areas to occupy my mind and take the focus away from my whimpering puppies.

I'm on track toward Lincoln for Thanksgiving and encourage all pilgrims to consider making a pilgrimage across America - it's really wonderful.  People are good - better than good.

   ... and Michele in Ottawa, my faithful pilgrim follower for these many years now - look for me in that neck of the woods in late February / early March, depending on the snow and weather, eh...

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Winter is again nigh...

Tomorrow the winter pilgrimage begins for me.  The plan is to leave Denver with a worthy pilgrim send-off at an early Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe church - the official setting-out pilgrim blessing, albeit in the very fast Chihuahuan Spanish of Padre Benito, who walked with me on pilgrimage to the Santuario de Chimayo a few years back.

This pilgrimage will more than likely end with the traditional arriving pilgrim blessing in the French language when I arrive - insha'allah - at the Basilique Sainte-Anne de Beaupré a day's walk beyond Québec City by Easter, so goes the plan.

Having demonstrated that blogging is not my strength, I promise to strive for fortnightly updates if not more frequent.  The challenge I've experienced in these recent years is that when people ask - 'how can I help you, pilgrim'  I answer that I could use a computer to update my blog and check my emails.  They more and more have been offering me hand-held devices, which I find a tad awkward to use to update my blog or to reply to emails.  I'll endeavor to do my best.

So I'm off in the morning - the first stage will be to walk out the South Platte River to the confluence with the North Platte, thence through Lincoln (Thanksgiving) and across Iowa to Wisconsin.  Wisconsin now holds an interesting pilgrim route to be explored.  Fr. Andrew Kurz has been developing a route connecting four shrines in the central part of the state.  Called the Wisconsin Way, I'll walk it from west to east starting in La Crosse, where there is a shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe and continue to the shrine Our Lady of Good Help, near to Green Bay, which is where I'm targeting for Christmas.

Continuing eastward, I plan to cross into Canada at Sault Ste Marie, and then play around the area where the early Jesuit missionaries did their thing.  There seems to be a lot of history in the area, and I can anticipate an equal amount of snow, so the path I take may be a circuitous one.  I'm looking forward to all of it...but then, don't I always?

Before firing off a comment letting me know it will be cold... I am aware.  I experienced exhilarating cold last winter in the Transcarpathians, and part of my off-season's efforts have been in developing new and improved winter pilgrim clothing...there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad preparation.  This season on the pilgrim runway, we've got a heat-reflective petticoat made from a Columbia OmniHeat shirt from last season, to be worn beneath my regular walking skirt.  For the lower legs, I'll be wearing tailored leggings made from boiled wool and lined with the OmniHeat fabric (the sleeves of the shirt) that will come over my boots to protect them from being infilled with snow - a lesson learned in snowy Montenegro.  Of course, I have an intact OmniHeat shirt to complete the heat barrier.  For the outer layer, I'm now outfitted with an easy-to-don rainskirt that will fashionably and functionally defy any amount of wind, snow, and beating rain.  Bring it on.  A new raincape, this season in a sporting teal (the only color in the green family available from Outdoor Wilderness Fabrics seconds bin when the order was placed).  Finally, my steadfast wool hat from Paris that has been with me from the beginning has been pimped-up with a disc of the OmniHeat fabric, to hold in any remnant of body heat with thoughts of escape.  The snowshoes are attached to the pack awaiting the first big snow.

New also this year is an official Society of Servant Pilgrims front page on my pilgrim credential - already stamped and signed by the Archbishop of Denver... in the ancient pilgrim tradition, I'm a declared pilgrim on pilgrimage and can prove it.

Society of Servant Pilgrims

What does a pilgrim do during the 'off-season'?  Work hard.

Based this summer in beautiful Denver at the foot of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, I've spent countless useful hours with many other pilgrims, soon-to-be pilgrims, and pilgrim-supporters.  The result of this has been the creation of the Society of Servant Pilgrims, an association formed to support and encourage foot pilgrimage around the world.

I have evolved into a life-dedicated mendicant pilgrim and developed the techniques necessary to have successful pilgrimages walking village to village throughout the world absorbed into nature and talking with people where I find them.  At its foundation, the servant function of this is to build trust - surely carrying nothing of value is strong encouragement for success in this if I want a roof over my head on a pilgrim night (and I do!) - and trust is the foundation of peace.  Peace is universal.  The world needs more pilgrims.  So the Society of Servant Pilgrims is developed to help people become pilgrims - companion pilgrims who get guidance on the route and accommodation; sabbaticant pilgrims who go off on pilgrimage for some months and then return to 'normal life'; and mendicant pilgrims who are dedicated to the missions of being on pilgrimage and of helping other pilgrims.

The Society of Servant Pilgrims is rather new and the website is currently under development...  A Facebook page has been started Society of Servant Pilgrims.  An email address is set for information exchange and general communication at societyofservantpilgrims >at< gmail >dot< com.  It's all being developed, so I beg patience while I'm unplugged on pilgrimage; others are active participants, too.

As the Society of Servant Pilgrims was in formation this summer, I participated in leading two pilgrimages - one on the Camino del Norte a Chimayo (New Mexico) beginning 115 miles away at San Luis, Colorado.  Always a fun one for me, and more about this pilgrimage is being developed.  The other was a shorter and much flatter pilgrimage of about 90 miles along the Erie Canal towpath to the closely spaced shrines of St Kateri Takakwitha and Our Lady of Martyrs in Fonda and Auriesville, New York.  These pilgrimages were both wonderful events, and learning experiences.  Guidebooks for these two pilgrim trails are being developed for future pilgrims.  More information will be forthcoming as the webpage gets developed.

I have plans to attend the next American Pilgrims on the Camino annual gathering at Our Lady of the Snow outside of St Louis in April.  I'll speak about the latest pilgrimages I've made, pilgrim trails in North America, and offer a peek in the pack again.  There are lots of pilgrim activities happening... stay tuned...

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Day 129 Arrived in Rome!

...and not much time on the computer at the moment, but just to say I've gotten here on a glorious sunny day after dawdling just a tad in gorgeous Umbria and other parts of the Italian interior - all those medieval hilltop villages that didn't make any guidebooks because they're too difficult to reach and cannot accommodate cars or busses - well, I passed through dozens of them following quiet old roads as much as possible, crossing olive groves with families out pruning and picnicking... a start contrast to when I arrived for Easter on my first long walk: 2 weeks of cold pouring rain then...

...more soon
thanks everyone who helped and encouraged me during these last four and a half months.

     .....this pilgrimage is over, sad but inevitable, but I anticipate spending my 'off-season' helping and guiding other pilgrims wherever they may want to go, and when the weather cools in autumn, I'll surely start off again... where to - eh?  I think I'll visit our friends to the north and walk from Denver to the Basilica of Ste Anne de Beaupré in Quebec, Canada's impressive pilgrim destination.