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...