I had another wonderful pilgrimage into the forest yesterday. The sunlight was radiant, the trees luminous. A pilgrimage is a journey of discovery initiated by a sacred impulse, the deep longing we each carry to see holiness more clearly. It is both an inward and outward journey where I open my heart, face the unknown, and hope for transformation. I am transformed in the process and doing of it. In the act of walking and praying, I am knit together, body and soul, into a wholeness. Thomas Merton said that there is in all things “a hidden wholeness.” The wholeness in me connects to the beating wholeness of bark and leaf and flowing water. Pilgrimage connects me to an ancient tradition of people carrying this desire for God forth into the world.
These pilgrimages have become an essential part of my spiritual practice. Pine needles and moss are like luminaries, lighting my path. As I walk, I am aware of a desire so much greater than myself, yet originating in the very heart of who I am. I am moved forward as much by my own longing, as by the One who longs for each of us to celebrate the world and sing of its beauty. In the forest I begin to live from a deeper wisdom, one that creates a wide spaciousness within me for possibility. If I had wings, they would have spread wide and lifted me gently into the sky.
I prepare for each of these journeys by packing the necessities: directions, water, food, and a camera. My camera is a witness to the holiness spilling forth before me. I hold my palms cupped open before me to receive the sacred, to relish a world illuminated by God. Some days it is so very clear. Photography is for me, a contemplative act, a way of seeing more deeply. I am able to gaze lovingly at the world.
What does sunlight filling a grove of ancient trees stir in you? What are the places of your life that feel luminous? What are the luminaries in your life that light your path? How are you being invited to walk in this world?
-Christine Valters Paintner