When I was getting ready to leave, I canvassed friends, asking for book recommendations. The perfect book for this particular journey turned out to be The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce’s quirky and moving novel about an elderly man who embarks upon a walk across England, hundreds of miles from Kingsbridge on the south coast to Berwick-upon-Tweed far to the north, all in hopes of saving an old friend’s life.
He’s determined that at long last his life will matter, and he learns much about himself, his marriage and family – and touches the lives of total strangers.
I’m still sorting through what I’ve learned, and I still have a hundred miles to go. Starting in Newcastle on the eastern coast of England, I will be walking (with Lisa, and two friends) all the way to Carlisle in the west – tracing the path of Hadrian’s Wall. Two thousand year old stone remains of a wall, with forts, castles, and convenient bed & breakfasts where we can sleep. Old rocks, of which I never tire. Adventure, of which I can’t get enough.
And walking. For centuries, if you sinned, one way you could work off the penalty was to make pilgrimage to a holy place: Jerusalem, or Rome, or Santiago de Compostela (the camino to which is featured in the marvelous film, The Way). I’ve got things to work off, things to learn, a future to discern, some peace to be made with God, my self, and quite a few people. Walking, the physically arduous aspect, and the stillness of mind, far from internet, TV, office and shops, creates a pace in the soul, a chance at the dawning of eternity.
I’m promising myself far more walking when I’m back home later this month. So please, if you see me, don’t think I’m crazy, and don’t offer me a ride. I need to walk.