Monday, November 22, 2010

The Three Day Pilgrimage

So I'll start out by correcting myself...our "three-day pilgrimage" ended up to be more of a 40 hour pilgrimage. However, this is how it was planned...and I've had this title in my head for a while, and it's my blog, so I refuse to change it.

When I told people I was going on a three day pilgrimage to a shoe tree that may or may not be there in Eastern Oregon (8 hour drive away) some people thought it was weird, some people thought it was awesome, and most people just thought it "sounded like something I would do." (which I take as quite the compliment!). Going to this particular shoe tree is on my TDBD (to do before I die) list, so sounds like a good way to spend a weekend to me. We did A LOT of exciting things on our little pilgrimage, but more importantly than any one thing we did on this pilgrimage, is to explain why this is a "pilgrimage" and not a vacation. And, oddly enough, I plan on doing this through the introduction of ANOTHER book- this one by author (and super-hippy) Dan Austin- The Road Trip Pilgrim's Guide.

"So what is a pilgrimage? Well, the way I've come to understand it, you can take a trip or you can take a pilgrimage. You can escape from life or escape to it. You must always return from a vacation, but you never return from a pilgrimage quite the same...

though historically religious in nature, pilgrimages do not need to be holy quests. At its heart, a pilgrimage is a journey of importance, to the pilgrim and maybe no one else. Road trip spirituality is as unique as the person who seeks it, often having little to do with any prescribed path. After all, most religions were started by vagabonds, mavericks, and idealistic visionaries with no great love for bureaucracy...

Your pilgrimage could involve fasting, penitence, and self-flagellation (not flatulation ;) hehe). But it could-should-also involve falling in love, dancing all night long, sleeping on the beach, reading Jacques Prevert, biking through torrential rain, crying your eyes out at something so beautiful (or so tragic), crashing with locals, breaking laws, sleeping in hammocks, guzzling Guinness, hitting midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, sleeping in banana fields, making out on top of Mayan temples, indulging in a Japanese onsen, and ultimately, finding that grail of happiness and meaning: truth to self."

So this is where the idea got started. I don't think enough people feel this way- and I feel like its almost faux pas to say so....but I LOVE MY LIFE. I love my life as imperfect, unstable, sometimes hectic, sometimes monotonous, and as average as it is. What other point is there in life if not to love it? I don't want an escape from my life. There is a quote that reminds me of this sad but abundant faux pas in our society, made famous by Nelson Mandela, that may be one of my favorites:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

People too often downplay their strengths and play off their weaknesses- because "who are they" to be that person. Well...who are they not to be? So anyways, all of that to say I don't want to escape from my life- I want every experience I have and every breathe I take to be PART of this thing called life. I don't want a trip to get a "break" from life- I want a trip to redefine who I am. I want to, every day of my life, walk away from the person I once was and become the person I will be.

So my pilgrimage involved driving through the night (well, passengering through the night), sleeping in a car in 20 degree weather, eating apple pie at 8 am, driving ten miles down a dirt road to knock on a cousin of a customer's door (second house to the left past the cattle grate ten miles down the dirt road across from the red church)- to be graciously invited in, fed calf testicles, and be put to work "fly-swattin' and feedin' cattle", wading a freezing cold river to get to a hot springs in the middle of the high desert, starting our own shoe tree, standing next to Lincoln (statue...not the man... sorry) in downtown Boise on a platform reciting the Gettysburg Address, illegally ringing Idaho's liberty bell, spending an uninterrupted two days with one of my best friends, and feeling the freedom that you only feel when you have no plans attached to your plans.

Long story short, my purpose of the trip was never techincally reached. The shoe tree in Juntura, OR died a couple years ago and was removed from the site. Tammy the waitress showed us a framed picture on the wall of the shoe tree that once was. RIP. However, this is where sometimes life throws you a curveball and thankfully my list is not a static process. I am hence forth changing number 47 on my list from "throw a pair of shoes on the shoe tree in Juntura" to "start my own shoe tree".

So do me a favor if you're ever driving down Highway 20 outside of Juntura, Oregon. Turn off just west of milepost 20, follow the dirt road by the river until it ends (about a mile), look out across the river to see the steam rising from the hot springs- and notice that big tree next to you. Looking up, you will hopefully see an old pair of Converse and some Sketchers tangled in the branches. Since every shoe tree has to have a purpose, use some old sneaker to cross that ridiculously cold river that takes you to the most beautiful hot springs I have ever seen. When you cross back, just make sure to toss those old sneakers up on the tree for me. I'll be back in one year to check.

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