Pilgrimpace's Blog


walking the cistercian way – part 3

Part 3 – Picking up the Pieces

My knee began to recover.  I spent two weeks at home building up walking – one mile, two miles, five miles, ten miles – trying not to count too much on being able to go back to Wales, but the knee behaved.  I caught the train to Abergavenny carrying a much lighter pack.  To avoid strain, I left the camping and the cooking gear.  To give myself a good chance of finishing the last section I had arranged to stay mainly with kind friends and acquaintances.

I was nervous about starting again, but managed to ease myself back in.  I had been invited to The Small Pilgrim Places Network annual gathering and had accepted on the principle that I would have been near Abergavenny at that point if the pilgrimage had gone to plan.  The Small Pilgrim Places (http://www.smallpilgrimplaces.org/) is one of those things that does what it says on the tin.  It is a network of places that pilgrims visit

Small Pilgrim Places are:

  • Spaces for pondering, breathing, meditating, praying and ‘being’
  • Small places, not those already on the map, well-known, or that draw crowds;
  • Simple, quiet and unpretentious, with the presence of the Divine;
  • Places of worship, gardens, ruins, open spaces, holy wells, etc.;
  • Welcoming and inclusive.

It is well worth looking at the website and seeing if any of the places are near you.  It was good for me, as a pilgrim, to spend time with people who are concerned with maintaining pilgrimage places and with welcome.  There is a real richness in putting it all together.  If you are reading this and live in Britain, do you have a Small Pilgrim Place near you?  Do you have a somewhere that could become a Pilgrim Place?

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the Peace Garden at Hedd Wen

Esther de Waal led us in a reflection focusing, wonderfully, on cloister gardens, asking us to find our own place of silence, the threshold, the place for entering our own deepest interior self.  I think this has helped tie together a lot for me, the themes of who I really am, how I can really be that person, encountering in silence and solitude being among the deep gifts of this pilgrimage.  We were given this poem by Bonnie Thurston from Practicing Silence to ponder and pray:

Monk’s Prayer

At the monastic centre

is always a cloister,

an orchestrated emptiness,

a place of light,

a fountain to feed

the heart’s garden.

 

Give me this life:

a centre empty

of all but light,

the stillness of Eden

before fruit was plucked,

my heart a spring

of living water.

 

The next morning I woke to before dawn to heavy rain.  It passed and I began walking.  A couple of hours along a quiet road before I picked up the Offa’s Dyke Path.  Listening hard to my knee, but it coping.  The walking did me good.  Views of some of my favourite hills – The Skirrid, Sugarloaf and The Blorange (I would go out of my way to climb The Blorange), passing the site of Grace Dieu Abbey of which there is no sign, it is utterly gone.

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Good to be back, thinking and praying, reflecting as I walk.  A picnic on a hillside.  Cheese scones, welshcakes, apples, black tea.  looking down at a tiny remote Church that was locked when I reached it.  Into Monmouth after 16 miles, a bed and breakfast, a bath, a meal and sleep.

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