Up until last year, what pilgrimage meant to me was a really epic walk. An all day sort of effort that would bring me a feeling of deep connection with the landscape, probably coupled with feelings of euphoria.
My ability to handle longer walks has largely gone. There have been a lot of days in the last year when I’ve not made it outside my home. Often I get about twenty minutes or so before the low blood pressure makes me too dizzy to continue. Hills are currently beyond me. Longer walks of a few miles leave me exhausted.
When I started thinking about pilgrimage, I knew I didn’t want to write something abelist and excluding. I wanted to explore the topic in a way that would work for people with fewer options. But, I also didn’t really know what that might mean. I had assumed you could just do this kind of thing at the level that works for you.
That’s not been my experience.
It is difficult to make a very small walk seem like an act of pilgrimage. Even if it takes as much out of me as the bigger ones used to. Even if it is a really hard slog. The major issue is time. On a longer walk I get time to really connect with the land, the sky, the day. I’ll have more wildlife encounters. If I’m only outside for half an hour, I see less, I experience less and the emotional impact is smaller. When walking is a struggle, the struggle itself becomes the dominant experience, not the opportunity for connecting with the landscape. Pain and dizziness are obstacles to connecting.
I’m coming to the conclusion that time spent on this is more important than how far you go. In the warmer part of the year I should be able to sit and rest more during outdoors time, and this will increase how long I can spend outside. Will that be enough? I think it could be, but I don’t know.
At this point the whole experience has me asking a lot of questions about what pilgrimage is for me, and what it means and what makes it powerful. I’m also asking a lot of questions about what scope there is for helpfully reflecting on a topic to the benefit of people whose experiences are radically different from your own.