I woke up this morning with my thoughts squarely on the pilgrim’s road. I love the image of moving out from a town and into the largely asocial and empty space. This middle place is outside of usual relationships. This middle place is neither here nor there. It is the betwixt-and-between space that many associate with rites of passage. You know another town is over the horizon or over the next hill, but you spend most of your time between specific places.
Similarly, the image of walking between more fixed social worlds intrigues me deeply. The pilgrim’s body literally moves out of one space and into the middle ground. It is the work of the body that propels the pilgrim forward, and it is the body that is marked by pilgrimage. The pilgrim sweats and drenches his clothes. With time, the sweat mixes with clothes worn day after day, and the pilgrim begins to reek. The pilgrim’s feet strike the Earth again and again. Her legs again, and her feet begin to swell. Most pilgrims end up with blisters, making each step excruciating. When stopping, pilgrims peel off their shoes and socks to doctor the angry, red sores.
These ulcers are the price for movement, that most valuable of psychic gifts. Pilgrimage teaches the value of moving forward, of attending to the people and places you encounter, of respecting your limits even as you try to reach your goals.