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Lesson #4 of the pilgrim road

Lesson #4 of the pilgrim road


“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

Ursula K Le Guin


Pilgrimage has taught me many things and chief among them is this salutary lesson: There is no ‘there’.

Twice I’ve set on Very Long Walks – once, 900kms along El Camino, the mystical pilgrim road across Spain from the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela (where – disputed fact – the head of St James is buried in the great cathedral built atop sacred pagan ground); and then, two years later, 1500kms across Italy and through the Balkans, Rome to Tirane, the then-broken (and perhaps still broken) capital of Albania.

And twice this lesson has been my saviour and my guide.

There is no ‘there’.

It is as true for the writer as it is for the walker.

There is no ‘there’.

What does this mean?

There is no destination.

There is no destination because the destination is irrelevant if you don’t pick up your foot, right here, where you are now, and put it in front of the other one. And then pick up the next foot and put it down in front of the other one. Repeat ten million million times. Or pick up your pen and write a word, then place another word directly after that one. And so on. Ten thousand thousand times.

Walking and writing are sublime journeys.

Both will transform you for this simple reality alone, the fact of putting one foot in front of the other, one word after another, over and over and over again. Both will disrupt all you think you know about life and your place in it. Both will frustrate and delight; immeasurable, colossal life in your hands.

Both will reward you will the immense satisfaction of the journey complete, a voyage of discovery well-earned and hard-won.

At which point, having marked the moment, you will set out again, your heart aflutter with frustration and delight at the unknowable unknown journey ahead, your eyes on the horizon of another ‘no there’, your heart packed and ready to roll towards the light calling you home. Again.


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