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The pilgrimage – a story of sore feet, an aching back, and giddy joy. Part 3

It doesn’t last.

That giddy joy I experienced my first day in the garden? It was gone the next day. In its place was a contented serenity and an eagerness to get back to my simple work of washing tiles, drying tiles, and packing tiles. In two books I was reading at the time and am still reading, the authors warned not to try to prolong a spiritual consolation or bring it back when it’s gone, as this would turn the gift into something artificial and can even be the beginning of an addiction to spiritual highs. It reminded me of the story in Exodus when the Israelites were saved from starvation by the appearance of manna, the miraculous bread of heaven. The people were directed to harvest it every day and not to horde for the next, but some did and it turned wormy and inedible. That’s not how this deal works, apparently. And I find that difficult as I seek security in “putting things by.” But recently, a still small voice in my heart keeps saying, “Keep your hands open – no grasping, no clinging.” Just an openness, as Tosha Silver says, to let whatever wants to go, go, and whatever wants to come, come.

The Mister looked thoughtful the next morning when I told him all this.

“Are you still going to need to hug me at various times during the day?” he asked.

“Oh, you betcha!” I replied.

“Good!” he said standing, straightening his clothes and holding out his arms. “Proceed!”


One of the books is by Joyce Rupp, called Walk in a Relaxed Manner: Life Lessons from the Camino. It’s about her pilgrimage along the El Camino in Spain, a 37 day, nearly 500 mile excursion. I didn’t think I’d enjoy the book at first, but it became a kind of conduit of uncannily timed answers, advice and encouragement for my own pilgrimage in the garden. For instance, when I decided to take on this project of dismantling the grotto, I wondered when I’d find time to write. That afternoon, as I started into her book, I read that she resigned herself to the unavoidable truth that sometimes in life we must sacrifice one good for another, and in this instance her sacrifice was, you guessed it, writing. It was such a great relief to say, “For the next ten days, I’m putting writing aside to work in the garden.” There was no guilt about setting my mind and heart on a work that was not writing-related. To my bemusement on day six, I think it was, I woke up with a short piece of fiction almost completely written in my head, and actually found time that day (though I wasn’t looking for it) to write it down! And this burst of creativity is continuing – so yay!

Each succeeding day, Joyce had something to say about what I had experienced that morning. When I came in on the second day, footsore and weary, I read her comments on how unfriendly we are towards our bodies, especially our feet, how we demand so much but give so little. Thereafter, I toasted my tootsies in an Epsom salt bath whenever I could followed by a loving massage with Burts Bees Coconut foot lotion. Ah! the luxury!

I found that whenever The Mister called me in for lunch, I was most reluctant to go. “I just have a few more tiles!” I’d plead like a little kid begging for five more minutes before bedtime. He’d say nothing but narrow his eyes and purse his lips. “Ooops! I know what that look means,” I’d mumble to myself and come in immediately. And Joyce constantly struggled with her competitive spirit to walk beyond the limit she and her companion had set for themselves or try to pass other pilgrims. She realized that for the sake of efficiency she could well miss the spiritual lessons that were waiting to reveal themselves to her along the road. Like her, I found it a great temptation to speed up and get more done, but with time and practise I was able to catch myself more often and remind myself of the real reason I was doing this work.

My labours in the garden and the insights of Joyce’s book came together in a rare, wonderful, unexpected melding of the physical and the spiritual that made every day of my short pilgrimage a lesson and an adventure. I am grateful beyond words for the whole exercise. Every lesson made me more willing to be taught, and every synchronicity prompted me to be ever more alert to the signs and little messages left along the way.

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  1. Valerie Hess
    Posted October 15, 2017 at 2:14 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Penny-Anne. Timely words for me in this dark, liminal space I am in.

    • Penny-Anne
      Posted January 13, 2018 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

      I’m glad I could help, Valerie. Bless you, sister.

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