from My Pilgrim’s Heart, by Stephanie Dale
In 2007, my son Ben set out from Canterbury, in England, to walk to Jerusalem. I flew to Rome to join him for the middle leg of his journey – Rome to Istanbul. I walked with him across Italy and through the Balkans, before the snowbound thunderstruck mountains of Macedonia put me on a plane to that ancient crossroad, Istanbul. A year later I returned to the Middle East to walk with Ben into Jerusalem.
Ben filmed his entire pilgrimage.
“Pilgrimage is the art of ancient travel, a subpoena from the heart that defies all common sense. It is a meeting, at once terrestrial and supernal, between the body and the Earth, the heart and God. The pilgrim is not unlike a comet, burning off all that is futile and unnecessary until all that is left is the essential, unmalleable core. The pilgrim walks the Earth, walks the wheel, walks the turning seasons, surrendering all of who she is and all she thinks she knows and all she thinks she wants to the road and the weather – the sun, rain, wind and snow. Pilgrimage is where the romance of the road meets reality, boots to the bitumen.”
from My Pilgrim’s Heart
The walk to Jerusalem was the second time Ben and I walked a very long way together. Two years previously, in September 2005, we walked El Camino, the mystical road across Spain. For 32 days, we put one foot in front of the other up over the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela, traversing Spain’s northern interior through cities and villages, farms and forests.
We crossed the meseta in the blazing high sun and mountains in the wind and icy rain, and we walked all night beneath the great arcing wheel of the Milky Way. That night was one of the most extraordinary nights of my life. We expected to walk a few hours and rest – but we didn’t count on the bitter cold; we had no choice but to keep walking. In the end we walked 70 kms before curling up in our sleeping bags on stone cold church steps in . . . now what was the name of that town? Invite me along to speak and I’ll tell you all about it.
There’s not a lot we don’t know about walking very long distances – about feet, the weight on your back and finding beds on the road.