|Leaving my token at Mont St. Michel|
I think what amused my friends the most in France last summer was the way I went about leaving tiny mica tokens in places I visited that had special meaning for me but this is actually an ancient practice of pilgrims. I use the mica because it's a natural element that I find around my property in Maine. It's light and easy to carry, and its shiny mirror-like surface gives it a magical quality. Depositing the little token is a way to leave something of myself behind in significant places. It is a way of paying homage to the experience as well. In Ireland, at the holy wells I visited, I often saw little bits of cloth tied to a nearby bush. These are called "clooties".
They are another form of pilgrim tokens.
I was thrilled to find, in Rouen, a leather scallop shell pouch that clipped onto my belt to carry my tokens in. The scallop shell is the symbol of the pilgrim and those who walked the El Camino to Santiago in Spain tied a shell to their coat so that people knew they were on pilgrimage...they still do.
The one thing with which the pilgrim returns home
with is wisdom and the responsibility to share the
truth gleaned from the profound pilgrimage. The
story that we bring back from our journeys is the boon.
-Waymarkers, Mary DeJong, page 33
One way I bring back the boon is in my photographs. I am able to share the experience with friends (including my blog friends!) and pass on what I've learned. I like to make little accordion folded books in which I can insert my images and reflections. Other people create scrapbooks.
Souvenirs are whatever you bring back that will trigger a memory of your trip. I like to buy a small work of art by a local artist or, more frequently, I bring back a small, natural object to add to my continually growing collection of memories. Having a real and meaningful way to re-live your trip after you return is very important. You will never have the reaction my friend had to her Hawaiian trip, that it felt like it never happened at all. Traveling with the heart of a pilgrim is such an enriching experience and that's why I try to make every trip I take a kind of pilgrimage.
When I got back from my trip to Kentucky and was sharing the "boon" with friends, one commented, "You always have amazing encounters when you travel...you are a lucky traveler!" I wouldn't use the word "lucky". I would say "open". When you travel with the open heart of the pilgrim you to will have these wonderful encounters. I love this quote and it seems to explain these seemingly serendipitous engagements...
What you are seeking is also seeking you.- Rumi
Finally, here is a link to my favorite book on pilgrimage. It will inspire you in so many ways. For more inspiration, visit my Pinterest board. I'll be adding new links from time to time. I wish you safe and meaningful travels this summer, no matter where you go. Remember one half of the word "pilgrimage" is "image"! Keep your pilgrim's heart open and see what images you receive...