pilgrimage

An Essay By Aisling // 5/21/2010

(I apologize for my recent absence...if you'll read this, you'll see it's due to a 4 month semester abroad in Europe.)

 

I woke to a world wet with the tears of another spring. Another new beginning; this old, familiar place where the world never fails to come alive again…the spring I’ve known for 21 years, and yet she’s still a stranger, still new, still unknown. Somehow I forget every time what it looks like, alive, and it always surprises me. Why? Perhaps because her face changes, as the trees grow, or die and fall. Perhaps because the weather never escorts her exactly the same way twice. And yet…I begin to think perhaps the difference is mostly in me. Perhaps I meet her with new eyes. Perhaps I carry with me what I didn’t have, what I didn’t know before.

     A week and a half ago I came home from a four-month semester abroad in Austria. The semester itself was the experience of a lifetime, but the homecoming has been equally rich—because it’s been telling me about the journey and about the end. A little like waking to springtime, coming home. Four months is a long time to be gone. And yet I slip right through the door into this old familiar life—I find it at once old and new—and it picks me right up again, carrying me along in its steady current. Nothing really changed. New countertops in the kitchen, a new puppy…but nothing really changed.

     Except me.

     Four months in Europe demands that you change. The experience is just too big to fit into the old self. You have to grow if you’re going to receive it.

     I remember when I was too little to reach the bathroom faucet, and the kitchen counter was just about at eye level. Everything looked different then. But I grew up so gradually that I didn’t really notice, and it doesn’t usually strike me that the kitchen looks any different now than it ever did. It takes something like leaving and coming back to be reminded of what we know so well, of what we’ve always known.

     I begin to see that life itself is a lot like coming back, over and over again, to the same rooms. The rooms themselves don’t really change. But we do. So it can be familiar, but it’s never quite the same. And sometimes it can look like we’re getting nowhere—we forget when we couldn’t see over the countertop. But the point was never how far we got anyway, but how much we’ve become who we’re meant to be.

     Last semester during my travels I climbed the duomo of the cathedral in Florence, as well as the cupola of St. Peter’s basilica in Rome. The view from the top of both was breathtaking and I’ll never forget it, but I think I learned something about life just from the climb. First of all, you have to go slowly on the way up, and be patient with yourself and your progress, if you’re ever going to make it to the top. Secondly, you really have to stop and look out the windows when they come by; the tiny snapshot view hints at what’s waiting for you and keeps you going, and the closer you get to the top the more exciting it is. A lot of times the stairway up can be dark and cold, or close and muggy, more dirty than clean, crowded even, and not exactly enjoyable. But it’s the only way to the top. And (as the windows remind you) in light of where it’s taking you, it suddenly becomes so beautiful…

     Like a spiral staircase, winding slowly upward, life has us continually circling back around to where we’ve been—but, whether we can tell or not, each time we come back around we’re a little higher up, we can see a little father, we’re a little closer to where we’re going. Life is a pilgrimage—something I realize now in a new, deep way after my pilgrimage in Europe. Life is a slow, slow, steady sequence of experiences, at once old and new, which come together slowly to make us who we’re becoming. Each familiar old room is a new gift, each routine sunrise an irreplaceable part of our journey to the end of things. At the end, let’s not look back only to realize that we missed the gift that was the journey. 

 

Comments

this is.....

this is beyond the words of my comment, I love this. (so glad you posted somthing, I've truly missed your writing)

Bernadette | Fri, 05/21/2010

......

Aisling, this was beautiful! You gave me in image of what is was like to climb those staircases.... Your writing is so filled with the truth! Lovely!!!!

Elizabeth | Fri, 05/21/2010

************

The Holy Spirit is the quiet guest of our soul." -St. Augustine

 Your writing style is so...

 Your writing style is so... so timeless.  

It has the feel of being ancient, wise, and seasoned, without using any props like archaic language or King-James era sentence structure.  And at the same time it is perfectly contemporary without any of the highly irritating quirks of modern English. I don't know how you do it, but keep on, whatever you do, because you're very good at it.

And the essay itself was gorgeous too, just so you know. : )

Mary | Sat, 05/22/2010

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Brother: Your character should drive a motorcycle.
Me: He can't. He's in the wilderness.
Brother: Then make it a four-wheel-drive motorcycle!

gorgeous

Absolutely beautiful ,Aisling. I can't even tell you how much I enjoyed reading it and how well it was written. So amazing. The whole thought of it, moving on and growing but things staying familiar and having to appreciate the gift while your walking it...and wow. Just everything. :) Something near the end reminded me of climbing Crough Patrick in Ireland.

Mairead | Mon, 05/24/2010

_________________________

"Sweet is the love that never knew a wound, but deeper that which died and rose again." - Mother Mary Francis

......... I know this is

.........

I know this is going to sound corny, but I feel something different after reading this. I don't know if it was the message, your fabulous writing style, or a combination of both. Everything you described I saw and felt so vividly!!!!

That was so good.

Sar | Tue, 05/25/2010

 Wonderful! <3 Sarah

 Wonderful!

<3 Sarah

Sarah Bethany | Thu, 05/27/2010

Just gorgeous. 

Just gorgeous. 

Clare Marie | Sat, 05/29/2010

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"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve." -Bilbo Baggins [The Lord of the Rings]

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