Living Well

It all started on May 24, 2015, when my pilgrimage trip to Assisi, Italy began. Or maybe it really started on July 18, 1953, when my life began. Either way, the idea of pilgrimage – the experience of travel for the sake of finding God – has been deep in me for the last several months. Active in my thinking and reflecting, alive in my prayer, this idea of pilgrimage is infusing my life experience daily.

This summer, in my daily morning devotional time, I have been reading To the Field of Stars: A Pilgrim’s Journey to Santiago de Compostela, by Kevin A. Codd. I discovered this book on our summer reading bookshelf – a collection of books left here by various family members as a resource for reading while here at our cottage. It’s an eclectic collection – many of them favorites of ours, some of them books that are culturally popular. My eldest has long held a fascination for the camino de Santiago, a medieval pilgrimage route from southern France to northwest Spain. She and I have talked about this many times – imagining how we might walk this pilgrimage route together – and Codd’s book is one that she had read and left on the summer reading shelf.

As I continued to reflect on my late Spring pilgrimage trip to Assisi, I was drawn to this book when I arrived at our cottage this summer. Each short chapter is a reflection on a day’s portion of the author’s walk from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago de Compostela, a journey of some 500 miles. I quickly got into a rhythm of reading one chapter as part of my invitation to the day. Each chapter has felt like a deep, rich, very special bite of chocolate – each one lingering on my soul’s tongue for the whole day. I’m almost at the end – so sad (along with the author) that I’m almost finished; and, at the same time, holding a rich resource of images, ideas, invitations, to take with me going forward.

camino shell-2The most enduring and recognizable symbol of the Camino de Santiago is the scallop shell. Many, if not most, of the pilgrims who walk the Camino, have a scallop shell with them along the way. Signposts bear the symbol as well. There are many stories about the significance of the shell; in the midst of the stories is the knowledge that the scallop shell is often found on the shores of Galicia, near Santiago de Compostela.

There are a few symbols that one finds in Assisi, representing St. Francis. One of them is the dove – a sign of peace. The lifeAssisi dove
and ministry of St. Francis were grounded in peace – a longing for peace among people; teaching peace as he traveled; modeling peace as the faithful, if not unlikely, leader of a growing community of followers. Wanting to take home a memento of my trip, of Assisi and St. Francis, and an ongoing reminder to me of my experience, I purchased a small, simple, necklace – a thin, black cord with a small dove made of local olive wood. I leave it out on my dresser so I see it regularly during the day; and I wear it often. I want to remember. I want to see my life, itself, as pilgrimage.

So for today – invitation. While my life pilgrimage has been underway for 62 years, I want to regularly look at it with the heart of a pilgrim. What will my experience of God be today? What signs, experiences, people join me today and how do they help me know myself, and God with me?


Living Well

Bread and Wine

I have been reading a book, recommended by my daughter, entitled, Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes. It is a beautiful, spiritual memoir of the author’s experience with food and family and friends and God.

imagesShe talks about her relationship with food – a love story in itself, challenged by sometimes too much and the body affects of that, and by the food allergies which members of her family have. She shares about deep loss and grief; about reunions; about friendships forged and maintained over time and distance; about carefully planned events, with formal invitations and fussy meals, that turned into impromptu responses to painful life emergencies. She talks about the dining club composed of other young couples early in their lives together, and the ways in which they came to know and love one another through late-into-the-night conversations around the table, as well as standing by one another with comfort food when loss and challenges arose. Her story is infused with the wisdom she has discovered through the food and friendships, distilled and clarified through her craft as a writer. Here are a few of her morsels:

“Food is a language of care, the thing we do when traditional language fails us, when we don’t know what to say, when there are no words to say.”

“I’m talking about feeding someone with honesty and intimacy and love, about making your home a place where people are fiercely protected, even if just for a few hours, from the crush and cruelty of the day.”

“The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment.”

Thanksgiving is next week, and we will be together with all of our children, my sister, her husband and their kids. Our own family joys and sorrows, sensitivities and expectations, worries and dreams, desires and disappointments, can so easily get stirred up and magnified as we prepare for ‘the holiday meal’ – that has been planned for and prepared for with as many of our favorite dishes as possible. We’ll each find our seat – bringing with us all of the individual challenges that are a part of our unique humanness. And before we take the first mouthful, my husband will offer the toast he always offers at every holiday meal. He’ll raise his glass and say – ‘this meal, this gathering around the table, is my favorite part of Thanksgiving. Being together, eating good food, sharing time together, is the best gift.’ We all giggle a bit – he says this every time – and then we take a sip, sit, and begin to eat.

So as we gather on Thanksgiving, and for the holidays just around the corner – with friends, with family; with ones we love and ones we struggle even to like; I pray that we can take a moment to open to the love story that is happening right then and there. I pray that we can open to the possibility and presence of a space for those with us – and for ourselves – “to feel seen and heard and loved;” that we can declare our tables to be a “safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment.”