In this collection, David Whyte looks at the great questions of human life through the eyes of the pilgrim: someone passing through relatively quickly, looking for the biggest context they can find or imagine, someone dependent on friendship, hospitality and help from friends and strangers alike, someone who has to ask for visible and invisible help. Subject to the vagaries of wind and weather along the way, the nature of the destination changes, step by step, as the end of the path approaches. A pilgrim is someone up for adventure and good company.
One of the central themes of a pilgrimage is internal resilience, the necessity for following a certain star not seen or perceived by anyone else, an internal migration running parallel to the outer road, keeping the journey in the world relevant and true. There is a necessity for hardiness, for shelter, for risk, for companionship, for vulnerability; for creating a more beautiful mind. Above all, a pilgrimage requires us to ask for help, to develop an ability to recognize when it is being offered, and the humor, humility and open hands to receive it.
The road in the end taking the path the sun had taken,
into the western sea, and the moon rising behind you
as you stood where ground turned to ocean: no way
to your future now but the way your shadow could take,
walking before you across water, going where shadows go,
no way to make sense of a world that wouldn't let you pass
except to call an end to the way you had come,
to take out each frayed letter you had brought
and light their illumined corners; and to read
them as they drifted on the late western light;
to empty your bags; to sort this and to leave that;
to promise what you needed to promise all along,
and to abandon the shoes that brought you here
right at the water's edge, not because you had given up
but because now, you would find a different way to tread,
and because, through it all, part of you would still walk on,
no matter how, over the waves.
- David Whyte