Monday, November 21, 2011




Introduction by Hallelujah Truth  HAPPY THANKSGIVING WEEK PILGRIMS! It is the time of year to openly express our gratitude about being here on this beautiful planet. It is also a very good time to address the question of PILGRIMAGE—OUR JOURNEY HERE NOW.

Hallelujah for finding fellow pilgrims while we pursue our own individual JOURNEYS! In the spring of 2010, I connected with the writer, Melissa Tidwell, at the Artist Conference Network (ACN) weekend in Atlanta, Georgia. During this weekend, we artists delve deeply into our hearts and minds and cultivate a vision statement to guide us in our work. At the completion of the ACN weekend, I knew I had met a soulmate. It is with great pleasure that I offer you Hallelujah’s first guest blog, THIS PILGRIM WAY, written by spiritual art pilgrim, Melissa Tidwell.


Spiritual practices move us from one place to another, from our habitual stances of fear and reactivity into a longing to go deeper in the mystery. Some practices use stillness to do this, while other practices achieve the same thing with movement. Pilgrimage is a practice that is about moving our feet along a more or less fixed route so that our spirits can be set free to take in the holiness around us.

Going along these paths worn smooth by the feet of other pilgrims, we can see what they saw, breathe in the same air and stumble over the same rocks. Our process is unique to our experience but also part of a bigger pattern, tradition, history, some of which we can only guess at. And this seeing that we are not alone gives us courage to undertake the arduous parts of the journey, face the emptiness of the desert before us or in us.

This pilgrimage need not be formal, like the tradition of San Juan de Campostelo, following a path across Spain that thousands of pilgrims walk every year. A pilgrimage can be the walk through the year, tracing the path from season to season, watching the leaves turn or the butterflies arrive. Holidays are a lovely way to mark the passage of time, and most of us have a built-in calendar of personal holy days that we recognize as we tramp through the year. The anniversary of a loved one’s death can be one such marker, a day of remembrance. Other days can carry a lighter touch, as my own personal ritual for the opening day of baseball season is about more than the game but also about the eternal recurring hope that this is the year.

Some of our ritual observances can grow stale of course, especially those that are accompanied by commercialized excess. We can try to breathe new life into the old ways, invent new forms, refuse altogether to participate. But the art of being a pilgrim involves the continual putting of one foot after the other, of being exactly where we are, not skipping ahead to the end or sitting stuck by the side of the road.

In my family, there are certain foods that must be present at holiday meals, like special cake baked for Christmas, but more than anything the iron clad requirement that potato salad be served for every important gathering. Even at Christmas, when this summery picnic food seems in some ways wildly out of place. But we have to have it, and it has to be made to exacting specifications, down to a sort of ritual blessing that must be uttered when mixing it. At times it seems like so much trouble, but it is also a comfort and now I can’t imagine not having it. I have puzzled over it, wondered about its origins in our class and cultural context, poked around the edges of it as family myth and lore. It’s an oddity, a symbol, a sign, the sort of things pilgrims carry with them as a key to this deeper life we seek, rich with the past and the heart of always becoming.

What is your pilgrim path about? What clues or tools do you carry with you? What special points along the way do you observe with ritual or special attention? If you aren’t sure, maybe it’s time to begin seeing yourself as a pilgrim, being attentive to the path, and marking the way with little feasts of joy and remembrance.
“I’m curious and hopeful at every bend.” -Melissa Tidwell
photos by Halllelujah Truth

Melissa Tidwell, a spiritually focused writer, was born in Augsburg, Germany, and grew up on military bases around the world. After residing in Nashville for more than a decade, Melissa “pilgrimed” her way to Atlanta in 2010.  Currently, she is seeking a publisher for her spiritual memoir, How Janis Saved Me.

In response to my question, “Who are you spiritually?,” Melissa responded thoughtfully, “My spiritual pilgrimage at times has been a process of fleeing from an oppressive orthodoxy towards a wider understanding of the spirit. Curiously, the path seems to be leading me in some ways right back to where I started.”

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Ruth and Melissa for expanding the definition of a pilgrimage. U.S. politicians these days thump Bibles and declare their allegiance to Christianity, but I do not believe they know the meaning of a real Spiritual Journey beyond the sound bytes. Deep searching is a personal quest that even little children seem to have a sense of. Family traditions are one way to connect us to something bigger along the way.