3 images: Lake with fishing pole; Wreath with wren; Monument in cemetery

Pilgrimage: a visit to a place that is considered special, where you go to show your respect —Cambridge.org

While remaining cautious and staying home continues to be an important way to control the spread of COVID-19, the thought of travel, treks, retreats, and pilgrimages are tempting. Some people are translating those urges into activities and practices close to home. In fact, we’ve discovered that some of our staff are quietly heading out on "Pilgrimages Close to Home." Get a glimpse of these sacred treks below and join us on your own “Pilgrimage Close to Home.” We invite you to share yours in the comment section below.

Nathan Moore: Reminder at the Threshold
Wrens have been making nests in the wreaths that hang on our front porch. Four baby wrens emerged from the nest on the first wreath. When they left the nest, we replaced the wreath. The birds built another nest, this time with one baby. Having these nests at the threshold of our home has changed the way we leave and return to the house each day. It’s a lovely reminder of the sacredness of life, growth, and protection.

Amy Ferguson: A Pilgrimage to the Front Porch
Living in a time when a commute to work has shifted from 20 minutes to 20 steps, we've established a bit of a ritual to end the workday: a pilgrimage to the front porch. Rarely used previously, we now sit in its shade almost daily and watch and listen as the sound of city traffic meets the song of birds and their evening activity in the trees beyond the porch. This hyper-local pilgrimage has also allowed us to notice—and now watch for—the baby bunnies and woodchucks who live in the brambles and come out for their evening meal.

Michelle Scheidt, Swimming in Local Lakes
One of my new practices during the pandemic is swimming in local lakes. I started doing laps at a local YMCA when I was 22-years-old. While I have continued the practice for 30 years, this year I’ve rediscovered a whole new world of pilgrimage to nearby Michigan waters. Located just a few minutes’ drive from my home outside Kalamazoo, two lakes have become more than just places to exercise. Swimming in these lakes has become a sort of pilgrimage for me, a welcome respite.

Swimming has always been a meditative practice for me, with immersion in water and rhythmic breath transporting me into a transcendent space. The lakes add to that a sense of deep connection with the planet as I experience being surrounded and held by the water. 

The other day I met a friend there—seeing each other for the first time since the pandemic began—and we swam across the lake a couple of times as the sun lowered in the evening sky. I have taken a few family members for quick swims to cool off and play in the water. My spouse bought an inflatable kayak and enjoys exploring among the sand bars and lily pad flowers while I lap around the lake. Sometimes I go alone, with a bright yellow safety buoy for visibility and backup flotation. I should be able to continue the discovery indefinitely, since the state claims more than 11,000 inland lakes waiting for me to jump in. 

Janelle Weesner: Daily Connections with Nature
For me, water has always been special and I’ve always liked to fish but it has only been when we are at the lake or on vacation. For a little while now, I’ve been making it a practice to go to a lake every day even if it is for a limited amount of time between dropping a kid off and picking them up. This makes going intentional and purposeful. I think about loading the car, what to take, look for spots on the map, and drive around to investigate the best location from the list.

Once there it isn’t really about catching the fish (although that is a nice addition, then we release anyway), it is about the connection with nature, the water, the focus and contemplation, and making the time for me or fitting it in somewhere. Before the COVID-19 pandemic I wasn’t home much. I would drive home to grab kids and go or meet them wherever my helpers had dropped them off. Since COVID-19 I haven’t left the house much, it has been a drastic tip of the scale that needed to be a bit more balanced and right now, this is the solution.

Nathan Moore: Running Through a Cemetery
My pilgrimage practice is running through a cemetery near my home, which is very close to where I live. Because cemeteries are, in my opinion, sacred spaces, I avoided running through this one at first. Then, I decided to try saying the names on the headstones as a ritual of respect, and that felt really good…so I do this every day.