San Luis, Colorado & Pilgrimages of the Soul

I woke up this morning, and it was as though the world was new. I stumbled out of bed and opened the motel door, and had my breath stolen. Colorado is simply gorgeous. Outside my window were clouds and sunshine and mountains and Hope, resting there among them all.

Last night was perfect. I am so happy I checked into that hotel, sketchy tryst interruption and all, because it helped to focus and relax me. I dyed my hair, I put a mask on my face, I wrote a great blog entry, I edited some photos, and even Panda was in a good mood. I slept like a baby, all comfy and cozy and safe, and I probably would have (maybe should have) stayed there a few more days. But I didn’t want to ruin the magic of my one evening there, and instead I headed off towards Colorado Springs.

I almost feel bad for not staying in San Luis, a little town I had dinner in last night. It was also the place where I stopped to walk up the hill and view the stations of the cross, as rendered by the artist Huberto Maestas. San Luis is the oldest established town in Colorado, and the shrine is located on a mesa, up which I had to walk a winding dirt path to the top.

When I reached the shrine at the top, there was a sign on the church door. It was the only printed thing I saw in the entire area, and across the top it said “What is a Pilgrimage?” The words caught me, since recently while I was staying with Joshua, he kept referring to my trip as such. So I smiled over that, but then something twinged inside of me, and I took a picture of the sign so I could read the answer later.

As I was returning down the path, watching the sun set, and the lightning flash against the mountains in the distance, I decided to stop for a moment and read the answer to the question. As I was reading the words on my camera screen, I felt my eyes well up with tears, unexpected and needed.

A pilgrimage is a journey taken in light of a story. The storey preceded us: we’ve read it, we’ve heard it, we’ve been raised in it. And at some pint we need to test that story with our own experience – to read it with our lives and make it our own.

A pilgrimage – whether Dante’s or our own has certain distinguishing features. The pilgrim sets out on a path that others have taken, hoping to witness what others have seen – so see it with his or her own eyes. Pilgrims travel in company but each must encounter the holy site personally. Finally, the pilgrims return, tell others what they have seen and heard, so that others might be moved to set out on a pilgrimage themselves – to go and do likewise.

– Paul Eli

It meant a lot to me, to read that. It assisted in reminding me of one of my many reasons for this journey these past few months. More than anything, I hope to inspire others. I want to inspire people to make the changes in their life necessary to attain authentic, soulful, and joyful lives. So many people live “lives of quiet desperation,” as Henry David Thoreou stated, and “go to the grave with the song still in them.” Lots of people that I’ve met on the road have talked about a ‘consciousness shift’ that’s happening in the world. Many of these theories are based around the year 2012, but I didn’t get too much into that, haha. The point is – perhaps we’re reaching a time where the masses are going to wake up – already I can see it in the eyes of so many children – children who are aware on a deeper level than many adults. And then we have Obama, who could potentially change the world in ways that we desperately need. I don’t know… perhaps it’s an exciting time, and maybe I should look at it that way, rather than become overwhelmed by the depravity of the society around me. Perhaps I could be a part of this “change,” this “shift” in the world… and how wondrous that could be.

On my way out of town, I randomly decided to pull into Sophie’s Taqueria, where I was welcomed so kindly, even though they were trying to close. It was there that I had something I have never heard of before actually – a sopapilla. I guess it’s a completely common Mexican dish in the Southwest, but I had never heard of it before. And… it was delicious. And everyone was so kind; as I was leaving, they asked if I was going to stay around for the festival for Santa Ana they were having. I must admit, I’ve thought of that little town quite often in the past 24 hours. It was a wonderful stop on my journey.

I’m exhausted. I want to write more but I can’t. Sarah (formerly Lavalee) has taken me – her and her husband, Jake, and I am eternally grateful to them. 🙂

Colorado Springs is absolutely beautiful, by the way.

Last Evening in Ellijay

It’s two in the morning, and I’m far too tired for this (after two hours on the phone with Jason!), but I’m annoyed at myself that I haven’t blogged more lately. I’ve certainly had the time – sitting here, relaxing in the beautiful mountains. However, I have been lame and puttered away my evening hours rather than writing marvelous works of literary nonfiction.

The last few days have been delightful. Needless to say, my entire stay here in Ellijay has been heaven. Lisa and Doug are ridiculously wonderful people, and I couldn’t be happier here with them. I am completely at peace, and have spent more time talking about things that matter, and laughing, than I have in years.

This evening I looked in the mirror, and saw myself. It only lasted about 10 seconds or so, but there I was. I haven’t had that experience much in the past year – usually I see a stranger, and it saddens (often frightens) me, but today I glanced up, and there I was. And I smiled in a way I haven’t smiled in months, and I wanted to run outside and hug a tree.

Much like the way LISA hugged a tree yesterday at Amicalola Falls (okay fine I hugged the tree, too, I was just trying to implicate her). It was a gorgeous park, and we hiked up the 164 steps, and took lovely pictures, and all we needed was a picnic and a puppy and the world would have been perfect. 🙂

Afterwards, we headed over to Dahlonega, which was the location of the first gold rush here in Georgia. It was a quaint little place, and we went into the stores and looked at all the knickknacks, and Doug was our knave and carried our water bottles, and life was basically beautiful for the entire day. AND I bought myself a cowboy hat! And, yes, I am as happy about that as that exclamation point implies. 🙂

So tomorrow I’m hitting the road again – this time will be the hardest it’s been for me to leave a place. I could honestly stay here for the rest of my life, and be happy, but I know there is a whole entire world out there for me to see, and I’m looking forward to continuing this beautiful journey. I’ll have to make sure to keep in touch with Lisa, because her words remind me of all the peaceful, soulful things inside me, and our beliefs and dreams line up so well. I’ve never been more inspired to continue being myself, and to pursue all the things that my soul whispers for me to do.

Tomorrow is Tennessee. People have really rallied to my aid, and I have two people in Knoxville willing to take me in, and a writer in Nashville waiting for me on Thursday. I’m looking forward, now that I am well rested and rejuvenated, to meeting new people and feeling that feeling of randomness again. As much as I love security and comfort, it’s a great experience to push myself further, stretch myself into new realms. Much like the yin and the yang that I was talking with Lisa about the other day – that delicate balance between pleasure and pain. That point where one is stretching past the point of comfort, but at the same time feeling a beautiful balance and one-ness with the body, and the earth.

Oh goodness, I almost forgot to mention. This morning (which for me was the middle of the night) at 6 AM, the fire alarm went off, and I was shocked out of sleep. Simultaneously, strangely enough, a huge thunder and lightning storm was happening outside, so it seemed as thought my entire world was in chaos. I was completely confused, but after checking in with Lisa that everything was all right, I returned to my bedroom and proceeded to pull up all the shades and let the outside into the inside. There are six large windows in the room, so it felt like I was in the middle of the storm, and it was amazing to sit there with the lightning flashing and the thunder booming. I tried to pinpoint the place on my body where I felt the thunder (yes these are the types of things I’ve been doing) and I discovered that the thunder resonated deeply within my ribcage, spanning across my abdomen. It was powerful and wonderful, and completely thrilling. I stayed awake with Panda for as long as my eyes could manage, until I fell back asleep, the sound of deep rumbling in my ears.

‘Tis enough for now, I must rest. Tomorrow is a big day, and I need to be prepared for driving through the Smokey Mountain National Park and checking out the ridiculousness that is Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. 🙂