This Pilgrimage We Call Life

A pilgrimage is usually understood to be a journey to a shrine or other designated location of importance to a person’s beliefs and faith.  Many consider it as a metaphorical journey into one’s beliefs and as a search of moral or spiritual significance.  If we understand  the spirit of the human to be consciousness, then I suggest that anything that expands consciousness can be seen to be a pilgrimage.  Indeed, Paulo Coelho, the Brazilian lyricist and novelist, has said that “life is a long pilgrimage from fear to hope”.

I find this lifelong journey of longing, discovery, vision and learning – being continuously “reborn” – to be both liberating and fulfilling.  One pilgrimage that I love to keep is to St. Ives in Cornwall, England.  It is this town that serves as the inspiration and setting for Riding To St. Ives, the second track on the new album Place & Time.  

St. Ia

The town is named after St. Ia, an Irish princess who was determined to spread her Catholic beliefs across the water to Cornwall sometime in the 5th or 6th Century.  Legend tells that her fellow saints, her brothers, thought she was too young and fragile to weather the journey and left her behind.  Shattered, she broke down on the shore, lost in anguished prayer.  Then she noticed a leaf floating in the water.  She touched the leaf and it grew large and sturdy enough to serve as a raft to venture across the Irish Sea.  She arrived before her brothers (somehow with 777 followers) and evangelized until her martyrdom.

As a child, I was taken to Cornwall often on vacation by my mother and father and as an adult, I find a very tangible sense of connection, of synchronicity, when I go there.

Fire Dancers – Mark Tobey

No better example of this is the first trip that my wife and I made by train one cold, British December, to what is also the home of the Tate St. Ives, an art gallery that exhibits the work of modern British artists.  There we found an exhibit of two of our favorite artists:  the potter Bernard Leach and the painter Mark Tobey.

Each year St. Ives is host to a masquerade event on New Year’s Eve – a remarkable and inspiring gathering.  Tens of thousands of people dress in costume and gather, like pilgrims, in the harbour to welcome the advent of the future. 

St. Ives Harbour

This shared awe and expectation became the vehicle for the song which is written in the traditional Greek lyric poem form of repeated choruses, which we now refer to as verses.  The harmonic and melodic structure were meant to suggest a Celtic sensitivity – a return to the familiar folk sound of the mid 20th Century – often referred to these days as “roots” music.

So, if returning, in a sense, to one’s roots can also be considered a pilgrimage, then this new collection of songs, Place & Time, performed “live from the floor” with acoustic instruments meets that criteria.  In the next post, I will have some very specific and exciting news about the nearing release of the album.  I will also continue to write more about the other songs on the album.  Thanks for sharing this journey with me!