Jim Friedrich said, "It's spelled Pilgrimage." One of many lessons in spelling. But Jim was (and is) the teacher of many things, and sometimes I learn. He often pointed to the elemental universe to which we ought to turn our gaze, and helped me turn my head from the stumbling blocks of the ordinary universe that is the overlay of that deeper, more magical land, the land behind the land of mere existence.
So Kathryn and I went on pilgrimage yesterday to the place where fine guitars are born, Nazareth, Pennsylvania, to the C.F. Martin & Company factory. I went to take my 1957 Martin 0018G Classical Guitar back for some serious rehab. Kathryn had given the guitar and me an opportunity for refit and refinement on my last birthday. It is sure the guitar will be refit, but who knows about me? Refit and refinement is a bit of a stretch. Oh well. At least I will be able to exercise those fingers and what's left of my mind on the Martin's return.
The thing about pilgrimage is that it is both about the process and the gaze. It is not very much about the place. The Martin Guitar factory is just that, a factory. The romance and the greater world are not in the place, but in the going and in the understanding of what is going on, the gaze is turned to the place of gratitude and awe.
I am filled with gratitude that my father got me this Guitar when I was seventeen. It cost a lot then and it was a big deal... and he was very proud to get it for me. He was so willing with each of us children to make our best efforts his own by giving us the tools to get on with the doing and enjoyment of life. The three of us sons all followed the gaze: Christopher took photographs, Hooper flew, and I have tried to make music if not on the Guitar in words. I am thankful that Kathryn brought me here with the guitar so that we could both be refurbished for the days ahead. I hope to take up singing to her again, a fine thing to do when the gaze opens the always new realities of grace.
Visiting the factory was oddly an occasion of awe: ordinary activities of craft and industry were turned to making instruments of beauty and music. Others would make these instruments sing, but the voice was created there. This place that smelled of sawdust and varnish and wax was oddly the spawning grounds for those who would gaze on perfect sound and try to reach it, even if (as in my case) the reach exceeds my grasp. At least the reach is there, pointing the way.
As on any good pilgrimage, there were religious items for sale and give-away stuff for the faithful. We each got a cut out from a guitar face.
Well there it is. Pilgrimage.
It of course got me to wondering just how easily I have forgotten that going on pilgrimage is more than simply about the details of the progress, or the place we visit, the trinkets, or even the outward and visible signs of whatever it is that we see on arrival.
We go because our spiritual friends point us there, beyond the mere factory or grotto, or the broken guitar or body, or whatever. We go because our gaze is turned to the core, not to be confused with the center. The center points to someone, something, someplace that is, we think, the real and truth, Jerusalem, object of worship. The core points to the reality behind the object of our gaze. Kathryn and Jim and my father, Ed, and so many others keep pointing, keep turning me towards a deeper gaze. So on this Saturday, being the day before the 15th Sunday after Pentecost, I am thankful for friends and guides who turn my head.
And I am, in spite of all my grousing, thankful that bishops went on pilgrimage to Canterbury, Jerusalem, and wherever else they might go and hope that they all indeed had friends and guides that turned their heads to see behind and beneath the momentary glories of the religious factories the source of gratitude and awe, the source of grace. I hope and pray that they did indeed gaze upon the source at least in one moment or another.
It is an ol' fart's gentle world, I suppose, where the drama of just who gets chosen Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, interesting as it is for us living in Delaware, is less the core of things than is, say The Kinks playing in the background, or the deliciousness of Kathryn's gift, or looking a a picture of two bowls I gave Jim and Karen on their wedding and reading the poem I wrote then. It a poem that serves for all who turn us towards the core and away from the foolishness of the "mere."
One Meal, Two Bowls: Remember to save some for Elijah & Friends.
After many years
it comes to this:
Two bowls at the table,
four shoes by the bed,
peanut butter in the cupboard,
prayers of thanksgiving on waking,
finding there the warm body
of a life friend.
The trip home
is always worth the travel:
and all those whose Troy and Oz
seem now old adventures
of moral and passionate violence,
Analytics not to be compared
with worlds to come,
in which the Tao
breaths life into each moment,
and two bowls are the miracle.
OK... back to work.