The thing about pilgrimage, that intentional wandering for and with God, is that one seeks tangible evidence of the journey. As anyone who has ever set foot in a truck stop or been lured into a gift shop knows, souvenirs from the road are a rite of the passage. The tokens we choose to remind us of our special places tell a lot about who we are and our notion of pilgrimage, as well as the nature of the sacredness we find along the way.
To quote Charles Foster in The Sacred Journey: “Holiness, in this gleefully physical world of ours, can travel in pebbles or trinkets.” Indeed!
One of my favorite places on the planet is a small beach in Ventura, Calif. It is a “thin place,” a Celtic Christianity concept of a permeable spot between earthly reality and a wider one, where it seems as if it’s possible to touch heaven. God always meets me in that spot: in the beauty of the place, in the Pacific breeze, in the coarse sand, in summer’s haze and in winter’s sparkling skies. Throughout the almost 20 years I’ve been visiting this particular beach, I’ve collected an assortment of rocks, Baggies of sand, even a couple of twigs. I keep these treasured items because they instantly takes me to a very special place. When I look at photos or see one of the rocks nestled atop honest-to-goodness Pierpont Beach sand, I am immediately back in that spiritual space, even though I’m a thousand miles away.