Creativity and Spirituality with Joel McKerrow

Month: September, 2012

Pilgrim Poet


There are two types of travellers. 

There are tourists and there are pilgrims.

Or perhaps it is best to say the traveller is at times a pilgrim and is inevitably, at times, a tourist. Or to be even more specific, the traveller is always a tourist who at times becomes a pilgrim. Each new day filled with decisions about the way one chooses to face the world. 

The tourist is a consumer of culture. This is not a bad thing. Many families rely on tourism for their bread and butter. The tourist comes to a new location and seeks to enjoy the sights and sounds and tastes of that culture.

Yet, I am slowly learning there is a deeper way to move through the world.  

There is a certain kind of knowledge that one can only gain through pilgrimage. Through what may be called the ‘ritualistic journey’. That is a journey filled with ritual, with the sacred art of taking actions and imbuing them with meaning. Filling the vessel of the everyday with sacred things. The pilgrim is one who takes their travels and imbues them with meaning. Be it their small daily experiences of meandering through Times Square in New York, or placing ones hand upon a thousand year old grandfather redwood in a grove in California, or reading Ginsburg’s ‘Howl’ at City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, or performing poetry at the Nuyorican Cafe in New York City, or drinking water from a spring that flows through the Rocky mountains. All of these are actions filled with meaning. Or be it the pilgrims larger journey back to their ancestral roots in Scotland, to stand at the grave of their great, great, great, great grandfather, to stand before the Celtic Cross on Iona island. 

The pilgrim is the traveller who chooses not to walk blind through this world. To journey well is to see the world beyond the world. To discover a deeper reality. Pilgrimage challenges ones ordinary way of seeing the world. The habitual laziness of our attention needs to be shaken from its rigidity. To travel in search of the sacred. To sense the soul of the land and be transformed by ones connection with it. The journey, therefore, does not take you from this reality into another, it is rather the journey to see this very earthly reality in a transformed way. To see it with a new set of lenses. In this way, it is not the external space that changes on pilgrimage, it is the internal space. The space that lies between our eyes and those deep places within. The path is, therefore, both outward and inward at the same.

My desire is to be such a ‘present’ traveller. To somehow move differently through this world. To not just be a tourist. The purpose is to come to attention and so to see through the veil of this world to something deeper and thus to fall hard into the sacred mystery. The  path is to seek to be present in each moment. To move beyond being a tourist. To become a pilgrim.




wrong side of the tracks

We keep finding ourselves on the wrong side of town. I think it’s something to do with bus stations. We arrive in cities and wander through disheveled quiet streets knowing that somewhere, not far away, there must be coffee shops teeming with life. But, not always knowing where we are, where we’re going or what we’re looking for we are met often by the less attractive side of city life.

Met by gritty, tired, mostly silent streets that look in need of a scrubbing brush and all seem to say, “we were promised more than this, by those town planners, all those years ago.”

We are met by gritty, tired, mostly silent people who too were promised more and, like us, are unsure where they are, or how to move in a different direction.

When we find those funky streets, teeming with promises realised and new hopes springing from the recycled, repurposed, repossessed beer bottles, (which now live a new life as window frames or vases), I sit sipping my crushed strawberry lemonade knowing that three blocks away the architecture tells a different story.

It’s not that Melbourne doesn’t also tell this story of the confusing co-existence of the haves and have-nots. It’s that at home I know how best to avoid those things that make me uncomfortable, those streets that make me walk just a little faster, those lives I like to forget call my city home. But new towns mean new eyes wide with expectancy and not so easily able to disregard the ‘other side’.

~ Heidi ~