Library Committee: The Sunday morning parlor display is on vacation. Please check out "Reading for a Rainy Day" on the library mantel. Stories & Scones Book Club will meet on Sunday, September 29. The topic will be the writings of Parker Palmer. Look for a review of Palmer’s A Hidden Wholeness in the August newsletter and a selection of his books on the mantel later this summer.
“A Leading to Read”
A regular column by the Library Committee reviewing books in the Meetinghouse Library
THE ROAD THAT TEACHES: LESSONS IN TRANSFORMATION THROUGH TRAVEL by Valerie Brown. Reviewed by Nancy E. James
This pilgrimage is an invitation to inner knowing, to see with childlike eyes, and to reconnect and remember that I am made in the image of God, and this connection is deeper than any brokenness. (p. 78)
Thus writes Valerie Brown, the guide for our “Journey toward Wholeness” at the 2013 Fall Gathering. In the above quote she is speaking about one of the five travel experiences she relates in The Road That Teaches—five pilgrimages that were both geographical and spiritual.
“Every journey is both inward and outward, an opportunity to discover new meaning or encounter the world with fresh eyes,” Valerie begins the Introduction to her book. In Spain she walked El Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James, perhaps the world’s most famous pilgrim route and the longest, “sixty‐two miles across the rugged north coast.” (p. 1) El Camino pilgrims carry credentials “to certify our intention”; these are stamped at each albergue, or hostel, along the way. (p. 13)
In India she “followed Gandhi’s footsteps” with a group jointly sponsored (at her suggestion) by Right Sharing of World Resources and Kirkridge Retreat and Study Center. One of her most moving experiences on this pilgrimage was seeing the few meager possessions that Gandhi owned at his death.
Seeking to reconnect with her Catholic roots, she traveled to the Scottish island of Iona—”said to be a ‘thin place,’ where the separation of the spiritual and the material, the seen and the unseen, is very narrow.” (p. 64)
She traveled to Japan “to walk the twelve‐thousand‐year‐old traditional pilgrimage to eighty‐eight temples of Shikoku . . . and to visit the island of Shodoshima . . . dedicated to Kannon, the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion.” (p. 90) One of her experiences on this journey was the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, which she compares to a Quaker meeting in its “silence and spaciousness.” (p. 109)
“I came to New Zealand mostly to satisfy my addiction to beauty,” Valerie writes. She undertook this pilgrimage in her late forties with her new husband. “It was a place we wanted to discover together.” (pp. 112‐13)
Throughout her narrations of these journeys, Valerie vividly describes the details of each landscape and each sacred site, and conveys the spiritual milieu and heritage of each culture. She also candidly reveals herself, admitting her everyday tendency to “rush around” and try to control events, and confessing how each pilgrimage taught her to slow down and be more present in the moment. Each chapter concludes with one, two, or all three of the following: a Buddhist gatha (prayer), “Quaker Queries for Reflection,” and “Practice Lesson of _____________ (the specific place).”
Chapter 6, “Pilgrimage to Nearby Places,” describes a few of Valerie’s favorite close‐to‐home havens of solitude: a cloistered convent in New Jersey, “city gardens, woodland gardens,” and meadows. In the “Practice Lesson” at the end of this chapter, she encourages readers to “Take a walk in a nearby park. Plant a small garden or pot of flowers or herbs, and tend to it.” (p. 143)
“The spiritual path, the pilgrim’s path, the path of Light within,” Valerie says, “is about becoming more of what I am meant to be.
As I become more myself, I see the union of all things. My calling is to be drawn closer and closer toward Love.” (p. 142) This book is fascinating to read for the author’s account of the places she saw and the people she met, and it is thought‐provoking to study for the lessons that these roads taught her.
The holdings in our Meeting library can be checked from your computer at home at http://www.librarything.com/catalog/PittsburghFriendsMtg