A spiritual pilgrimage to Concord

My friend Anne Tanner e-mailed me a link to a web log written by her friend, Lori Erickson, an Episcopal deacon and travel writer who visits sacred sites—mainly sites of Christian pilgrimage, but including sites held sacred by different kinds of people for different reasons.

Anne foresaw that I would be particularly interested in what Lori Erickson saw and wrote about in Concord, Mass., home of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott and other people that we Unitarian Universalists like to think of as our spiritual ancestors.

Henry Thoreau's grave

Of all the markers, it was Thoreau’s grave that brought tears to my eyes. When you approach it from a distance, you can see a large, impressive monument that bears the name “Thoreau,” but as you draw closer you realize that this is the family burial stone, filled with the names of his relatives.  Nearby is a tiny marker that bears a single name: “Henry.”  In death, as in life, Henry David Thoreau doesn’t take up much real estate.

Here’s what touched me the most.  His grave is obviously a pilgrimage site for many people, for like many holy sites it’s covered with tokens and offerings.  I’ve seen hundreds of such holy sites before, but I was surprised and moved by what people bring to Thoreau’s grave.  Scattered around the small stone were pencils and pens, plus scraps of paper on which people have written their favorite passages from his work.  How utterly perfect.

Thoreau likely would complain about the waste of perfectly good writing utensils, but at the same time, I can imagine him being pleased that after all these years, his words still draw people here, to this quiet spot beneath tall trees.

via Spiritual Travels.

Replica of Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.  He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.  In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.  If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be.  Now put the foundations under them.”

               ==Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Click on The Transcendentalist Trail for Lori Erickson’s full account of her visit to Concord.

Click on The Holy Rover Blog for her complete travels.

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