Friday, August 8, 2014

Walking: The Art of Seeing and Being

A year ago, I embarked on a life-changing journey walking the ancient Spanish pilgrimage route, The Way of St. James - popularly known as the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. 

New York City across the Hudson River. [© Angelica Berrie]
The experience of walking in preparation for the 100 kilometer stretch to earn the pilgrim certificate or credencial deepened my awareness of life as an inner journey that leads us toward our better selves.

An exercise in letting go, shedding the baggage of daily life to free our self in pursuit of the sacred, can be scary but every day of walking leads us to pay more attention to our inner life. 

Gerald Manley Hopkins described this sense of being as our inscape, the interior landscape wherein everything we encounter expresses its uniqueness, individual essence and divinity. This openness to the essence of simple things is the gift that stayed with me long after I returned from my Camino. 

View of New York and New Jersey from the G. W. Bridge. [© Angelica Berrie
Living beside the Hudson, I see the enigmatic flow of the river switch direction at certain hours of the day, watch the geese rise toward the sun at dawn and fly home in formation at sunset, catch the copper light reflected in glass buildings across the water at dusk, marvel at small things that happen every day in the life of this river.

The view from George Washington Bridge. [© Angelica Berrie]
Crossing the George Washington Bridge on foot, with a view of Manhattan stretching out before me, I feel small and humble. 

Walking to the Cloisters, I am transported by an incredibly moving sound installation by Janet Cardiff: The Forty Part Motet - a musical composition from the 15th century, recorded in forty different voices played through forty separate speakers evenly spaced around the walls of the Fuentiduena Chapel. The sacred music squeezed my heart so unexpectedly, I wept with joy.

Fallen tree across the Hudson River Greenway path. [© Angelica Berrie
I discover a path through the Hudson River Greenway to the Riverbank State Park, which sits atop a sewage treatment facility. This little world of repurposed space contains the urban delights of a carousel, skating rink, swimming pool, basketball court and outdoor amphitheater. 

River life. [© Angelica Berrie
But it is the simple things one might ordinarily miss - little goslings swimming in a row, the sound of a woodpecker echoing from towering trees along the cliff, a cormorant drying its wings in the sun - that evoke a sense of what it means to be alive in this moment. 

King of his rock. [© Angelica Berrie