I’m Getting Ready

I’m Getting Ready March 28, 2024

Long ago I saw a quote from Gertrude Stein, to wit, “I’m getting ready to read Proust.”  Portrait of Gertrude Stein, 1905 by Picasso

There is no question one must get ready for Proust, whose ‘fleuve’ is among the longest novels in the world. There is also no question that a pilgrim must get ready before setting out.  Jennifer Westwood’s book, “On Pilgrimage,” has a chapter on this step, which is as important as the trip itself.

I am getting ready to return to the path, to resume  the Via Francigena. Getting ready is both practical and spiritual.

On the practical side I long ago booked my flight, and have booked my lodgings as well.  I must check and double check because last time I misbooked myself and found myself in the right place on the wrong night. That cost me time and money.

On the spiritual side, turning to Westwood, she quotes my favorite pilgrim, Matsuo Basho, who said, “Even while I was getting ready, mending my torn trousers, tying a new strap to my hat… I was already dreaming of the full moon rising over the islands of Matsushima.”

While there are copious rituals for formal pilgrimages, blessings and such, getting ready spiritually simply means stepping into the liminal place between now and then, here and there.  That’s what Basho was doing.  The difference between planning and making ready is that the pilrim realizes the journey begins in your mind, long before your body.  This time has spiritual value.

Liminal times are all around us. We are not where we were and not yet where we are going.  Susan Beaumont, a church consultant, points to the airport as a liminal place.   Everything at an airport says neither here nor there.  Tom Hanks’ movie, “Terminal,” epitomizes this liminal world.  It is not a place we want to be for long.

Yet it is essential to the journey, spiritual as well as physical. In both cases, the question comes down to baggage. The pilgrim both needs and wants to take as little as possible.  Getting ready is fundamentally paring down. Practically, I must carry everything. The less I carry the easier the journey for my old back and legs. Spiritually, the less I have on my mind and spirit, the more I will be on the path and the journey.

The goal of the pilgrim is leaving yourself behind. Getting ready, entering the liminal place, is when we start that. I may still be in Michigan, but I am already dreaming of morning sun over the fields of Champagne.


About W. Frederick Wooden
Fred (technically Weldon Frederick) Wooden is a late life author, because he spent over forty years as a clergyman in six churches spread over five states. While doing that he wrote sermons and columns and wondered if any of it would matter in the long run. His notes from various travels, short stories written for fun, a memoir that morphed into a novel, a year of writing haiku as a spiritual exercise, are all ripening into books now that he has more time to edit and revise. You can read more about the author here.

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