making a pilgrimage


I knew this experiment Living Chapters would ask me to look at and examine my stuff. Personally and internally… I just didn’t realize how literal the process would become.

In a recent spelunking adventure in the depths of my storage room of stuff, I came across a rather large box of rocks. Yep, I have been collecting rocks for more than 20 years now. Not only have I been collecting rocks but I have been moving them with me from home to home. For someone who moves as much as I do this is no small feat.  These rocks mean a lot to me.

Upon inspection, I  found much more than stones inside – There were small objects from each corner of the earth I have traveled to. Sticks from Scotland’s highlands, shells from South Australia, walnuts from Turkey and wild turkey feathers from the Eastern Shore of MD are just a few examples. Instead of buying souvenirs from my travels, I would just come home with a new handful of rocks. Plain objects to most but to me each piece is a memory holding specific stories and tracking explorations and adventures. I was never really good at keeping a proper journal but I was great at keeping my rocks.

I’ve looked at these rocks a million times and wondered if I could ever help them find a home.  (Some may say I’ve been doing the same for myself) But since I am still moving along my path, I think now is the time to end their journey so I can continue on without the excess baggage to weigh me down. There’s nothing like a 25 lb box of rocks to make you realize that your stuff (sentimental or literal) is really starting to weigh you down!  I can hold on to the memories but it’s time to release the rocks.

I know, I know, holding on to a box of rocks and adding to it each year is a ridiculously sentimental thing to do, but while I’m still in confession mode – I’ll admit, I’m a bit sentimental.  I figure, the only way to phase these objects out of my life would have to be through a meaningful or sentimental process.  I gained all of these objects through exploration why not release them through exploration.  It was time to make a pilgrimage.

This weekend I decided to go to the place where I had my initial taste of exploration – my backyard stomping grounds in Dillsburg, PA. My older brother Jason and I use to go for long hikes in the state game lands near our home. We would lose ourselves for hours, wandering through corn fields, walking in the woods, catching insects, building forts and getting into  trouble.

There was absolutely nothing out there but trees, corn, dirt and rocks. For us in that time growing up, that nothing, was everything we needed. Jason and I would make maps of the 3 lakes, the connected cornfields and the trails in the woods. And then we would create stories to go along with our visual pictures making our own “choose your own adventure” type books. In this place, we learned to take the simple elements of time and space and make them into a new reality. You kind of had to make things sentimental, dramatic or elaborate to create meaning when you were a kid alone in the stix of Pennsyltucky.  It was necessary for survival.

I have been back to this place many times but just to drive through. It was time to return on foot. It seemed appropriate for this month’s challenge of making and creating to go back to the place where, essentially, I started to create. And it seemed to me a perfect  resting place for my rocks.

Within a few short hours this past Sunday, these objects that have traveled so far, from the coast of Australia, the plains of Tanzania, and the hills of Kashmir have finally found their resting place in the cornfields, cemeteries and autumn leaf piles in Dillsburg, PA. They will live here at least until someone else comes along to collect them.

To see more photos of hikes and daily creations please visit the Living Chapters Facebook Page


Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.

5 thoughts on “making a pilgrimage

  1. Brian Twenter

    I really enjoyed this, I don’t know what to call it, “post.” The metaphor was so literal that it made me chuckle to myself which released some of my burdens. Thank you for this and the whole project. I’m inspired continuously.

      1. Brian Twenter

        I think the metaphor spoke to me and a writer and PhD in English. I don’t collect anything really. When I travel, I sometimes by gifts and take pictures for friends and family, but if something is particularly striking, I take a mental picture just for me. If someone wants to “Air Sharks” in South Africa or camp on The Great Wall of China, I’m not going to experience it for them. Please keep up the cool work, and I’ll keep reading.

  2. thewondertoo

    my cousin used to tell me ‘Shannon, you have to throw out the flowers” he meant this very literally as I was cleaning out all my boxes at my parents’ house – full of flowers from past loves. but we continue to use this phrase to metaphorically remind me to get rid of those past memories so i can see the new magic in front of me. flowers. rocks. you know -just a difference in weight.


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