Pilgrimage

October. Growing up the month meant, above all, sand and water. The leaves turned; we packed the station wagon with coolers and towels and kites and puzzles; we drove out of the city, past Mt. Rainier, through woods, and toward the coast. Washington beaches are not known for their sunny hospitality, even in summer. Fall brought high winds (for the kites) and the occasional storm (for puzzles and hot chocolate).

I have walked this same ligament of land for twenty-seven years. We left the room that morning, my brother and I, shucked our shoes, and headed north. The sand flies fine about our ankles as we trek down to the water and we pause to toe-pick sand dollars, to read the driftwood. We walk along the shore’s liminal line, damp sand caking our soles. At times the saltwater surges: our feet are cleansed.

When we walk this way, my brother and I, we often link arms. Although he is younger, I must look up to see his face. Today, for a while, we talk on mundane topics: school, girlfriends, children, work.

“Do you believe in God?�
“Yes.�
“Me too.�
“I’m glad.�

There is an intimate connection between blood, sand, and spirit that rises to the surface and is renewed each year for me upon this shore. These sands have witnessed my father’s testimony, my mother’s teachings, my sister’s songs, my brother’s belief. A family’s faith found.

Waves quietly and continually shift this ground. Facing north, I move along the earth, a granular strand giving way beneath my feet. Perhaps I should not build my home here; perhaps it is a sign of weakness that I draw my strength from sandy ground. And yet I prefer to think of it in terms of expiation and revelation—a sure knowledge that change is possible, and will come.

4 comments for “Pilgrimage

  1. Rosalynde Welch
    October 9, 2006 at 3:40 pm

    Never was a primary song deconstructed in such lovely form, Jenny! Based on your description, I’m ready to pack up and build my house upon the sand. I’m foolish like that, though.

    Draw out your theme and images for me a little bit more, if you would: I like how you’ve played with the image of sand, making it a sort of objective correlative for faith. At the end you bring in expiation and revelation—related to faith, of course, and thematizing the shifting of the sand—but how do they work into “blood, sand, and spirit?”

    Your description reminded me if the Sunday afternoon walks my sister Gabrielle and I would take up our street, Palm Drive. We walked up and up and up, gaining elevation and leaving the palms far behind, until it felt like we had found our way into another, smaller world. We felt as though we walked across several small nations, although it was probably no more than a mile. I wish I could remember what we talked about; my faulty memory fails me again.

  2. October 9, 2006 at 5:54 pm

    Lovely.

    What beach was it? I’m picturing La Push, but I’m guessing it was probably closer to Ocean Shores?

  3. Jenny Webb
    October 9, 2006 at 5:55 pm

    Rosalynde, I’m glad the song wasn’t too hidden :) Regarding the relationship between theme and imagery, I think each of those elements—blood (or family), sand, and spirit—are, at least for me here and now, related by their in their inherent affinity for change. And they will continue to change whether or not I want them to. My family will grow and shrink, the sands will follow the tides, and my spirit will respond (positvely or negatively) to the attention I give it.

    Similarly, expiation and revelation are each future-facing events—they each insist on the power to transform the present and change the future. A belief in the atonement is a belief that a change of heart and healing are possible; the promise of revelation is that God has not finished speaking to us both as a people and as individuals. When I look at my relationships (both with my family and with God) I want to have hope for a future, and that hope is only possible through my willingness to access the atonement and ask direction from God.

    Although Christ is our foundation and our cornerstone, the message of the gospel is not static. I think that’s why the ocean (or at least this shore) speaks to me of faith: it is always there, and yet it is continually reshaping itself. I find that image comforting, both theologically and personally as it applies to my “blood and spirit.”

    I think there are still ways I could work this in better to the original post … Thanks for the question, as it gave me an excuse to think through this more carefully. Still have a ways to go, but I hope this helps somewhat—and I love the image of two sisters walking together and leaving the leaves below.

  4. Jenny Webb
    October 9, 2006 at 6:10 pm

    Thank you Susan M—you’re right on. It’s a small beach just north of Ocean Shores by Pacific Beach. The place we stay is called The Sandpiper and it’s perfect: no phones, no tv, little kitchenette units … I read more out there in one week than I do in six months back home.

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