Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding:  117                                              Days Blogged: 101

New Mileage: 10                                                               Total Trip Mileage: 853

As I climb on the bike this morning I am pondering the fact that it’s been almost 4 months since we started the stationarypilgrim’s journey.  In fact we have now passed the 100th blog threshold.  I believe this is a good time to share with my readers a few of my insights, especially with respect to choosing and finding a pilgrimage sites and retreats.

Solitary Contemplation!

 So far we have  visited 14 specific sites across Florida.  We are nearing the Orlando area and will visit four more sites before we head for the East Coast and then turn north toward St. Augustine. In addition to the specific sites we have visited, I have also been busy uncovering potential sites further down the road within Florida and beyond.  The list of sites (over 100 and growing daily) can be found on my webpage (go to the Pilgrimage Sites tab at the top of this page and follow the link). It includes entries from nearby states  as far away  as California and in New York.

Boston Sufi House - Retreat Site

As often happens on such journeys,  you start off with a sense of where you’re heading and what you’re doing but the process of the journey combined with the unexpected sites and scene on your path to help you clarify and refine your goals.  I knew that a Spiritual Retreat is often defined as any kind of solitude experience where you remove yourself from the usual environment in order to immerse yourself in either in a particular subject matter or a particular experience.  Retreats may be as simple as sitting quietly in a secluded portion of your yard, or as complex as a weeklong trip to a monastery where no speaking is allowed.  Spiritual retreats are often times for reflection prayer, meditation, and rest.  They  allow time for “taking stock” of one’s life and/or  a re-commitment to connecting with the spiritual aspects of life. They may be undertaken alone, as a couple or as part of a larger group.

On my journey to uncover pilgrimage and retreat sites I have found that most retreat centers offer settings that promote solitude and reflection.  In my classification of Retreat Sites I place them along a continuum with respect to the use of nature (a natural setting) to promote this solitude. 

Charleston's Gateway Garden Walk - Garden Retreat Site

On one end are Simple Retreat Sites that include little or no contact with nature, these may be residential settings where solitude is provide behind the closed door to your room, or sitting silently in a chapel.  As you might expect these sites are often found in larger cities where natural surrounds are limited by development.

Further along the continuum are Garden Retreat Sites, where nature makes an appearance in the form of an enclosed garden space (such as a Zen garden) or a flower garden like you may find surrounding churches.  These sites usually provide shaded benches, fountains and/or paved walkways and are often found in cities and more populated areas.

Charleston's Middleton Place - Nature Tranquility Site

Next on my classification continuum are Nature Tranquility Retreat Sites.  These sites typically include large grassy and wooded areas for walking, praying and meditating. They often include water features in the form of beaches, lakes, rivers or streams.  They may offer more extensive gardens, including grottos, shrines, labyrinths, and statues.   These Nature Tranquility Sites may feature distinctly Spiritual/Religious connections, such as monasteries, convents, church camps.  However, other sites may be represented by secular local or state parks.  While it is not my intention to list all state and local parks, I do include a number of these sites, especially if the natural features of the site, like undeveloped beach front, old growth forests are a prominent feature.

The Grand Canyon - Nature Site

My classification continuum ends with what I call Nature Sites.  These are composed primarily of National Parks which present us with  stunning and awe inspiring experiences of the vastness, the beauty, the diversity of nature.   They do more than offer us a moment a tranquility or an escape from our daily struggles, they very often hold our attention captive and offer us an opportunity to transcend the mundane and approach the spiritual plane.

Those of us blessed to receive Nature Mystical experiences may describe these Nature Sites as “our cathedrals.”  Other people may visit these sites and praise the divine for the beauty of “God’s creation,” either way these are very special sites.  Most of us are not lucky enough to live within commuting distance of these locations so they most often represent “special retreat trips” or vacations.  For some people they may represent the destination of a personal pilgrimage.

                              Retreat Site Classification Continuum

Retreat Site — Garden Retreat Site — Nature Tranquility Site  — Nature Site

What is the difference between a Retreat Site and a Pilgrimage Site?  While we most often undertake a retreat to “get away” and enjoy some solitude, a pilgrimage journey is often directed toward a location/place which has some special significance.  It may offer the pilgrim significant historical insights into their faith or culture.  It may present the pilgrim with an example of spiritual diversity.  It may lead the pilgrim to answer a specific question or present them with a new realm of possibilities. They may marvel at man’s artistic achievements or ponder the mysteries of a weeping icon or healing springs.

 How do I make sense of and classify the dizzying array of Pilgrimage Sites?  That will be the topic of my next blog.  Have a wonderful weekend!

If you like the blog please consider joining the stationarypilgrim’s e-mail list by visiting the subscribe button on the top right corner of this page.  Have a wonderful day!

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 45                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 46

Today’s Mileage:  10                                          Total Trip Mileage: 386

Holidays and Holy Days on November 24 :

Guru Tegh Bahadur Martyrdom (Sikh) a time of remembering the execution of Teg Bahadur by the Moghul Emperor in India.


Marco beach!

As I ride the bike today I review the various internet photos and scenes I uncovered about Marco Island, the city on the west coast of Florida.  It is a beautiful place and brings back many fond memories of the tourist beaches along the Georgia and Carolina coast and Southern California. As a nature lover I prefer the more undeveloped coastline, but when one has a family to entertain or does not want to sleep in a tent, resort towns such as these are a joy.   Many families I know return to the same beach each season, the familiarity is comforting, and adds layers of a family’s “growing up” memories to a place. 


Simple Rewards

If I walk long enough I will reach it.

Small squat building with greasy windows.

Odor of breakfast meats and tobacco smoke.

Offers steaming java and folded papers bearing today’s news.

–       –    –    –

Shellers on Marco Island Beach.

I’m one of those people who appreciates daily routines at the beach, whether it be a sunrise walk in search of shells or a stroll to a small coffee shop for my morning “fix” of caffeine and news. One aspect of the beach I love the most is the sand, that fascinating ribbon of reality stretched between two totally different worlds. It’s a surface constantly changing, yielding new mysteries and a reality not unlike our own moment-to-moment existence.

Each wave

Pulls at the beach’s fabric,

Returning sand to the sea

Streaking the smooth gray surface.

Sweeps the beach clean,

Leaving only a line of foam

As testimony to its presence.

–       –    –    –

Stationarypilgrim as a young man inspecting his Indian Ocean shell collection.

Walking along the beach always bring out the collector and scientist in me!  I think about how people differ with respect to the collecting mementos and memories.  Some people just walk by the beach litter as it is not relevant to their conversation or plans.  Perhaps they already have too many souvenirs from previous visits, or will argue that they have no place to keep or store them.  Others beach travelers carry their pails, baskets or shopping bags to fill with treasures as the stroll along.  These travelers are now faced with the question: “What do I do with this new stuff?”  They may show it to loved ones and then discard it, their purpose has been served. They might find space in the family car or van for the return trip home.  Yet once there, the mementos will be stashed in the garage or attic to be revisited as treasured memories in the dead of winter.  Others display them in a bowl, on a window sill, or under glass in a display case.  Such displays can be placed in a kitchen or near the bath so that every morning as one sips their coffee or steps out of a warm invigorating shower, they will be reminded of the mysteries and treasures that awaits in our exploration of life as it unfolds before us.

Shell Mementos: Reminders of Island memories.

Their Loss My Gain 

Sand still damp from the last big wave.

Streaks like fingers reach towards the ocean.

Others came before me, I see signs of their passage.

One barefoot, one with heavy treads, one who treaded lightly.

What did they seek on their journey?

For they walked right past the “perfect shell.”

Cone shaped, pink with brown markings, glistening and polished.

It called out too me like ripe fruit, I picked it.

Maybe they weren’t watching.

Maybe they didn’t care.

Maybe they walked together deep in conversation

Ignoring the treasure at their feet.

Whatever, their loss is my gain!

–       –    –    –

I hope you have enjoyed my poems and photos today.  In the morning we head towards Naples and then on to our next Pilgrimage Site, a place that stirs up controversy!


A special thanks to the photographers associated with Panramio for the beautiful scenes from along the roadside. The information on holy days and sacred holidays comes from http://www.interfaithcalendar.org.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 38                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 39

Today’s Mileage:  8                                           Total Trip Mileage: 329

stage7      As I ride the bike this morning a number of topics swirl about in my mind.  I have enjoyed our week in the Miami area. Next time I visit the area in person I’ll make a personal pilgrimage to the Holocaust site as I was struck by the images which still haunt me with their poignancy.  I am looking forward to hitting the “open road” as we head west I hope to see more gorgeous nature scenes.

     I’ve been investigating pilgrimage sites down the road.  We will swing south for a day’s ride before heading west across the northern part of the Everglades and into Big Cypress National Preserve.  Then it’s on to Naples, where we’ll visit a controversial religious site:  a religious city which some people view as the epitome of American freedom, while others view it as a sign of growing intolerance and the fragmentation of our nation’s religious fabric.  As we head up the coast toward Fort Myers we will visit two sites: an ancient Native American site and a place which is a failed tribute to the human desire to create “Paradise in the Wilderness.”

     One of my viewers asked the question, concerning yesterday’s postings, if meditating was so profound then why did I stop after seven years?  There are probably several potential postings embedded within this question.  Let me just give a brief answer for now.

      Any good habit such as exercise or diet can fall prey to changing circumstances.  In addition, there is always the danger that we can become so complacent about the positive efforts that we forget the source of these effects.  My life took on many challenges as I married, entered graduate school, moved about the country.  My meditative practice suffered as I took on the roles of Professor, therapist, and father!  However, the ability and knowledge is there, and at particularly stressful times I return to it to steady my nerves and calm my mind.  Why have I not fully reimmersed myself in the meditative practice? In a way I have, but in a different way!

     In general there are two forms of meditation.  Concentration meditation, the form recognized by most people, where the mediator sits quietly and turns inward using a mantra (sound) as a meditative device.  The goal is to quiet your mind to the point of “no thoughts.”  Transcendental Meditation is one such technique.  The second form of meditation is called Mindful Meditation, and is practiced by several branches of Buddhism.  It involves focusing on and being mindful of whatever one is doing at the moment.  Mindfulness of walking, breathing, studying a flower, the breeze on one’s skin can all be part of a walk through a garden.  It is found to promote deeper insights into how our minds work to “create” the world around us and how to control our attention and focus. 

     As my artistic interests grew over the last twenty years, especially my poetry, I found myself naturally and effortlessly using this technique.  I would state that I still meditate but in a different form.

     Here is a poem and one of my drawings, both are products of a mindful walk:


Beauty by StationaryPilgrim

Nature’s to Blame

Checked my watch

     It happened again!

Half an hour pasted,

     I barely moved.

Oh well!

          I’ll blame the flowers,

               Their beauty impeded my progress:

          And the bird call,

               The humming insects,

               The inviting cool shadows,

               And the still air.

          Don’t forget the fragrances,

               There were way too many.

If I missed something important

     Please accept my apology.


sunset and bike by oojeff

If I had a real bike and was really there!

     Enjoy your day and be mindful of your journey!

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 29                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 30

Today’s Mileage: 10                                            Total Trip Mileage: 275


        As I ride the bike today and think about my Blog topic I am confronted with the creative feast-or-famine dilemma.  My Blog topic list is growing, the daily news offers new ideas, the weather has been picture perfect, and we will be visiting a new Pilgrimage Site tomorrow.  Hint: prepare to go Kosher! So what should one do when confronted with such a creative tug-of-war?  Go to the beach and write poetry of course!

miamiamanecer by e r del valle

Sunrise near the beach.

     Let us travel up the beach. Listening to the voice of nature on that thin ribbon of sand perched between two worlds, one offers us precious breaths the other washes us clean. Both offer mystery and glimpses of the divine.

Walking Towards the Sunrise

Pulsating roar of waves

Damp sand

Stained with sea foam.

Beach skyline

Recedes into the distance

Melting into a yellow

And peach haze.

Sun hidden behind a streak

Of blue gray clouds

Highlighted with golden edges.


 Sandy Cycles


    The sage sees in the waves

    The eternal give and take

    That is life.


    That which expands outward

    Soon retreats

    To be followed by another



Majestic beach scene roberto casin

Majestic beach scene!


 Sandpiper and Child



Two pairs of thin legs

Run from the edge

Of the advancing wave

 One seeks


At the water’s edge

The other seeks

Playful abandonment


Eye of the Beholder Shells






Ignored by beachcombers

In search of more colorful treasures

They are exactly what I seek

 Suspended from driftwood

By thin cotton fibers

They respond to the wind’s

Invisible movement

With the rhythmic

Sounds of the sea

Enticing memories of

Roaring waves

And salty breezes


No Swimming Allowed


Caught between

The surging waves

And the pounding pace

Of beach joggers

Panic and take flight

marina at coconut grove by R Casin

Coconut Grove Marina.

My Essence

Should you spread

My ashes

On the ocean’s surface,

  Or the red clay soil,

    Of my adopted home?

Should you carry them back

  To the expansive plains

    The tall grass

      The shallow streams

          The dark rich soil

            The home of my youth?

It doesn’t really matter,

  For the atoms of my existence

    Will find a way to

      Trickle through the soil,

        Babble in the brook,

          Rush through the rapids,

            Roar over the falls,

              Surging toward the sea,

                Joining the waves.

miami skyline by emilport74

Man's metal mountain skyline awaits!

     I hope you have enjoyed today’s walk along the beach and my beach poetry.  Look at the skyline of the city. Mankind’s artificial mountains rise up to greet us with new adventures and old memories.  Tomorrow we visit images of fame and power, talk of saintly deeds and absolute evil!  Stay tuned!

A special thanks to the photographers associated with Panramio for the beautiful scenes from along the roadside. The information on holy days and sacred holidays comes from http://www.interfaithcalendar.org.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 27                                Consecutive Days Blogging: 28

Today’s Mileage: 5                                           Total Trip Mileage: 255


     As I ride the bike and think about today’s Pilgrimage Site visit, I am reminded that when you take a Pilgrimage to a new place you might end up discovering things you had lost or forgotten.


The young Stationarypilgrim.

     The young,very tan man drinking a soda in front of a Thai transport truck is yours truly some 35+ years ago!  It was a time before I lifted weights and bulked up, before my thin frame accumulated much padding, before my forehead totally overwhelmed my hairline!


      I was a young sailor in the exotic place called Thailand far away from the wind swept Plains of my childhood.  I was enamored with this beautiful, tropical land with it’s friendly people, coconut palms and colorful temples.  It was a place unlike any I had ever encountered in my twenty-one years. A door openned on a wide and fascinating world.  I walked through it and never turned back.

     I was intrigued by many aspects of the Thai culture, every other street corner held a colorful Buddhist temple, like the southern US where a Christian church seemed to appear around every bend in the road.  I visited a handful of Buddhist temples and came face to face with various statues of Buddha.  There was the traditional seated Buddha (meditating), the standing Buddha (preaching), the walking Buddha (teaching), and the reclining Buddha (preparing to leave this world).  My guides were patient with my questions and always provided answers with a smile.

    Edwards-shrine_2 small

 Little did this stoic-faced young man in this exotic foreign land know how much his life was going to change  in the next year!  He would begin to investigate new ideas, this new face of God. He would learn to meditate and recognize his true nature!  But that is a story for another time, another Blog posting!

     Please click on the tag at the top of the page entitled: Pilgrimage Site and enter the Buddhist temple Wat Buddharangsi of Miami.  Remember to remove your shoes at the temple door, bow deeply and smile!

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