Saturday, December 12, 2009

Why Pilgrim's Tell Tales

July 9, 2009

So I’ve performed this peculiar exercise of reading five Pacific Crest Trail memoirs consecu- tively in the weeks prior to my departure from Wisconsin for my Norwegian pilgrimage. My favorite, “Zero Days”, recounts the adventures of 10 year old “Scrambler” and her 50s something parents “the Captain” and “Nellie Bly” as they trek the 4,250 kilometers of Mexico to Canada trail. It occurs to me that these memoirs fall squarely within a tradition that can be traced back through Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods” and past into Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”, Cervantes “Don Quixote”, and even into Homer’s “Iliad”. Their tales are variously hilarious, bawdy, seemingly magical … always concealing something: This pilgrim trekking is hard work. Anyone at all no matter how idiosyncratic is an ally and a friend in the face of inherent adversity. Roiling Heat, cold rain, blisters, and bone wearying fatigue are the cup from which the pilgrim drinks. And the pilgrim must discover within himself the resolve that will carry him forward. The face you will present to the world is that of the entertaining minstrel bard with a rucksack full of stories. I’m working on my line. I’m in Hamar on Lake Mjøsa tonight and should reach Lillehammer in three days. I see roller skiers as I walk!

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