Advance copies and a short essay…

The East or West advance copies have arrived, and they look good (in my very biased opinion)!!

The bulk shipment of the books is crossing the Atlantic from the printer in Iceland. I don’t have a precise arrival date. However, I’m currently preparing all the packing material and figuring out the postal rates so that I can start mailing books as soon as they arrive.

I know that my last few updates have been very business-like, so below is a short reflection on my pilgrimage this summer, for those of you who are interested.

All the best,



“Remembering the Marvelous”

This summer I walked the Via Podiensis in France from Le-Puy-en-Velay to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. During this pilgrimage I walked one of the longer variations that took me north to the medieval town and pilgrimage center of Rocamadour.

Enshrined in Rocamadour is a Black Virgin who sits enthroned, high up on a carved and painted wooden alter. Her chapel is small and crowded below with racks of candles and pews and crowded above with suspended red lanterns and models of the ships she has saved on stormy seas.

When I visited the chapel, I remembered Seamus Heaney’s poem “Lightenings viii” in which the monks of Clonmacnoise save a magically airborne ship whose anchor stuck in their altar. The poem is about the brief clash of two worlds, each marvelous but incompatible with the other. After they accidentally get stuck together through the ship’s anchor, it is only the act of help, of care, by the monks in releasing the anchor that allows the two worlds to move apart again without tragedy.

During a pilgrimage two marvelous worlds meet as well: the world of the pilgrimage and the world of our quotidian life. The hardest and most dangerous part of the pilgrimage is probably the end, when we leave our days of walking and return home. It’s very easy for the anchor to drag so deep it gets stuck. It can be hard to leave the life of a pilgrim and to allow these two world to float apart again, to let go of the marvelous.

But, although the anchor should be released and “the freed ship” must sail, and the man climb back “Out of the marvellous as he has known it,” the poem, the book, the photograph are the remains of the encounter. This is one of the oldest and most venerable purposes of art: to answer our need to remember the marvelous and how the encounter with it has renewed and recreated the world once again.

You can read Heaney’s poem on the Nobel Prize website:

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