A while back, Len Hjarmilson sent me a draft copy of a book he was working on, in which he wrote:
“The challenge we face as followers of the Incarnate One is to move from the posture of a tourist to the posture of a pilgrim. Tourists are escaping life; pilgrims are embracing it… tourists are trying to forget: pilgrims are trying to remember.”
This stuck with me and became a sort-of mental backdrop to the series of multi-media ebooks I began to release last fall called PilgrimYear, which introduces the reader to the spirituality of the Christian calendar year through reflective text, art, poetry and song.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of my first solo album, Comfort My People, in 1989 and it only made sense to stay with the pilgrimage metaphor as a framework for a new project. I won’t get into detail of the project now… it’s fairly ambitious and includes four discs and a book , and you can watch a promo video HERE…
But besides the content, I wanted the design and packaging to be exceptional and meaningful. The design work of Roberta Hanson caught my eye as she did the design for The Bros. Landreth album released last fall. There’s a contemplative ambience to all her work that struck me, and I felt confident she was the one to work on this project.
I asked Roberta to come up with an emblem that would incorporate several traditional symbols of pilgrimage. For example, traditionally a pilgrim would carry a scallop shell used to scoop water from streams along the way. A dagger would also be carried for many practical purposes, none-the-least being to ward off danger. A compass kept one oriented whenever the North Star was obscured by daylight or cloud. And then there was the natural greening (new life) that issues from a pilgrimage deliberately and attentively taken.
What Roberta came up with was marvelous, and I often find my self gazing into it as if I hear a distant beckoning:
Just yesterday, I emailed Malcolm Guite, the English poet whose work has so influenced mine as of late. I wrote that there was a space in the design of the project for a Malcolm Guite sonnet, and how lovely it would be to include, if he could come up with something. It was only a few hours before the sonnet came volleying back over the ocean.
A sonnet, like an emblem, icon, or song, rewards those who sit (quietly, attentively, expectantly) with it for some time. Although this is a first draft, Malcolm gave me permission to share:
PILGRIMAGE by Malcolm Guite (May 10/14)
Come, dip a scallop shell into the font
For birth and blessings as a child of God.
Eternal life still rises from that fount
Whence all things come, that you may bathe and wade
And find the flow, and learn at last to follow
The course of love upstream towards your home
The day is done and all the fields lie fallow
One thing is needful, one voice calls your name.
Take the true compass now, be compassed round
By clouds of witnesses, chords of love unbound.
Turn to the Son, begin your pilgrimage,
Take time with Him to find your true direction.
He travels with you through this darkened age
And wakes you every day to resurrection.