Medieval castles, cathedrals, craft beer, neo-Gothic clock towers, curved sidewalks, arched doorways, more green space than any other European city, as many biking routes as there are roads, outdoor arcades, open-air shopping centers, rugby, and the fact that Welsh is as commonly spoken as English. These are the things I love about Cardiff.
And yet, despite all of this goodness, I’d be lying if I told you my travels have been entirely enjoyable.
I nearly keeled over when I exchanged USD for British Pounds the other day and watched my money wither away before my eyes.
Today, just as I was arriving in the city, a passing bus powered through a puddle and completely soaked me.
Oh, there have been many unfortunate moments like this, but I’m not taking about surface sufferings. I’m talking about soul stuff—the guts behind the goodness, the rawness of the road.
This pilgrimage has been, while wonderful, rather messy and complicated.
I am learning “not to cringe away from the big, the mighty, the cyclical, the unforeseen, the unexpected, the vast and grand scale which is the size of Nature, the odd, the strange, and the unusual.”
And that’s precisely why I set out in the first place. I knew that traveling, like good love, after the romance and swoon of each city had settled, would bring me to unfamiliar places, take me away from the close comfort of family and friends, leave me feeling vulnerable, lost and completely turned around. I knew I’d be challenged and I suspected that it would leave me wandering and still, in a certain sense, wanting. I did not set out expecting to find anything. I set out because I had to, because I felt that my bones would become brittle and my soul would shrivel if I didn’t.
I knew I’d discover, again and again, that life was more than kittens, cakewalks and castles. (Though these pleasures also part of the journey. As I write, a purring kitten is curled up on my lap).
The days are short and I find solace in the blackening of the light, for black is the color of descent and I am sinking into the soil of my soul as I hold the tension of seeds planted, but not yet sprouted.
Black is a promise that we will soon know something we did not know before.
I set out knowing that I would, at some point, in the words of Leonard Cohen, be journeyed “to this impeccable moment of sweet bewilderment.” I try to welcome every bit of it.
I can’t quite put words to it all right now and I don’t really want to. The answers, like the words, like the rain, the sun, the stars, will come when we need them. Everything with time.
They came to me this week in the form of a farewell letter from a dear friend I met at the hermitage in Ireland: May it be messy, may you forget your camera, may no story come to your lips. May it be bewildering and holy and huge.
Indeed, I know that it already is.