Odysseys for the Soul

From the editor...

For this issue of Itineraries, ODYSSEYS FOR THE SOUL: TRAVEL AND TRANSFORMATION, writer, weaver, sculptor, and teacher Penelope Bourk has lovingly assembled “writings from travelers who have encountered spiritual emergence — and spiritual emergencies — in later life travel and who bring home some deeper understanding of where they have been, what they have become as a result of their travel, what it means, and how it matters.” Below she introduces the themes of the issue and the 17 “travelers” who have contributed articles and poems.

Additionally, scattered throughout are original drawings and photographs and a generous selection of sculptures taken from Penelope’s extraordinary “meditations” on the events portrayed in Homer’s Odyssey. (Place your cursor over my photo, and you'll see a sample. Many of the images in this issue — like the travel we embark upon mindfully — hold hidden treasures!)

— Bolton Anthony, Founder Second Journey

Place your cursor over the images below for brief descriptions of each article, then click to access it.

Click here to access an index

Penelope Bourk, Guest Editor

Jan Hively
Moira Allan
Featured Poets

Travel and Transformation

Travel, like love, invites the mystery of the other. To encounter the world beyond the familiar. To take account of difference. To recognize the amazing diversity of place, life forms, livelihood, limits, initiatives, possibilities. To carve out a more spacious and inclusive interior. To reintroduce ourselves to the larger community of all living beings, and to acknowledge the spectacular vistas, gifts, costs, and quality of being human — of being human here, now, in a world moving ever closer and, because of our collective attention, becoming ever dearer. Whether journeying far afield, rambling nearer to home, or as an armchair pilgrim, entranced by an exotic page-turner, at this crucial time in the history of the human and the more-than-human world, the elder traveler has a unique opportunity for discovery, contribution, profound integration, and the knitting of a truly global community.

In contrast to the previous issue of Itineraries, which looked at — and celebrated — an explosion of new options for how and where we grow old, ODYSSEYS FOR THE SOUL: TRAVEL AND TRANSFORMATION features stories and poems about the experience of travel. Travel as a change agent, a medium of exploration, even a mirror for self-reflection —in the later stages of life.

You’ll find within no review of packing lists, no display of nifty luggage innovations, no insider tips on bargain vacation spots. All we offer are thoughtful, sensitive writers who open their hearts, share their inner conversations, intentions, controversies, skill sacks, and the miracles of their travels. Their hope is that you too will “unpack” the meaning of your own explorations — the disappointments, necessary accommodations, and the celebration of life emergent in your own advancing lives, in your own experiences and conversations, and in tales of your own journeys. Whether on a pilgrimage to conscious aging, on the trip of a lifetime, or traveling in search of home, what does it mean to venture on this Earth, what does it take to abide, who is benevolent host, who welcomed as guest, of what land, of what people?

The juxtaposition of elder travel, transformation, quest, and spirit — all of these implicit in the title we have given the issue — provides such rich ground! Any one of these topics, all on its own, could fill volumes! Yet it is the overlap of all four and their relation to a recurring fifth theme, the journey home, that plays across almost all of the selections, which I have loosely grouped into three sections — Farther Afield, Nearing Home, and Skills and Trills for the Elder Rucksack (see below).

Bon Voyage!

— Penelope Stuart Bourk
February 1, 2013

In this issue...

In Farther Afield — Ron Pevny leads us to Copper Canyon in Mexico on a “pilgrimage” in search of ancient wisdom — and conscious elderhood. My own essay, “Crossing Hecate Strait,” recounts the difficult journey I and three other “older women” made to Haida Gwaii, a wilderness archipelago in Canada’s Pacific Northwest — croning, the hard way! Kendall Dudley lets us in on a trade secret: the guide has as much to learn as the travelers he leads — and the Moroccan desert has many lessons to teach.

After a brush with death in the Bolivian Andes, Frances Wood asks, “How Far Must We Go?” to find what was always close at hand. On a trek across Scotland, Tom Trimbath masters the art of letting go — and discovers JOY. Dianne Shiner finds herself in the thralls of a spirituality so pervasive that even “The Dogs of Bhutan” feel Buddhist. And Jan Phillips discovers her deep calling in a small Nigerian village.

In Nearing Home — Wanting to escape “the treadmill of travel,” Kurt Hoelting asked “What would it be like to spend an entire year within walking distance of home? and discovered the joys of a “radically local life.” Emerging from decades of life in an Indian ashram, Margaret Bendet hears a voice telling her, “It’s time to leave,” and her search for a new home takes her on a journey across America. Metaphor and meaning hit the road together on John Sullivan’s thoughtful trip through landmarks, history, and memory in New England. In “Solo Journey in a Coupled World,” Molly Brewer discovers — post divorce — a restorative self-sufficiency in her T@Da. (Unfamiliar with that term? Read her story.)

Writer, teacher, and jazz musician, Tony Whedon, travels from Vermont to the sea islands of Georgia — and into the festering heart of American racism. John Robinson finds in the ancient story of Odysseus’s travels a modern message for men — and the people who love them. Finally, I trace my steps in and out of the labyrinth, a few miles from my home on Whidbey Island, where I discover a journey of a different dimension: how a traveler must sometimes tend the path, and how the path, in turn, returns the favor.

Skills and Trills
 — This final section brings together preparation, practice, and the poetics of elder travel. Ann Kirkland, in searching for a way to expand her own horizons, discovered a path both for herself and others —journeys with literature! Ellen Ryan offers writing exercises for all stages of the journey, for preparation, for the journey itself, and following. Finally, in a transatlantic partnership, Jan Hively and Moira Allen tackle the challenge of changing the paradigm of aging — two continents at a time.

Featured Poetry — Two poets have also contributed to this issue. Colin Stuart offers an excerpt from a longer poem, a conversation between an aging captain and his younger companion. His poem takes delight in the trill and interplay of sound and in archaic imaginings akin to what Robert Fitzgerald (in his postscript to his translation of the Odyssey) calls the ancient art of phonetic wit. Linda Beeman’s poems for travelers, like a soft rain on the roof some sleepless night, like a finger of light breaking through the clouds after a rough traverse, offer insights, experience, and and healing thoughts for the journey!


Lurching Toward Wholeness
by Linda L. Beeman


turning the hundredth corner
of that coastline road
pelicans balanced in mid-air
stationary on their current
took my breath

when we are fleeing pain
trying to reconcile mean loss
these are the moments that
etch themselves glass sharp
yet comfort like wind over grass

when anguish tugs us
like a sweat-soaked sheet
despair floods us again
in the minute after waking
these jolts of beauty

as I hold divinity’s glance
without blinking
feel strength’s first surge
bring me back to myself
lurching toward wholeness

Poems in this Issue
This issue features contributions from poets Linda Beeman and Colin Stuart