Pilgrimage - Story, Place, Spirit, Witness



The emotional tinder that fueled this particular reading binge began with my father’s triple bypass at the VA hospital in Palo Alto, California. Although now common enough to be a routine procedure in hospitals across America, the surgery came as a breathtaking shock to my sister, my mother and me. The idea that my father’s heart would be stopped, “worked on,” and then re-started, remains a plot line almost beyond comprehension in its spry dance across and back an otherwise irrevocable threshold. As his recovery has continued into the one-year-plus range, and as the astounding scar down the center of his chest has faded, month by month, my own medical concerns have risen to the foreground. H1N1 tore through our Colorado household this past October, afflicting my little girl for about three days, my pre-teen son for two weeks, bypassing my husband (who may have built an immunity in the ’70s), and finally settling in me, where it created a robust pneumonia complete with a half-collapsed right lung and cold night sweats that smelled weirdly like adhesive glue.

Yet even feelings of illness—feelings of malaise—can be forms of vitality! Reading The Lovely Bones recently illuminated this for me, with the reminder that we feel, therefore, we live. Writing to you now, gratefully, from a time of health, I commend the writing in this issue to your care and your vital sensory responses. I put out the call for writing that spoke to the “Body, My House” theme in hopes of gaining insight into the body-dramas that had been calling to me. I ended up with a terrific range of exposures displaying imagined and remembered jolts through the corpulent existence of living beings—beings inhabiting the wildness of what poet May Swenson calls “Body my house / my horse my hound …”

Swenson’s beneficent shadow over this issue links me to Logan, Utah, Swenson’s birthplace, and the town my family and I moved from this past June. One of many families adrift in the currents of the economic downturn, we came ashore on the banks of the Arkansas River in Pueblo, Colorado. Our little clan, and the magazine, too, now resides at the Nature and Raptor Center of Pueblo. Stay tuned at for news of upcoming NRCP collaborations (think “Poetry and Planting”) and descriptions of upcoming workshops at northern New Mexico’s Mandala Center and beyond.

The move to Pueblo happened shortly before my move into the editor/publisher role for Pilgrimage. A thousand bows, hugs and gracias to my friend Peter Anderson, outgoing editor/publisher, for his vote of confidence in turning the magazine over to me. During his five-year tenure, he brought forward the interrelatedness of story, spirit, witness, and place, key themes that had been percolating in Pilgrimage for its 20+ years of publication prior to his editorship. Dave Barstow, editor/publisher for 25 years before Peter took the helm, sought a successor who would continue the magazine’s emphasis on personal, reflective writing. In Peter, he found someone with the dedication and vision to carry the magazine forward. Readers of the past five years have come to appreciate Peter’s ear for a good yarn or an elegantly turned phrase, and his rather populist approach to the selection of authors. I hope this issue, and those to come, continue to evidence both of these qualities. Peter’s innovations in the magazine’s design and layout, most of which remain here, also became part of the distinct resonance Pilgrimage brought into the world under his watch. To uncover more of the richness of Pilgrimage’s recent past, I recommend you pick up a copy of the just-released anthology, Telling It Real: The Best of Pilgrimage Magazine 2003-2008, edited by Peter Anderson and available for sale on this web site.

Working on this issue has brought me out of a steely winter and into mud season. As microbial stirrings begin in the ground, and cottonwood roots again take up their tilling, can you smell the wet earth warming to spring? I welcome you in, or welcome you back, to Pilgrimage.

Maria Melendez
Rock Canyon
Pueblo, Colorado
March/April 2010

Pilgrimage Magazine, published three times a year, emphasizes themes of place, spirit, peace & justice, in and beyond the Greater Southwest.

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