David Treadwell: A reflection on pilgrimages


In 1985, I spent an intense week of bioenergetic psychotherapy on the island of Porto Heli in Greece. I shared the experience with 25 other people, half of whom were psychotherapists specializing in bioenergetics. There were only three Americans, two women plus your servant.

I was struggling with personal and professional issues at the time. Decisions had to be made; something had to give — or change.

I recently viewed a soon to be published book by my friend Rick Wile called “The Geriatric Pilgrim: Tales from the Journey”. A pilgrimage is defined as a “journey to a sacred place”, so my trip to Greece could be called a pilgrimage. Greece could be described as a “sacred place” due to its history, and I was definitely on a journey of self-discovery.

A pilgrimage could also be defined more broadly, I believe, as someone’s journey through life. Most of us take big steps in our journey, a change of location or career or marriage or philosophy or religious belief as we progress towards personal fulfillment. Rick Wile’s book prompted me to reflect on some of my own pilgrimages.

In 1960 I moved from Wilmington, Delaware to Brunswick, Maine to attend Bowdoin College. I had never been on campus; I had no idea what college was. Looking back, it was one of the best pilgrimages I have ever experienced.

In the summer of 1963, I spent 12 weeks in Europe, six weeks working for an airline in Paris, and six weeks hitchhiking through Europe. I wore a suit and tie as I hitchhiked (no kidding) and held up a sign that read “American Student.” Europeans loved President Kennedy, so getting a ride was rarely a problem. That summer, I learned a lot about America as well as myself, even though my French was barely beyond the basics.

In the summer of 1968, I left a job in advertising in New York to return to Bowdoin and work in the admissions office, a far more fulfilling position.

In the summer of 1973, while I was admissions director at Ohio Wesleyan, I took a course in magazine article writing, which led to an article being published in Parade magazine. titled “The College You Want May Be Looking For You”. This successful foray into the world of publishing led me to believe that I might have a future as a writer.

In the summer of 1975, I moved from the Ohio Wesleyan to the Barton-Gillet Company, a Baltimore company specializing in creating communications materials for colleges and schools and other nonprofit organizations, as well as annual reports for companies. I’ve served as an account executive in addition to writing for dozens of clients.

In the summer of 1986, I left my marriage and moved to Massachusetts to date on my own, a bold leap of faith, though it worked.

In 1989 I quit drinking and married Tina at Bowdoin Chapel, two very positive and significant milestones in my personal pilgrimage.

In 2002, Tina and I moved from Massachusetts to Brunswick. I had been to Bowdoin, and she had lived her formative years here, so it seemed like the right last geographical stop on our marital journey.

My own “spiritual” journey in terms of formal religious affiliation has been in spurts – and with the occasional pause. The Presbyterian Church first, because that’s where my mother took us; the Methodist Church so I could play in the church basketball league; an Episcopal Church in Baltimore, because my ex-wife grew up in that tradition; After moving to Maine, Tina and I spent several years doing semi-serious research before landing at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brunswick five years ago, the right church at the right time for both of us. .

In October 2020, Anneka Williams, one of our students in the Bowdoin Host Family program, asked me if I would write flash fiction with her. It was a new genre for me, but it led to the publication of our book (“A Flash Fiction Exchange Between Methuselah and the Maiden: Sixty Stories to While Away the Hours”). I taught a flash fiction course for Mid Coast Senior College. last winter, and I will teach it again from November. To top it off, I’m having a delightful time making flash fiction with my precocious seven-year-old granddaughter, Phoebe. Some routes take interesting secondary paths.

As for the future, I’m excited to help Rick Muhr, an incredible running coach, inspirational leader and gifted speaker, tell his life story. Rick, who lives in Grafton, Mass., had a horrific biking accident last October that landed him in hospital for nearly two months. In the hospital, he discovered he had kidney cancer. The tumor was removed, then it looked like he had colon cancer, but it turned out to be a false alarm. Rick, who has coached thousands of runners and given dozens of speeches over the past 20 years, has bounced back remarkably from those setbacks – run again, coach again, inspire again. Interestingly, Rick called our collaboration a “trip”.

I invite you, dear readers, to reflect on your own pilgrimages through life. And keep exploring to see what you can find.

David Treadwell, a writer from Brunswick, welcomes comments and suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns. [email protected]


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