Guest Post, Kim Eugene Hood: Becoming Reverent

I was told that there are four stages in life; you are born, you grow into adulthood, you marry and have children and finally, you give up earthly possessions and seek God. I have completed the first three. I am now an artist and pilgrim. In 2008 I traveled to India and completed the Hindu pilgrimage Char Dham.

Wind Prayers

In 2010 I made the overland journey into Tibet where I completed the Buddhist kora around the sacred mountain Kailash. And in 2012 I walked the 500 miles of the Catholic Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. It is the immersion and interaction with other pilgrims that has defined my search.

Tibet: As the trail rolled over another rocky bulge of earth I looked ahead at a pilgrim stretched out on the dirt. His arms reached out in front of his body where he would mark the ground, stand and walk to his hand prints, where he would lay down once again. He was demonstrating devotion to his Buddhist faith, something fewer and fewer are now choosing to do according to Geljen. As I stepped to the left to pass, the tired and grimy figure looked up at me and motioned for water. I dropped my pack and pulled out my water bottle. As he stood up and opened his mouth I unscrewed the lid and gave him a drink.

He swallowed and nodded for more and I filled his mouth with water for a second and then a third time. Finished he looked into my eyes, bowed his head and returned to his prostrations. I gathered my pack and as I walked away it began to lightly snow even though the sun was still shining. The clouds parted and Mt. Kailash appeared. Snowflakes mixed with emotion as I walked on in solitude.

 

India: The loose dirt gave way under my feet, spilling rocks down the slope as I made my Kim Hood Photographyway to the river. I reached the sandy bank and stepped onto a flat rock where I could kneel down to touch the cold glacial water. A hundred yards upstream it rushed out of the bottom of the ice wall. This was the “Mouth of the Cow,” Gaumukh, the source and headwater of the sacred river Ganges, beginning its long journey towards the plains of India. I cupped my hands in the frigid water and lifted them up and over my head, letting the drops fall, wetting my hair. As I walked back along the trail I passed an elderly man on his own pilgrimage who smiled and said what a happy day this was. I grinned and agreed that yes, this was a happy day. He looked intensely straight into my eyes and hugged me and repeated, ” Yes, this is a very happy day.”

India: As I passed the men who were bent over hand shoveling the embankment one stood up and calmly asked “What is the name of your God?” I responded “God.” He smiled and laughed. As did I.

Spain: “This 34 day walk has been a mental and physical purge. I have become emotional and cried so many times: in the small hamlet churches, at La Cruz de Ferro, over thoughts and memories of those who passed beyond this life and in front of the cathedral in Santiago at the end of the walking; tired, cold and finished as I leaned against my walking staff. Sitting towards the back of the cathedral, I waited for the Pilgrim Mass to begin. A fellow pilgrim who I had seen many times over the last month walked over and shook my hand and told me his name. We are both tired and overwhelmed. A young woman knelt next to me and sobbed. I feel I have come closer to my personal God.”

India: The hike to Vasundhara falls was only another five miles but after the long trek earlier that morning I was moving slowly and tired. Arriving, I dropped my pack and sat in the dirt exhausted. Over my shoulder and up the hill a voice pulled my attention from the valley. Sitting above me on some rocks was a shaggy haired man wrapped in a blanket motioning me to come up and join him. I grabbed my bag and joined him in front of his stone shelter and took the hot flower tea that was prepared by his attendant. I smiled and nodded; him also. He pointed at the flowers, the tea’s ingredient. I sipped the brew, sitting on the stone bench next to him and marveled at the towering peaks and valley that snaked into the mountains. I asked the name of one peak and he laughed as I poorly repeated his words, enjoying my poor pronunciation. Soon, five men hiking up the trail joined us. Taking off their shoes they knelt down and pressed their heads on the feet of my new friend, a holy man, a sadhu. They then bowed to me, one might say reverence by association.

Kim Hood

Kim Hood studied fine art at the University of Washington and after many years in corporate life rediscovered his art. He graduated from the Photographic Center Northwest in Seattle, Washington with a certificate in fine art photography in 2003. Kim is an outdoor guide and fine art photographer. His passion for travel and exploration has driven him to climb and trek in mountain ranges on all seven continents. He continues to explore the world.

His photographs have shown in Texas, New York, Kentucky, California, Washington and Colorado.

Kim’s three books, "Seven Continents", "Tibet-A Pilgrimage to Kailash" and "India and the Four Abodes", can be purchased through Blurb.com or via link onhttp://kimhoodphotography.com/index.php

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11 thoughts on “Guest Post, Kim Eugene Hood: Becoming Reverent

  • March 19, 2014 at 3:33 pm
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    What a wonderful summary of each of your journeys. I have been interested in walking the Camino for a number of years now since my mother first told me about it in high school. Your post has only reinvigorated that desire.

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  • March 22, 2014 at 6:52 pm
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    This is a beautiful remembrance of an amazing journey. Reverence is such a great word, and is utilized well here. I can’t imagine what an incredible experience this must have been. I still appear to be somewhere around stage two in my life, but am hoping to someday have the courage and desire to carry out a similar adventure.

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  • March 22, 2014 at 11:25 pm
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    These are beautiful moments picked out from what sounds like an amazing journey. What I love the most is that you chose to write about the times you shared with other pilgrims like yourself. Some people might chose to have spiritual adventures in isolation, but it’s much more interesting when they include others especially ones from different backgrounds and religions. I truly enjoyed reading this and it makes me happy that there are people like you finding reverence abroad and maybe one day I will be able to do the same.

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  • March 23, 2014 at 12:41 pm
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    The images you construct here of your memories are so vivid and inspiring. It is cool to see how small interactions within these journeys had such an effect on you. I think that most of the time we tend to overlook small happenings like that, even though they can have a profound lesson to teach us if we let them.

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  • March 24, 2014 at 8:29 am
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    What I find interesting and beautiful about being a pilgrim is how it involves traveling far away from home physically, while spiritually it’s meant to lead you home. I have had this kind of experience when I’ve traveled before. There is a tendency to think that a spiritual journey is completely mental and internal, but I know that it can also be physical…for example, stepping into an ancient cathedral, staring at a certain painting, or traveling to any place you deem holy. Thanks for sharing your journey.

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  • March 24, 2014 at 9:09 am
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    Such a beautiful narrative! I love how your story encapsulates the acceptance you found across the world, especially in a story about India, when the man asked you the name of your God. It is outstanding that others are able to see so many people on these pilgrimages all over the world and be accepting of any faith that they may supplement. Being religious myself, I find the idea of walking for days in mostly silence and serenity so peaceful and such a wonderful opportunity to further explore my faith and relationship with my personal God.

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  • March 24, 2014 at 9:29 am
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    What a great tale of your religious pilgrimages. I’m glad that you were able to get closer to your spirituality in so many magical places. I particularly enjoyed the part where you gave water to the praying man in India. Although you didn’t touch too much on what it meant to you getting closer to your personal god, I still felt like the piece was very spiritual and almost got a sense of that inadvertently through the piece, which is kudos to you as a writer for getting that sentiment across.

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  • March 24, 2014 at 9:33 am
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    This entry speaks to me! I know it is probably blasphemous to compare the journey to other things I’ve read, so I won ‘t, but I will say that I have to hurry up and get these kids out of the house so that I can continue with my next journey. Your writing is perfectly times to strike and pull back, leaving the reader nodding and gasping at the same time. I hope my god understands that I cannot walk that far.

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    • March 26, 2014 at 11:48 pm
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      I hope my god understands that, given the option, I’d rather drive.

      But the post does bring up some great possibilities, doesn’t it?

      Thanks for reading! Happy Journeys.

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