The Desert Pilgrim: En Route to Mysticism and Miracles

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9780142196304: The Desert Pilgrim: En Route to Mysticism and Miracles

“This evocative memoir flashes back to Swander’s Catholic childhood, the death of her mother, and other events that made her suspicious of opening herself to spirituality. Hers is a tale of discovery.”—Chicago Tribune
 
While driving home one cold winter night, Mary Swander was struck by another car. The accident left her almost completely paralyzed and in chronic pain, with no medical cure or relief in sight. A lapsed Catholic, without any family to speak of, and now severely disabled, she was suddenly faced with how very alone she was in the world. On the verge of losing all hope, she traveled to New Mexico in search of the alternative medicine that the region is known for. It was a decision that would change her forever.
 
In this exquisite memoir, critically acclaimed writer and poet Mary Swander recounts her journey toward emotional, physical, and spiritual recovery amid the stark desert beauty of the American southwest. There she meets two unusual healers: Father Sergei, a Russian Orthodox monk who helps restore her faith; and Lu, a curandera, whose herbal remedies help restore her body. As she chronicles her own transcendent experiences, Swander embarks upon an investigation into the history of healing and mystics such as Teresa of Avila, St. Francis of Assisi, and Hildegard of Bingen. Beautifully written and conveyed with sensitivity and humor, The Desert Pilgrim is a meditation on what it takes to restore our faith in the modern world—and how to believe in miracles again.

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About the Author:

Mary Swander is an award-winning poet and essayist and the author of eight works of nonfiction. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, New Republic, and USA Today. A regular commentator on Iowa Public Radio, Swander teaches at Iowa State University

From Publishers Weekly:

This nonfiction memoir of a chronically ill poet who rediscovers her Catholic faith and perceives its healing power reads like a cross between Kathleen Norris and Carlos Castaneda. Swander, an Iowa poet who developed a paralyzing neurological condition when her car was hit by a drunk driver, weaves family history and an introduction to historic Catholic mystics into a tale of her recovery from illness when she journeys from snowbound Iowa to the desert of New Mexico as a visiting professor. She meets two "everyday mystics"-a Russian Orthodox priest named Father Sergei, whose theology has a discernible Buddhist accent, and a Hispanic herbal healer named Lu. Both tend to her body and soul as they help her to recover. The author writes movingly and keenly about the death of her mother from cancer, and her details of landscape and situation are lively in their particularity: a yapping pack of Chihuahuas, the lusty zucchini growing in Father Sergei's garden. Swander's language of faith is more hesitant as she searches for its embodiment in her lived experience. The timeless Christian allegory of pilgrimage to belief is freshly rendered. This poet-pilgrim joins a literary tradition of others before her who journeyed through the dark nights of doubt to the convinced light of faith. This is a beautifully written book.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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