Dissertation

Accidental Pilgrims

Accidental Pilgrims, University of Houston, May 2008.

In this memoir of her travels across the American landscape made with her husband and daughters, Meyer views these journeys through the prism of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages. Individual chapters examine places held holy by this secular nation, as well as sites in my own sacred topography—the Santuario de Chimayo in New Mexico, the Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine, Jamestown Settlement and Plymouth Plantation, Shaker Village at Sabbathday Lake, Maine, Graceland and Graceland Too, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little Houses across the Midwest, the Grand Canyon and Chaco Canyon, the Redwood Forest, the Holy City of the Wichitas, Lawrence, Kansas.  Intertwining American history, local history, and personal history; literature, both ancient and contemporary; accounts of pilgrimage to the Holy Land, particularly The Book of Wanderings of Friar Felix Fabri, as well as accounts of travel through the United States in its early days; and careful observation of both external and internal terrain, this work argues that an attentiveness to the United States’ past, both its deeply flawed passages, and its moments of fleeting perfection, can give rise to hope, tempered by realism, for its future. In traveling from east to west, and to places resonant across the continuum of American history, she seeks to find sites of redemption—both national and personal—in the fallen world of 21st century America.