A pilgrimage is a journey, often into an unknown or foreign place, where a person goes in search of new or expanded meaning about their self, others, nature, or a higher good, through the experience. It can lead to a personal transformation, after which the pilgrim returns to their daily life. – Wikipedia
I love making the pilgrimage down to Cowan to capture the annual Christmas parade. As the definition of the word pilgrimage would suggest, this journey is much more than just watching the parade. It’s a homecoming! The trip down memory lane is good for the soul.
How many parades have to stop a few times to allow a train to pass? I was a member of the South Jr. High Trojan Band and the Franklin County Rebel Pride Marching Band where I’ve marched in many parades, including the Cowan Christmas Parade and a 4th of July parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. Cowan’s event is the only parade I’ve ever participated in where it had to be paused because of a train. You might be from Cowan if…
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I’m not complaining about the train interruptions. It’s part of the charm of the Cowan Christmas Parade. You can’t get the full experience without having to wait for a train to pass through before resuming the parade. Speaking of interruptions, the big interruption that has given us all a pause in 2020 is Covid-19. With Christmas event cancellations in my current town, I was glad to see that Cowan was still having their festivities. However, it did appear that participation and attendance was lower than last year. Regardless of the numbers, those attending and participating were in the Christmas spirit. In these current times, a since of normality is good for the psyche.
Part of my pilgrimage always includes checking out a few of my favorite spots on Sewanee Mountain. While Sewanee is not Cowan, I always viewed Sewanee as an extension of Cowan. In big city terms, you could say Sewanee is in the metropolitan area of Cowan. That would actually be the other way around if you considered population. Nevertheless, growing up in Cowan, I’ve spent countless hours on Sewanee Mountain or as the locals call it, The Domain.
Before heading up the mountain, I stopped by the old community building where I attended boy scout meetings. I have so many fond memories of this building from competing in Pinewood derbies to preparing for camping trips. I learned so much from the scout leaders. Part of who I am today was ingrained into me in that little building.
Getting back on the highway, I stopped along the road to capture some views from the foot of the mountain. In photography, it’s all about perspective. The same can be said about life, too! Seeing things in different perspectives can give you insight. Remember the following views as you read on. Later you will see images from these places looking over the valley below.
After releasing my protective angel as I crossed into the Domain, I stopped at the rock overlook. You might ask what do I mean by the phrase “…releasing my protective angel…?” It is said that the Domain is so beautiful that angels live there. While you are on the Domain, the angels will protect you. When you leave the domain, you can touch the roof of your car as you are driving through the gates away from the mountain and an angel will be assigned to protect you until you return. When you return simply touch the roof of your car as you enter the gates and the angel will be released back to the Domain. I guess this is also a homecoming for my protective angel since I don’t live on the Domain. I couldn’t tell you if I have the same angel assigned to me now or even if the legend allows me to have a protective angel indefinitely, but I can say I have be blessed over the years.
My next stop was the Natural Bridge. Visiting the Natural Bridge has always been one of my favorite things to do when visiting Sewanee. It was nice to be there with no one around. I was able to shoot some wide angles without people in my frame.
After the turn of the 21st century, an intriguing structure appeared on the mountain. The Templeton Library overlooks the valley like a castle. I won’t go into the details and the story behind the library, but it would be worth your time to learn the backstory behind this mysterious building which had a tragic beginning. Check out this article from The Coffee Press.
Probably the most visited monument in Sewanee and maybe even Franklin County is The Cross. Some of the most beautiful sunsets in the area can be seen from this location. If you are visiting anywhere close to the mountain, it is a must that you take in the sights at The Cross!
Just a short drive from The Cross is another beautiful overlook. The Green’s View overlook is also an incredible location to take in a sunset. There are tennis courts nearby where I’ve spent a lot time practicing my tennis skills. I would always take in the view at the overlook after playing tennis.
As I mentioned earlier, I love this pilgrimage to the Cowan Christmas Parade. It might sound silly, but it’s a spiritual experience for me. This trip always reminds me of the beauty of Cowan and Franklin County. I’m going to make a 2021 New Years Resolution to spend more time in Franklin County, particularly Cowan and Sewanee to capture more of their beauty. I’m glad I was able to cover the last two parades, and I hope I’m able to shoot more Cowan Christmas parades in the future. If you missed it, check out the photos from my coverage of Cowan’s 55th Annual Christmas Parade in 2019. Thanks for taking the time to read my post. To catch my next photography adventure, Like and Follow Shuttering Thru Life on Facebook. You can also follow STL on Instagram. Here’s one more picture I made before leaving The Domain.