Thursday, September 30, 2010
The trip to Scotland was a pilgrimage of sorts;I wanted to see and experience the land which my dear Grandmother had left as an infant and to set foot on the holy island of Iona.This is the place where Columba landed in 563 A.D.,determined to spread the Christian faith beyond Ireland.
In August,while in prayer,I experienced the impression that I would be given something on the trip.My response was to honestly think that I deserved nothing but would happily receive anything given.And that was that.
We travelled through Scotland,or Caledonia, for 14 days.It rained on and off for 13 of those days and it was windy and cold.I had to buy a hat,woolen scarf and gloves to fend off this unexpectedly bitter weather.But, the only day that we would spend on Iona, the sun was brilliant.Thus we were able to hike the two miles to the labyrinth at the southern end of the island.To get there,we walked down a country road that turned into a sheep pasture,then a rocky path over steep hills and finally to the beach.
The setting for this prayer path was indescribable.Hills,ocean, rocky beach,heather,and glorious sunshine.Finally, after laying on the beach and recovering from the hike,I stepped onto the labyrinth.I tried to empty myself of all thought and just "be" on the path.This labyrinth is like no other.Not only do wet rocks mark the path,but the path itself is strewn with kelp,sheep and cow droppings,some shells and a bit of heather.Scotland!
As I slowly walked ,saying a brief prayer,I was overtaken with peace.I do not know any other way to say this.I was not thinking of peace or relaxation,it just came and my whole body eased.It was as if I was being told this: "you are not in charge,do not worry about trains/buses and accomodations.This is not your trip to manage,I am in charge."
Perhaps ,this is the difference between a vacation and a pilgrimage.I had been so uptight about getting around,contracting a cold which would instantly turn into pneumonia,catching the right bus,ducking out of the rain, that I forgot that I was seeking the One who is in charge.The rest of the trip was a breeze.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
If you are descended from the Scots race,I encourage you to walk a wee bit taller this morning.These are a good and gracious people.I know that this is cheeky of me to suggest after only two weeks strolling through the heather but I want to tell you why;what I saw.
On the interminable ferry ride from Mull to Oban, a young woman came up to a man she had noticed, and insisted that she take one of his bags.He had several,was bent,white haired and struggling.When he got off the ferry, she came over and gave it back,having taken it up and down several flights of stairs.He glowed as he introduced this kind stranger to his waiting sister.He will never forget her and neither will I.
On the bus ride to Fort William, an older gentlemen told the bus driver that he wanted to get off the bus to go to another stop and on to Glasgow.He wondered if there would be room for him.The driver pulled over, called the other bus to check for seat availability and assured the man there was space and let him off to be picked up in minutes.The bus drivers in Scotland should get medals.The roads are narrow, buses huge and for him to listen to that man much less help him in that way,was startling.
I am not going to dwell on the constant rain that plagued our two weeks but when I got caught in a mini-monsoon and was soaked to the skin, Ian, our B and B host offered to dry my clothes,which saved the day.With his white hair, ruddy cheeks and smile, he was Scotland to me.The room in that B and B which was on Skye, took my breath away when we entered.Three windows looking out on mountains, harbor, hills and clouds.Wonderful.
When we arrived there,after two buses,I begged off another bus trip around the island and sat in the small stone bench park with my journal.In the distance was the remains of a castle,hills and a huge sky.I was wrapped in my new tartan scarf, hat, gloves and 2 coats.A thin young man in his twenties,dressed in a parka,knitted hat and jeans came over to see if I was a statue.We laughed and started to chat.Scott had come from Glasgow for a holiday with his much loved spaniel.We shared our love of dogs and laughed over the book "Braveheart" which was in my lap.He said he hoped that I knew it was mostly fiction.
We also talked about the Brits who he humbly characterized as arrogant.He loathed how they looked down on the Scots.He said perhaps it was soccer that made him feel this way or maybe it's genetic.The Scots suffered terribly under English rule.One town,Berwick on Tweed,which we never got to, was completely destroyed by the tall, odious English King Eward Longshanks;he who threw his son's lover out the window to his death in Mel Gibson's movie.17,000 men,women and children were left to rot in that town;he refused to allow them to be buried.Then he brought Scot nobles to view the scene as a lesson.
What struck me about Scott was his friendliness.Most hormone charged young men would find little value in chatting with a white haired,wrapped up like a mummy, woman.A good Scot.
I wasn't looking for these things;in fact I was so tired most of the time, my eyes were little slits and I was just trying to get through the day.But like the bits of sunshine that every once in awhile painted the hills,these graces came.