Thursday, August 14, 2008

Scotland, Part 4

On our last day on Iona, I finally found one of those "thin places" that Matthew kept talking about. I walked up to the North Beach, where the monks of St. Columba's abbey were slaughtered by Viking raiders (not an uncommon occurrence, apparently), and it was the most beautiful place you can imagine. The beach is a combination of white sand, pebbles, and huge striated mounds of granite--red, green, and blue-gray. If the boulders had had a weft, they would have looked plaid. ;-) The water in the bay is crystal clear, so the white sand bottom makes the water look aqua, dotted with dark mounds of granite. Stunning. Just stunning. There was a beautiful multi-tiered tidal pool in one of the granite mounds on the shore, and I climbed up to the top of that mound and just sat for an hour or so, looking out over the surf.

And that's when I found the thin place between the temporal and the spiritual.

I'm glad it happened before I left. I had really been struggling to find the vaunted spirituality for which Iona is famous, and I was afraid that our time on Cumbrae would be the only real spiritual highlight, but this was a good day. Not only did I find the thin place, but, despite my meltdown on the stairs, Staffa turned out to be a wonderful experience. We reaffirmed our baptismal vows on top of the island and sang songs to the rest of the boat's passengers on the way back to Iona (whether they wanted to hear us or not), including the Navy hymn, "Eternal Father Strong to Save", because it started raining, and the sea became a little rough. I thought the lyric was appropriate:

Hear us when we cry to thee
For those in peril on the sea.

I did such a good job on my packing (I brought old clothes to throw away) that I was able to pack all my new clothes (except my fleece jacket and boiled wool hat, which I was wearing) and my souvenirs in my two little round vintage American Tourister suitcases and a burlap tote bag that I picked up in Inverary. I am traveler; hear me roar! :-D Which leads me to my only nitpick about this trip...suitcases. I have a theory of traveling. If you can't handle your own suitcase--up hills, on stairs, whatever--then your suitcase is too dang big, and you need to get rid of some stuff and pack a smaller suitcase. Now, for the the elderly, of which we have a few (or Carol, who broke her foot on this trip), I make an exception, but if you're middle-aged or younger and healthy, then you should be able to carry you own suitcase and not expect the men of the group to do it for you. Yes, I'm talking about the women on the trip, who brought giant suitcases full of stuff they really didn't need and expected to have help managing their own luggage.

Other than that, it was an unequivocally marvelous experience. :-) Next year, Canterbury and walking the Pilgrim Pathway!


nejyerf said...

i should have known that you would have fabulous vintage luggage!

i have so enjoyed your descriptions of your trip.

and i couldn't help but think that your scary trip up the steep slope on the metal staircase was in itself a baptism of sorts. you know....a baptism of fire kind of thing.

in other news, i was pleased that keith won last night. although i'm not all that fond of the highwaisted, belted right under the boobs look.

whatever happened to a woman's natural waistline?

PhantomMinuet said...

i should have known that you would have fabulous vintage luggage!

And they're the most fabulous shade of lipstick red, too. :-)

Kanani said...

I've never understood those huge suitcases either. My rule of thumb is this: pack, and then unpack eliminating what you probably won't need.

I have a small suitcase that I bought at a surfing store. It has wheels and it's by O'Neill. I roll up my clothes and have packed enough for two weeks of traveling. It's darling --I love it and carry it on planes with me everywhere.

The only time I had to take a large rolling duffle was when I traveled through India for a wedding. I also took old duds, but had plenty of empty space for all the stuff I knew I'd buy (and did!).

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