Iona: Adopted by the Community

I have discovered everything oats.  My favourite lunch is oatcakes with chorizo sausage and Arran cheddar cheese with raw veg on the side served with a pot of tea and milk.  I am morphing into a Scot before my eyes!  Now, oatmeal on its own doesn’t taste like much but dressing it up with raisins and sliced bananas makes it pretty sexy and gives me my iron and sugar for the morning.  I was pleased to find Hebriddean oatcakes in the raw with no sugar added at the local SPAR shop.

I wanted to tell you about other sustainability things they do here in Scotland that I think are brilliant.  Here, there are switches by the electrical outlets where you can actually save energy by turning the current off when it is not in use.

On dry days, people still use clotheslines to dry their laundry.  I remember helping my Avo Maria hang laundry like this using wooden clothes pegs when I was a little girl in East Vancouver.  There is really nothing like the smell of laundry that comes off the line.

When I was in Ireland ten years ago, I went to Dublin’s Trinity College to see the Book of Kells.  It is truly breathtaking in all its intricate detail.  I’d studied it during my three years of Art History but it is quite another thing to see it in front of you!  This is a Holy Book that was illuminated by monks on Iona.  It was brought over to Ireland for safe keeping when Vikings raided Iona centuries ago.  My friend (Trish) and I saw a brilliant Irish animated film before I left called BRENDAN AND THE SECRET OF KELLS.  The illustrations are incredible; Trish said she has never seen anything like it and she is a graphic designer.  I am a layperson and I was duly impressed myself with the geometric designs.  Here is a link if you are interested.

You may remember my Irish friend, Richard, who is the gardener for the hotel.  I took him a chocolate bar today as a heart gift for the produce he gave me for free from the gardens.  In a funny way, he’s acted as my social convenor during my stay.  He told me about a Compline service at the Bishop’s House tonight where they sing the service in Gregorian Chant.  My friend, Courtney Canning, told me about Compline at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Vancouver and I attended one before I left.  I had no idea how much I’d be moved by it and I am looking forward to going again tonight.

Made friends with some cows outside the Abbey today:

I spent this afternoon at the Nunnery sitting among the ruins.  I spent most of my time in what used to be the church (pictured here).  When I looked at the diagram of what each part was, I had to smile.  This trip has been all about the churches, much to my surprise.

On the way home from the Nunnery, I spotted Aaron and Sam busking with their guitars outside the garden while tourists spilled off the ferry.  They smiled at me and invited me to join.  I’d never busked before so it was a neat experience.  Sam is quite a good blues player so I sang him some bluegrass songs I know and he figured out the chords so he could play along.  For those of you that know the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack or sang in the Universal Gospel Choir, the songs we did were “I am Weary” and “Down to the River to Pray.”  I think the sky gods must have been appeased because it’s been pouring with rain and howling with wind and in just that moment, the clouds parted and sun shined right on us until the song was over.  No kidding!  I was joking with Ayla the other day that she should go out and do a sun dance.  Perhaps she did.

It is fair to say that I am getting my exercise on this trip- especially on Iona.  The island is 3 miles long and I walk about 1 mile of it one way to get to my hostel, which is on the northern tip of the island; I do this walk several times a day as everything is in town.  There are more sheep than people on Iona so it is not hard to get away from the crowds if I go away from the main road and up into the hills and onto the beaches just outside my hostel.  The weather has been torrential so I’ve been decked out in my long underwear and raingear for the past two days while exploring the island, stopping every once in a while to duck into the St. Columba Hotel for a cup of tea.

During two sunny hours, I shot out the door of the hostel and headed to the beach.  To get there, I pass through several sheep pastures and gates.  I had to strip off some clothes because it was so hot but my raingear was not far behind me!  The sand here is white and when the sun shines on it, it has an unearthly glow that I tried unsuccessfully to capture in this picture.  Sometimes I feel like I am walking on the moon when I am on the beach.  Hopefully, the expression on my face at the beginning of the post gives you an idea of what it might “feel” like to be here.

I came across an Irish Blessing that I quite like and want to share with you:

May the raindrops fall lightly on your brow,

May the soft winds freshen your spirit,

May the sunshine brighten your heart,

May the burdens of the day rest lightly upon you

And may God enfold you in the mantle of his love.

Tomorrow is my last day here and I will be sad to leave.  It has been good to stay in one place for a while and meet so many interesting people.  The Iona Community has welcomed me and made me feel at home for a while and for that I am grateful.

I am off for a swim in the Atlantic; wish me luck!


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