Lewis and the Magic Stones

 

I am sad to report that this will be the end of my personal photos.  When my adapter fried, it also fried my computer cord so I will load some pics on from Google images instead so you get an idea for what I am seeing.  I know.  I know.  It won’t be the same. 

Last night, I got the best birthday present EVER!  While exploring the hostel, I found a huge claw foot bathtub complete with candles.  I had a nice, long, birthday soak.  It was heaven; I looked like a prune when I came out.

Random stuff for the day…another quote I like:

“Life is about sharing with others from the heart to grow together.  If we have trust and stay open, listening to our hearts, our lives continue to bloom.” -Mary Tidlund

This morning, I headed out on bus to the west side of the island to see the Callanish Standing Stones.  These are huge pieces of Lewis gneiss that pre-date the Celts and the Druids.  They are as old as the pyramids of Giza (around 4000 BCE).  As I walked among them, I was moved to tears.  These sacred sites are thought by some to be created on energy vortexes.  This energy was benevolent and palpable.  I sat and prayed there to the ancestors that love me and for others.   The stones are laid out in the shape of a Celtic cross and the whole site is impressive sitting atop a big hill overlooking the crofts of the area and the rugged and rocky landscape, which was now blooming with heather. 

When I was leaving, I happened to make friends with a Scottish man about my age named Andrew who works for Historic Scotland.  He was here on business to work with the people of Guernin to allow preservation on these lands and wanted to tour some of these sites.  His job is to work to preserve Scottish heritage by protecting these sites all over the country.  He and I decided to travel together to the broch (stone house) over  in Carloway.   These brochs were used for defense and extended families would live in them along with their livestock.  The structure was built like a tower and tiered on the inside with separate floors.  It was really neat to walk in the walls, in through the tiny doors (these people must have been related to dwarves) and walk up the tiny stone steps.   The Broch at Carloway is one of the best preserved in the Hebrides and dates back over 2000 years.

Andrew  told me more about the troubles they have in preserving sites because locals do not always want the restrictions that come with this.  We got to hear the other side too when we decided to walk to the next town of Guernin where the Blackhouses were and a man asked if we wanted a ride.  The man was a native of this part of Lewis and he still spoke Gaelic fluently.  He told us that many people in the area are in danger of losing their crofts (small farming plots alotted by the government) and so people were not keen on any more restrictions.  He also told us how smart sheep are.  There is a stereotype that they are dumb but he told me that they jump over top of each other to get over fences into fresh pasture.  And Andrew told me about something called the “commando roll” which is where sheep roll over these iron grates in the ground to get to other pasture.  Of course, the iron grates are meant to trap their hooves and prevent them from getting across but it seems the sheep are clever and know how to get their way.  I love the subversive nature of these animals and after hearing that today, I am even more endeared towards them.

It was really lovely to hear Gaelic spoken everywhere we went.  A librarian I met and worked with while researching yesterday at the library in Stornoway is also fluent in Gaelic.  She told me that there has been a lot of funding put in to keep the language alive and kids can now opt to take it in schools all over the country.  Many of the signs in the country are in English and Gaelic.  Andrew offered to buy me a cup of tea as my official Scottish ambassador and while sitting in the blackhouse cafe, we talked more about his conservation projects.  It turns out that he also does environmental assessments.  What luck I had to have him as a companion today!  Inside, the blackhouses with their thatched roofs, they were burning peat fires.  Andrew and I got to see huge peat fields on the way to Carloway that were being harvested and dried to be used during winter months.

Tomorrow is the first day of the Hebridean Celtic Festival and Stornoway is gearing up for 4 days of party.  I bought my tickets for the next two days and will be dancing ceilidhs, doing workshops, and listening to top notch Celtic music from all over Scotland the next few days.  Unfortunately, a band I really wanted to see (Runrig) plays on Saturday night after I leave.  Darn!

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