Scotland has been experiencing an extraordinary stretch of wonderful weather while I’ve been here, and I’ve been joking that when I go home I’ll have to tell everyone that Scotland is always sunny and 70 degrees. I’m told this isn’t typical, but I have yet to see the frequent wind and rain.
I leave Iona tomorrow. The week has been long and short at the same time with days stretching on like dreams but also moving quickly by. I feel saturated and I don’t know when I’ll fully process the experience: meeting and spending time with people from around the world; soaking in the rich history and sacredness of the place; absorbing the beauty of the rocky shores and white beaches; walking in steps of pilgrims from centuries ago. Being at The Abbey, in intentional community, has been hard work–physically, emotionally, spiritually–and I’ve been much busier than I expected to be. My introvert self has been challenged by the lack of privacy and yet I wouldn’t trade the conversations I’ve had with the fascinating and warm people here.
The last two days have included two incredible experiences. On Tuesday I participated in the “off-road” pilgrimage, a weekly trek that many visitors at The Abbey take. A group of us went on a 7-mile hike around the island, stopping at various sacred and historical spots to reflect, hear Scripture and pray. I was surprised by the power of the reflections and how they moved me. Every where we went the scenery was breathtaking, including Columba Beach and the top of Dun I, the highest point on the island.
On Wednesday, a group visited the island of Staffa, an hour away from Iona by boat. It’s a popular tourist spot that draws tons of visitors from around the world. There we hiked around the amazing rock formations, experienced the majesty of Fingal’s Cave and got up close and personal with puffin penguins. It also happened to be the only foggy day we’ve experienced, and the island eerily appeared out of the mist once we got close enough, which felt like we were visiting a fantastic movie location.
(This was taken at the edge of the top of the island, many feet up, and the puffins would fly up to meet us and fly off again. Apparently they like when humans visit, as it keeps the sea gulls away.)
I’ll be sad to leave Iona tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to meeting Tim in Dublin and enjoying the comforts of a hotel room and the ease of a looser schedule. There’s so much more to say about Iona, and many more pictures to share (!) and I anticipate this experience will shape and form me long past my time here.