On my last day on Iona the sun came out, the wind calmed down. The sun opened up a joyful spirit that just wasn’t present among the wind and rain when I first arrived. On my last day I enjoyed some fish ’n chaps at the local pub overlooking the bay between Iona and Mull where the ferry goes back and forth.
The visit was too short, but perhaps it helped me appreciate the time I did have, the NOW. My afternoon walk kept me in the moment; every step taken in the NOW.
Really, it’s only been two days since I headed to Logan Airport to begin my journey to Iona. I wrote that I’d see you when I got there, and now, I’m here.
I left 90 degree sun to chilling wind and rain here on the island. What was I thinking when I packed one light cotton sweater? That’s the way with traveling. We read the forecasts, imagine what we are being told, and then ignore it all and pack for the present.
Here’s a quick travel summary; easy and uneventful! Logan was busy, but everything moved along with ease. I learned that if I had checked in on line, and didn’t have a bag to check, I could go right to security. At the gate the Aer Lingus representative gave me a printed boarding pass. Dublin Airport transfer to my 45 minute flight to Glasgow and the flight itself ‘happened’. The ‘traditional Scottish breakfast at the airport before the bus to Oban satisfied my hunger, although without question the use of the microwave has changed my meaning of traditional!
Without exaggeration, I’ve taken the two hour plus drive from Glasgow to Oban at least fifteen times. I used to drive it, and once I took the train, but recently it’s been the bus. Oban is the go-to town for people living along the mid section Scottish west coast and for travelers like me heading to Mull and Iona. Caledonian MacBrayne, Hebredian and Clyde Ferries is vital to the life of those on the mainland and the islands.
In Oban I wandered about, took a short nap at my B & B, had the most yummy fish ’n chips available in Scotland, and went to bed early. Up at 6AM to catch the 7:25 ferry to Mull, to catch the 8:25 bus for the hour-plus ride across Mull, to ever-waiting ferry at Fionnphort to take me on the minute ride to Iona. Whew! Now, I’m here.
The abby is still peaceful; the soup and sandwich at the Argyll Hotel is still homemade; the ferry is still going back and forth. The wind and rain are still having their time, as is the case on Iona, but that will change. I still love it here no matter what.
I’m off to Iona today, yes the Isle of Iona, Scotland. I had planned a week In Edinburgh but that just wasn’t going to work, so I arranged to change my airline reservation of a very small fee, so off I go. I know the travel routine well: Fly Boston-Dublin-Glasgow; bus to Oban; overnight in Oban; ferry, bus, ferry to Iona; walk to my hotel.
I’ll see you when I get there.
Sitting in the yard the day after Labor Day; the leaves have a tinge of red; birds gather at the feeder; a chipmunk scutters two inches from my feet; the sun cuts through the maple tree. I am very grateful for this time and place of solitude. Some call it luck; I call it grace.
This is where I’ve chosen to meditate. There is a soft breeze; my body feels the soft sea air of Iona My mind isn’t cluttered with thoughts, nor is it blank. Rather it has created a collage of Iona memories--every day, every kind of weather, every trip, every moment I am there. This is as close to being there as I could hope for or imagine. It is enough. Some call it luck; I call it grace.
Taking a walk has always been one of the most satisfying ways I have tapped into solitude. My intention is to stay present to what I am seeing and keep my mind clear of mental distractions (such as rehashing the past or planning for the future).
I developed this mindset during those five winters at the cottage when I walked every morning. It became the way I stepped into solitude while wandering the streets of Florence or strolling the grassy terrain of Iona.
These days, as I try to maintain a similar clarity of mind, I realize that walking is my go-to entry into solitude. Memories go with me.
Remembering Iona and Florence
Remembering last week's walk
If we were living in different times, right now I would be on the Isle of Iona, off the Isle of Mull, off the west coast of Scotland. I would be breathing in pure air from this sweet spot; I would be wandering about the thin place.
But we never live in different times. We always live in the moment, and so here I am, safe at home, grateful for memories. Recently, during an early evening walk, I felt blissfully close to being on Iona, in a thin space between here and there.
Be with me now on Iona in 2014.
I submitted “How about a Writing Vacation in Florence” to the Travel Bloggers forum of Lonelyplanet.org, but it wasn’t accepted. I’m not disappointed; just glad I put it out there as an offering to the wider cyberspace universe. Their monthly contest selects approximately eight blog posts, so I’ll try again for August. Regardless, it motivates me to write something more substantial than a quick blog post, which is somewhat random and casual. An article, on the other hand, is deliberate and intentional.
So what to write? I’m thinking about my many trips to Scotland and the challenge it is to get from Glasgow to Iona. I don’t have a working title yet, but here’s a start: “Iona: Train, Ferry, Bus, Ferry and You’re There.” I know, it’s too long, and not snappy enough but if will get the writing started.
Here it is, my third day on Iona. It’s taken me a while to settle into the spirit of the place. Yesterday I felt foggy as I sat in the sunroom of the Argyll Hotel looking out toward the foggy Isle of Mull. Where is the ground? I’m not grounded. I have ideas for writing but I don’t want to work on them, at least not with any precision. My email communication and blog posting is sporadic, done at whim. The ferry comes and goes as it makes the five minute trip back and forth between Mull and Iona.
Today the fog has lifted, the fog on Mull and the fog in my mind. I recall the adjustment period that slips into my life each time I go off on as a solitary traveler. I like that my time is my own, but that means it is up to me to fill it. Be present, my mantra for the trip, is a challenge, a challenge to remember and a challenge to attend to when I do remember.
As soon as I post this, I’m head out for a walk, hoping to remember to be present. (Internet is weak and slow so I’m not posting many pictures.)
What an easy travel day, or shall I say days. My flight was on schedule, as was the bus to Oban and the ferry-bus-ferry to Iona.
It was sunny and hot, which suited me fine for my 24 hours in Oban and first afternoon on Iona. I was on a seafood diet: lunch of scallops along the quay and a dinner of fish and chips in Oban, and a smoked salmon sandwich to take on my travels here. Last night I went off the diet and had roast pork.
Each year on Iona I renew my practice to be present to the moment. I both succeed and fail, but it’s all quite random: I remember, or I don’t. This year feels different, however, because I’ve adopted a mantra for the trip: be present. On the bus ride across Mull I did nothing but look: the amazing scenery became the foreground of my existence.
I am still in awe of the many people I saw on my travel to iona who were making the trip in spite of their physical difficulties. Canes, walkers, wheelchairs, as well as many putting one step in front of the other without added help. Buses and ferries are accessible to all, but it still takes physical, emotional and mental courage to complete the journey. Some had the help of a friend, family member, or staff person, but it was their own mettle that kept them moving and upbeat.
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