Okay, maybe not heaven, but Iona is pretty close. At least, today it is.
I started the day in Glasgow, woken by an alarm early in the am, and, shaking ourselves awake, Shannon and I got the day started. Showers, last minute packing, a quick call to the taxi company. Putting my head into the kitchen of the dorm we were staying in, I wondered if there was any hope for a bit of food for the road? YES! came the response, then 'Where are you from?' 'Canada' 'I told you so' said the lovely lady in the top hat (a kitchen uniform, I assume). Her colleague stepped out and said she had a sister in Toronto.....
Our taxi driver became an impromtu tour guide on the road back into town down Maryhill road. Fun.
We caught the 8:20 am train from Queen street station, and headed across country to the West of Glasgow, and headed north to Oban. Lovely ride, with incredible views of Loch Lomond. I was so excited I stood for a long way, in the compartment between cars, using a window as my personal view of the passing world.
Oh - did I mention that the weather was SPECTACULAR! Gorgeous blue skies, and lots of sun. Apparently there was snow here, during Holy Week, so everythign is a bit late. However, the green grass and new growth is so BRIGHT it hurts my eyes.
The Lochs (there is only one lake in Scotland we were told....) were mirror like. I spotted a white - snow white - deer in the woods - and hair on the back of my neck stood up. Isn't that something out of C.S. Lewis? Then three deer and a buck with a full rack on his head. A pheasants head shone from a field, and the long haired Scottish Cattle were adorable. As adorable as a beast with huge pointed horns can be. These critters could all use someone to tie their 'bangs' up in a big bow. I dare you! (ha!)
Shannon and I agree that the landscape is similar to the foot hills - and no wonder Calgary and Stratmore are names from this area of the world. There is some snow in the high hills, very fresh and white.
Oban is a lovely town on the coast. We had all of 5 minutes from the train to the ferry, so most of what we saw was as the ship pulled away from shore. We sat on the top deck in the sun, and I may just have a sun burn. Short sleeves, and a fleece vest were warm enough, even with a bit of a cool breeze on deck.
Sailing time from Oban to Craig..uh...craigleigh? - was 45 minutes. Shannon got some lunch, I had a snack on deck and enjoyed the view. Gorgeous, calm waters. Passed by a castle (or two or three....over the day) and saw buzzards and sea gulls as well. A guy in Oban built a replica of the colliseum from Rome on the top of a hill, which is an intersting view from the ship.
We landed, hauled our suitcases to the bus and then drove on the singletrack roads across Mull to our next ferry. Again, gorgeous scenery - through mountains. Not many trees, lots of hummockly ground, waterfalls, water inlets, herons, old stone buildings, and daffodils growing everywhere. I've taken more than 100 photos in two days.....
Our bus was full of folk heading for Iona. Our first view of the abbey drew a sigh from the bus - and then - 5 minutes later we were standing on the wharf. 10 minutes on the Iona ferry and we were ashore.
Our accomodation is in a newer building above the abbey. After check in - there are 7 women in our room - about 50 in all in this program - another at the abbey itself - we have had 3 hours free time. I headed down to the Abbey - and - well - I'll try to describe that at another time. Photos do not do it justice. It is built with a rose-red rock (quartz?) and a really lovely building. The cloister is fabulous. I'm ready to move into the monks quarters, above. The view is breathtaking - and the air is so fresh. Wild iris are growing everywhere - I wish I'd be able to see them bloom. The fields of daffodils will have to do.
We have lambs out front of our place - from 2 weeks to a month old, I'd guess. I've just started to walk around....and cannot wait until the next foray and view.
Tonight, we gather as a community for dinner at 6:30, and worship at 9pm. I'll fall into bed at the end of the day, exhausted.
So - is this sacred space? It sure is a blessedly gorgeous one. I hear that the forecast if for more great weather - at least until Monday. But they say the weather can change, anytime. I'll take whatever comes, here. After all, it is a bit of a miracle that I'm here, in the first place. Or at least, a blessed gift.