I listened to the women of our own St Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle singing Compline live on Monday morning. The day was ending there but I could wake on another continent eight hours away and begin the week joining in as they led worship from Seattle.
Later, we celebrated Eucharist at St Paul’s on Lindisfarne with Jennifer presiding and Steve preaching.
And we prayed “Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community” as we traveled together, contained in the bus.
We have gathered for Centering Prayer. We have taken turns reading scripture and leading the singing.
As our bishops gather at Lambeth Conference, we are collectively imagining that All Will Be Well as they consider God’s will for our broad and diverse community.
We left Scotland today and crossed over into England, landing first on Lindisfarne Island, a.k.a. Holy Island.
There is so much about this pilgrimage that is liminal for me—crossing borders, shifting accents, the weather, the effects of jet lag, changing rooms and lugging luggage, not to mention slight waves of nausea on the long bus rides.
Which brings me to the corporal nature of our group. Which could end up being, seriously, my favorite aspect of our journey together, I am surprised to say.
At least nine of us are in our 80’s, for which I am, actually, grateful. These individuals provide our steady wisdom. I flood often with love for them, perking up for instance during their check-ins after Evening Prayer.
At the same time, sometimes they ask God’s soft eyes of me and, wow, I am not there yet. Their needs require me to slow way down. I am constantly reminded that none of us gets out of this alive. So along with just accepting my irritations and letting them go, I must acknowledge my sadness—mostly as I think of my even frailer mother. In his book Being Mortal, Atul Gawande explains: What we want most as we age is to continue to live fully. And those who love and care for us want us to be safe.
There’s the rub. Paradoxically, we want two seemingly contradictory things.
My personal beliefs—about individual and group agency, about caring directly and indirectly for ourselves and others, and about the efficacy of prayer—help. Understatement. Pause.
God holds us. My desire to be and do God’s desire is, and will be, part of seeing us through.
(For reference, Rob’s brother Dan—now deceased—played the bagpipes.)
Yesterday I followed bagpipers through Edinburgh. If they had played “Danny Boy,” I would have wept. It was not unlike the last scene in Braveheart when Mel Gibson is about to be beheaded. As he surveys the surrounding crowd, he begins to see dead loved ones showing up.
I have come here with these beloved pilgrims directly from Iona, officially dubbed “a thin place,” where heaven meets earth. My intent is to acknowledge these thin places more often as I go forward. Even in the seemingly godforsaken city, I believe they are all around me. As in, we live in thinness, whether we notice it or not.
Oh the puffins, the puffins. Sad that we must leave you in our wake. Today we leave Iona and travel to Edinburgh. I am writing from the bus.
Last night I ran into a rough patch. Basically it was obvious we would soon be moving from pastoral ruralness to urbaness and all it entails. I was unsettled. As usual when this happens, I wanted to maintain my image of eptness or at least a modicum of interior calm. I was tired and I needed to pack up.
We had been advised to set our small dinner groups and make reservations via Open Table for the upcoming (in less than 24 hours) Saturday night in Scotland’s bustling capital. My kids will vouche for me when I say, I am good for nothing heady at night especially anything electronic.
Finally I asked for help. What a concept!
Jacinta, Kathy, Maris, Elizabeth, Fons and others all played parts in setting up great plans for me, my buddy, and “the sisters”—our eldest pilgrims. I became excited again, full of anticipation (in a good way) and ready for the city lights and energy.
(Later on bus) Now it is becoming obvious that we’ll likely arrive too late for dinner out.
(Later, still on the bus) And now our tour company has wrestled this bull to the ground: In recognition of our late-arriving bus, they are treating us to either room service or dinner out. Our wonderful guide, Jacinta, has somehow secured the reservations!
Why did I ever waste an iota of this precious life on worry today?
I was overcome when I looked down on the precise hexagonal basalt columns that make Fingal’s Cave on Staffa Island. Of course I was reminded of honeycomb and our thousands of honeybees at the cathedral. For a moment I was bereft, missing my Rob, their keeper.
Apparently this landscape was created 60 million years ago. In the face of it, Mendelssohn could do nothing less than bow and compose Hebrides Overture. A heart-felt blog post is my humble offering, also from here on my knees .
We had started the day together singing:
“Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all our years away; they fly, forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.” (From our pilgrimage Prayer & Song Book – Hymn #680 God, our help in ages past).
Then we found timeless majesty over and over again as the day unfolded.