Trip To Scotland
Thursday, April 27, 2006
With the Da Vinci Code movie coming out in a couple of weeks, more people than usual may be hunting for the pictures of Rossyln Chapel on this site. Head down to the entry for August 18 and you'll have it.
Sunday, August 29, 2004
And so it is almost over. I write now on Sunday...it has taken me two days at the University to get all of Iona up. Saturday I did some laundry and packed up most of a box that I will mail home tomorrow, since there is no hope of fitting everything in my suitcase. It has not been dry enough to hang the wash out, however, and I did more this morning. Hopefully it will dry before I have to pack it tomorrow. Most of Saturday was spent here in the Chaplaincy, wading through about 150 e-mails and doing the first four days of the Iona blog. The nice part was that a class in Scottish singing was meeting in the large room outside the office...providing lovely background music for my work. They were here today as well and have just left.
This morning at church was a mix of emotions. I have been here long enough that I have formed attachments to people, and I was truly sorry to be saying goodbye. And they seemed honestly sorry to see me go. I was showered with gifts...one I have not even opened yet, but two were lovely paintings. One, from the congregation, is a lovely watercolor of Stirling Castle. It is perfect, since just last night, as I saw it again I was sadly thinking how I would miss seeing it there, posting watch above Stirling. The other was a painting done on wood of the Iona Abbey, done by a member of the congregation...and without the green scaffolding that was there last week. Truly touching. I closed the place out, saying goodbye.
Then I was whisked away by Dio and Pam and Dio's daughter Mila. Dio and Mila are from Mozambique and Pam is English. They brought me to their home in Bridge of Allan for a wonderful dinner and still better conversation. I have a picture of them, but I can't post it yet, since I haven't been to the house to dump it onto a CD. I can't load directly from the camera at the University. So, I may have to add their charming faces here after I get home. I don't know if I will get here again before I leave for home early Tuesday morning.
Tomorrow Ernest, George, and George's wife Joan will take me to lunch and then it will be packing and mailing and saying goodbye. I've invited the whole church to New Hampshire. Maybe they'll charter a plane and show up.
Thank you for joining me on my trip. I will perhaps post once more when I arrive home, but for now, I will leave you with the sheep of the week from Iona. Baaaaaaaaye...
Friday, August 27, 2004
Thursday dawned gray and got worse. They say it was the remnants of hurricane Danielle, but whatever it was I was glad I had gone up Dun-i the day before. The wind was fierce, the rain pelting, and there is not a picture to show for the day. We had our last storytelling session in the morning. After lunch I ventured out to do a last bit of shopping and tried to figure out how to pack all the extra things in my backpack for the next day's departure.
In the late afternoon, after reading a bit in the dorm room, I decided to brave the elements and head to the Abbey chapter house for the last wee sing. By the time we got across the road, we were drenched and had rather less sympathy from the Abbey folks (who only had to walk downstairs) than I thought was appropriate to our begdraggled condition. But the sing was a lot of fun and we became the choir for the farewell service that evening. Amazing that in the space of 45 minutes we learned four songs well enough to perform them for the evening service. We only had the music for one piece, and many of the people didn't read music and so didn't bother with it.
The closing communion service was lovely...made even more so when the power went out, leaving us once again in a medieval abbey by candlelight. The rain was a little less severe by the time we had to go back to the Mac, but that night the sheep did not go up to their usual spot on the slopes of Dun-i.
And there was evening and there was morning the sixth day.
And so it was finished. I can't say we rested on the seventh, however. We were up for an early breakfast
before an early worship so that we could all be aboard the 9:00 am ferry off the island. And then the process was reversed. From the Iona ferry to the bus across Mull to the ferry to Oban to the train to Glasgow. The latter was packed and many had to stand for the three hour ride. Because yours truly waited by the train gate and did not go off to look for lunch in the hour and a half between our ferry arriving in Oban and the train departure, I was able to get one of the very few non-reserved seats on the train. Seems like there's a parable in there, to me.
In any case, I will leave the tale of Iona with a glimpse of the rainbow we saw from the ferry as we left Mull...one of three rainbows I saw on my way back to Stirling.
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Morning began as the others...rising early, setting up for breakfast, then heading to worship. This morning was another storytelling session, so I headed to the Abbey for another morning with Russell. He told us stories about the man who counted.
A man was on his way to Arabia on his camel. While traveling, he met a man who was pointing at a tree and shouting "6,567! 6,567!" The man on the camel stopped. "What are you doing?" he asked. "What are you shouting about!" "The leaves on that tree," said the man. "There are 6,567 of them!" The man on the camel was astounded. "You know that?" he said. "Yes," said the man. "And there are 12,954,694 blades of grass in that field over there." The man on the camel was even more amazed. "Well," he said, "if you can count like that, you can make a lot of money. You shouldn't be just out here counting leaves and blades of grass. Come with me to Arabia."
So the man who counted joined the man on the camel and together they rode on. Soon they came to three men who were obviously in a heated argument. The two men on the camel stopped. "What is going on here?" they asked. "Why are you arguing so?" One of the arguing men came to explain.
"We are all brothers, the sons of one man, and our father has died. He left us an inheritance of those camels under that tree, but we cannot settle the issue amongst ourselves."
"Why not?" asked the man who counted, "Were your father's wishes unclear?"
"Oh no," said the son. "They were quite explicit. That is, in fact, the problem. You see, our father had 35 camels. He has left half of them to one of us, a third of them to another, and one ninth of them to the third." The first man on the camel puzzled aloud. "Well, you will have to slaughter and divide the beasts amongst you."
"And that is why we argue," said the son. "None of us wants half of a dead camel. We must divide them differently. But my brothers will not go against our father's wishes."
"Then the man who counted spoke up. I can solve your problem," he said.
Okay...you have until the end of this day's blog to figure out how to solve the problem to everyone's satisfaction. You may not kill a camel. Now for the other news of the day.
The day was stunningly beautiful and we had a free afternoon. I hadn't really had time to visit the shops yet, so I set out to do that. There aren't a whole lot of commercial establishments on Iona...or a lot of any sort of buildings period...so that didn't take too long. With a couple hours left before supper and a glorious day, I decided to head for the one part of the island I had seen, but not visited...the top of Dun-i (prounounced dun-ee)...which is the highest point on the island.
The hill itself is very close to the MacLeod center and all the sheep went up it's slopes to spend each night. As I climbed up I thought to myself, "I need to be sure to get a picture of the hill itself from a distance so I can put it on the blog." But I forgot.
Anyway, I set off down the road a bit to a stile gate where I entered the sheep pasture and headed for the hill. The hill goes pretty much straight up. If I remember right, it's somewhere on the order of 300 ft. high. Rocks...no trees...some boggy places.
I took pictures as I climbed, but realized at the top that I had the camera on the high setting, which again means I can't post the pictures here until they are re-sized at home. But once I got to the top, this is what I saw around me.
And in the center of the little plateau at the top was this:
There is no entry or exit, and no one knows for sure what it is. A cairn? A marker of some event? A memorial to some feat now unknown? I did notice that there was this pressed into some of the bits of concrete or whatever it is holding some of the rocks together.
Why a one shekel coin is here, I don't know either. We're quite a way from Israel. But my eyes were ever drawn back to the view around me.
Those gables sticking up just behind the plateau belong to the MacLeod Center where I was staying. The building just cut off on the far left is the Abbey.
I sat up there for some time. It was quite windy, but the back side of the cairn or whatever it is provided some shelter. I missed one of the wee sings to climb up here, but it was such a splendid day, I couldn't bear to be indoors. And who knows what weather Thursday would bring? All too soon it was time for supper and I needed to start down. The way down was not nearly as obvious as the way up had been, and I ended up in several places where I had to climb rather than walk down as I had picked a steeper path. But now and again was a chance to take another picture.
From here you can clearly see the MacLeod Center (above right) and its distance from the Abbey (above left).
No, there is not a nice, gentle slope just beyond those rocks. But that's the way I went down. As a result, I became much more aquainted with the heather.
On Tuesday's pilgrimage, I also discovered why the old Highlanders were content to live outdoors all summer. The book I mentioned way back at the beginning of the blog about Gaelic culture said that while people stayed in their homes during winter, in summer, they took off the now-grimy thatched roofs of their homes and headed with the cattle up into the sheiling, living outside until the weather forced them to thatch new roofs and go indoors again. What I learned on the pilgrimage is that heather is about the best nesting material anywhere. At one of the points we stopped on a heather topped hill and it was far more comfortable than most chairs I have occupied. Even though I was sitting in bushes, there were no scratchy twigs or thorns...just this wonderful heather that shaped itself around your body as if it had been custom made for you. Absolutely perfect. I was sure to thank it when I got up.
Anyway, I wasn't sitting down in this heather...I was lucky to have a place where I could steady myself and get a picture. Then it was back down to the pasture, where I had to ford a bog to get back to the path that led to the stile gate where I had entered.
After supper, we had a concert, provided by the guests of both the Mac and the Abbey. It was really nice. A whole bunch of people played instruments or sang or told stories...from the smallest children to the older adults. It was really nice.
And now...how many of you have figured out the camel problem? Remember that the man who counted and his companion are riding on a camel. The answer is for them to give the sons their camel. That makes 36 camels. One son then gets half...18. Another son gets a third...12. The last son gets a ninth...4. So all three sons have what they were promised and there are now two camels left over. The first man gets his camel back and there is an extra one for the man who counted.
And there was evening and there was morning the fifth day.
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Tuesday was the day of the pilgrimage...a 7 mile hike around the island, stopping at important religious sites. The usual breakfast and worship was followed by Team B making up bag lunches for those of us going on the hike. It was then I realized that I didn't have any sort of pack to take. The backpack from the Butterfields was way too big and my fanny pack was way too small.
My raincoat, however, had big pockets. So, on one side went two sandwiches and my camera, while on the other went a bottle of water and a banana. The day was warm so I tied the coat arms around my waist and set out with the other pilgrims at 10 am. The pilgrimage was open to anyone who wanted to join us and three German nuns in full dress did just that.
We began at St. Martin's cross in front of the Abbey. This carved cross is made of just one piece of stone. Here is the placard...
And here is the cross.
We set out first along the road. Going just a little way to the Nunnery (no picture, sorry)...a ruin of a nunnery founded in 1203. At the various places we went we stopped for a brief reflection or prayer...and to let the end of the group catch up. There was a good sized bunch of people.
Once we left the road, the going got a bit trickier. Much of the land is peat, and you know when you step on one piece of ground and the ground goes up two feet away that careful stepping is in order. One of the children decided that what the sheep were really saying was not "baaaaa" but "baaaaag." Beware of the bog. Sometimes I could avoid it by climbing up on a high place. Even those have their traps however, as I discovered when I slipped on a rock and grabbed the fence to steady myself. It was barbed wire.
Sometimes you could jump the bog. Sometimes you missed. These are my feet.
The prize however went to one of the teens from the Abbey who sank up to her knees after a rather spectacular missed jump. We stopped in a number of places, but it was a fairly early stop where I sat down to wait and forgot what was tied around my waist. I sat on my banana.
Over hills, through the bogs, and over the rocks we scrambled (remember the nuns in their floor-length habits) until the place where we had lunch...Columba's Bay.
Supposedly the place where Columba first landed as he came from Ireland, the beach is solid rocks...lovely rocks, some of them marble washed up from the nearby marble quarry that has built altars both in the Abbey and in Jerusalem. We ate lunch here.
And looked for cool rocks.
I found a cool one with what I think is St. Columba's image on it. I didn't take a picture of it, but I'll be bringing it home with me.
After lunch it was back to the hike and a plague. Since the first day of my arrival, the natives here have been warning me that I came in midge season. "Buy midge cream," I was told, they're terrible. But in four and a half weeks of visiting areas of Scotland north, south, east, and west...and lots of hiking around in woods...I had yet to have a problem with midges. That's because they were all in the glen just after Columba's Bay.
Almost as soon as we left they were upon us...a plague of Biblical proportion. Tiny swarming insects that bite and itch like mosquitoes. We went as fast as we could, given the rocks and bogs and uphill climb. Every time I opened my eyes, they swarmed into them. I swallowed enough to count as supper. They were in my ears and up my nose. The younger children were crying, the adults stumbled and coughed through the sea of midges...for about half an hour. Then we were out and at the large field called the machair (pronounced macker), where a van from the center had brought tea (real tea, not the tea that means supper) and flapjack (a granola-like substance).
It was here I discovered that although I had consumed my fair share of midges in every uncovered orifice, I had not gotten a single bite. Most others looked like they had measles. Faces, arms, necks, and legs were covered with the flat red spots.
This was one of several places where people had an opportunity to leave the group and go back by an easier road. After the trip through midge hell, a number took that opportunity here. I went on with the rest of the crazy people. It was 2 pm. We were heading north and terrain was easier for a bit.
Then it was up a big hill where we began what was supposed to be a silent 20-minute walk to the remains of a circular structure that was perhaps a hermitage for Columba when he wanted to escape the noise of the monastery. However, we had children...one a toddler. The walk was quieter than at other times, but hardly silent, and the lovely reflection as we sat in the hermitage ruins was also peppered with the sounds of children who have had quite enough of walking and midges and sinking in bogs.
We ended back at a place where I also don't have a picture...the Reilig Oran, the cemetery and chapel next to the Abbey. Although there is nothing anywhere nearby to tell you so, it was here that 60 Kings were buried before the Norman Conquest in 1066. 48 Scottish Kings, including Duncan and Macbeth lie here. Also four Kings from Ireland, 8 Norse Kings and one English King rest in the Reilig Oran. St. Oran's chapel here in the cemetery dates from the 12th century and is the oldest intact building on the island. We went in here, where the swallows have a nest, and I thought of Psalm 84: "Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young--a place near your altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God." She indeed came in and fed her young as we gathered and sang one of the songs Emily had taught us to close our time together.
We got back about 4:30 and headed for the showers before supper.
I was really beat by the evening, but went to the evening session, which was information about the Iona Community. George MacLeod, for whom the center was named founded the community in 1938 with a project to restore the Abbey. The project was designed both as a work of justice...he devised it as a way to give work to the unemployed poor in Glasgow...and as a training ground for pastors. The pastors would come here to work and to minister to the laborers, learning to leave their ivory tower language and concepts and preach the gospel in a way that the common laborer could understand.
The community now is a scattered and ecumenical group of both clergy and lay with a commitment to social justice and mutual accountability. When the session was done, I went out and took a walk down the road a bit. As I headed back, a group of sheep were moving from a pasture on one side of the road to one on the other. As I watched, I saw that the last two sheep were having immense difficulty. Both were lame, and it was a gut-wrenching sight to see them try to get across. One basically crawled on its front knees...which were blackened from constant use, and the other limped and hobbled, trying it's best to get where it needed to go, but obviously with great difficulty and pain.
It was heartbreaking. They were full-grown sheep, and I didn't have the strength to carry them or I would have. I looked around...there was no one. Where are the shepherds? I thought. I wanted to say it aloud...to run down the street and scream it..."Where are the shepherds??!! The sheep are lame! The sheep are hurt! Where are the shepherds?!" I cried for the sheep and I prayed for the sheep. And then the inner voice came. The still, small one.
"So it is with my people. They want the good pasture, and they try their best to get to where they need to feed...but they are crippled and lame, and the shepherds are busy elsewhere. It is not the fault of the sheep that they are lame. Tell the shepherds to care for the sheep...to wipe out the infections that rot their hooves and bring them down. My sheep know what they need, but they cannot reach the pasture...they stumble and fall. Tell the shepherds to care for the sheep."
And there was evening and there was morning the fourth day.
Monday, August 23, 2004
After the usual morning rounds...now on a weekday timetable of earlier breakfast and worship, we went off for the morning program, choosing between Yvonne and Russell. Although I got to be quite close to Yvonne during the week, I had experience with puppets...so I went with Russell.
It was a large group...close to 40 people I would say, but most of the young children chose the puppet option or did neither, so it was a bit calmer than it might otherwise have been. After hearing a story, we worked on a story as a group which was really a lot of fun. I will be looking for a way I can work something like this into a church event. We had a couple of hours, but it could have gone on for a weekend...our story was only just getting going. Here's how it went.
Russell gave us the setting...in this case a castle with three floors...the main hall on top, the servants' quarters below that, and the dungeon at the bottom. Our theme for the week was the Beatitudes, and this one was supposed to keep in mind "Blessed are the meek." After we had the setting of the castle, he invited 9 people to describe a character who has just entered the Great Hall. With more time, everyone in the room would have invented a character. Those picking a character gave the character a name and a physical description. Nothing more.
So...we had Rufus the leprechaun, Elizabeth the old woman in a worn, brown dress, Gabriel the wanderer, Tom the fat man, Wanda the cat, King Ronald, Robin Hood, Harry the ghost, and Hugh in full Highland dress. Once we had the characters we were each asked to imagine ourselves as also being in the Great Hall and entering into conversation with one of the named characters, who told us something of what they had seen in the castle. Then we got into pairs and told the other person what the named character had revealed to us.
Back in the large group we shared all the information we had from these "conversations" with each person sharing what our partner had told us. It was amazing how much of a plot we had by the time we were finished. Old Elizabeth was not who she seemed, there was treasure in the dungeon that Robin was bent on stealing, if Hugh, who was having an affair with Elizabeth, and his insurgency had not deposed the King and gotten it first. Anyway, you get the idea. It was a blast.
After lunch came the main event of the day...a boat trip to the island of Staffa about five nautical miles off the north end of Iona. What is the attraction at Staffa? Fingal's Cave, the only sea cave in the the world formed by hexagonally-jointed basalt and the inspiration for Mendelssohn's Hebridean Overture. Oh...and up until about two weeks ago...lots of puffins. The are gone now, however, to wherever puffins go when they leave Staffa. Probably Vegas to try to win money for the trip back.
The day was overcast and windy, making for lots of whitecaps on the water. We piled on and set out. Soon, everyone was pointing and saying there were sharks. Nervously I looked around, but could see nothing. Finally I had it explained. These are birds very like a cormorant, only they are called shargs...not quite as likely to take my arm off.
I also have a picture of a couple of seals on the rocks. Unfortunately, I had my camera set on the high setting, which means I can't post it up here. Again, it will have to wait for Photoshop. Past these rocks we headed into more open water.
You can see Staffa off the front of the boat. Here's another view.
Fingal's Cave is the dark part on the right hand side. I have enough pictures of this approach that you can practically flip them and make a movie, but here is what it looks like from the water when you finally get close.
The white marks are from pillars falling off. The boat went to the right around the end of the island to a little dock along the side of the island. From the dock there were two ways to go...a ladder up to the top or a precarious walk along the basalt to the cave. Most people headed for the cave, so I went up. Here is a look back to our boat from the top.
The island at the top had some remnants of a dwelling or two, but it hasn't been much lived on and is completely vacant now. An American owned it for a bit in the 70's and then turned it over to the care of Scotland. Now it is home to puffins and is a feeding ground for seagulls as the crab shells and other debris on the top attested. Here's another view along the edge.
Not exactly a place for someone like me with a fear of heights, but here's a view of the cave entrance from above...or at least as close as I dared get.
A word about seabirds and Scotland. The northern islands of Scotland have been famously home to thousands of sea birds. No more. Maybe you don't believe in global warming, but the ocean here has become to warm for the plankton, which is the food source for a particular kind of eel, which is the primary food of the seabirds. The birds are basically gone.
The top of the island is fairly extensive, but we only had an hour ashore, so as most of the people began to climb up to the top, I went back down to the cave. Here's a look back at part of the walkway at a point where I felt I could let go of the handrail.
That is looking back toward where the boat was moored, but just around the corner behind where I am standing...
And a little further in...
That is Steve the vet and his kids going past the roped off area that ended the walkway. This is me sitting at the rope...looking very much like I am tethered to the cave.
Okay, so it wasn't a good hair day. The cave was amazing...like being in a huge cathedral, and with similar grand acoustics. The draw of the cave made me overcome the fear of the long drop into the water on my side and at long last I ventured past the rope. Here is the entrance from inside.
There was just Steve, the kids, and an older woman staying at the Abbey. I sang Amazing Grace, and Steve said the hair on the back of his neck stood on end. I'm so glad I went past the rope.
The hour was drawing to a close. Not wanting to spend the night in the cave, I reluctantly left and headed back for the boat.
The formation there in the center is on lots of postcards. And so we all went back to Iona with only one of the kids getting sick over the back of the boat.
The evening session done by one of the program staff on Iona was about healing, followed by a worship service at the Abbey led by the youth.
After worship was a ceilidh (pronounced kaylee) in the village hall...an evening of traditional Scottish dancing, interspersed with spontaneous entertainment from those in attendance. I was really tired, but I stayed until almost 11 pm watching the dancing and listening to the jokes and songs. It was one of those unhappy times when I remember that I am a one rather than a two, since it was all couples dances. People paired up in all sorts of unlikely matches, but still, the dances are designed for a man and a woman.
The evening was made more comfortable by Lisa Bodenheim and her children, Jonathan and Sarah, who I grew close to across the week. Lisa is another UCC pastor from Wisconsin. Here they are.
Lisa reminded me quite a bit of Brenda Borchers. Jonathan is a gamer, and Sarah stuck with me at the sings. Great family.
Coming back from the Ceilidh, I gladly crawled into bed in preparation for a busy day ahead. And there was evening and there was morning the third day.
Sunday, August 22, 2004
Sunday dawned brightly, and I was the second person up in the room...getting up about 6:45 am. Believe it or not, I was one of the first ones up in the whole place each and every morning. For one thing, it was easier to get a shot at a shower, and for another thing, I was part of the breakfast crew.
At Iona, you join in worship each morning and each evening (and afternoon if you're around), but you also join in work. While members of the staff do the primary cooking and maintenance, guests aid in the setup and cleanup of all meals and the day to day cleaning of windows, bathrooms, floors, and the like. I was part of Team A, which I'm told was the best deal. Our job was breakfast. We put up and set 7 tables of 8 places each (fewer people at breakfast than other meals), put out the cereals, jams and marmelades, sugar and milk, served the porridge, made the toast, cleaned it all up afterwards, and then helped with either the dishes or cutting vegetables for lunch and supper. My job was washing the silverware. Meals were mostly vegetarian, but it was not the place for anybody doing Atkins or South Beach. Carbs abounded...from the cereals and toast to bread and potatoes and "pudding," which never once meant pudding but referred generally to dessert in the same way "tea" meant supper.
Teams B&C had lunch and supper, respectively, but they also had cleaning chores to do after worship in the morning, while Team A was cleaning up breakfast. So we got out of the toilet-cleaning business...information that we tried to keep under wraps.
This first morning, being Sunday, everything was a bit later than normal. Breakfast was not until 8:30 with worship at 10:30 in the Abbey. Since I was up early, I went out for a walk before breakfast and went to St. Columba's shrine, a small little building connected to the front of the Abbey. I prayed in there for a bit and then came back to help my co-workers on Team A.
After church I walked around a bit, but didn't have much time before lunch. It was after lunch that I set about doing more exploring, grateful for another day of sunshine but wary that it might be the last. Rumors that the remnants of hurricane Danielle were on their way across the Atlantic were beginning to circulate. It was a new awareness for those of us who were Americans that when forecasters say the storm "went out to sea," it does not mean it disappears. There are other people across that sea who get it later. Remember Aberfeldy, Dunkeld, and those who had their homes washed away in Cornwall.
In any case, there was beach at the north end of the island, so I headed out. Iona is 3.5 miles long and the Abbey and Mac are about in the middle of it. The road went a good way down toward the beach. It passed this cross...unmarked, so I don't know how old it is, but I loved the way it was set in the flowers.
No matter where you looked, it was lovely.
And then the road came to an end at a pasture gate. Guests were allowed into the pastures to get to the beach, and the farmers hoped they remembered to close the gates behind them. Come with me to the beach.
Yes, that is a sunbather at the end of the path. There were others as well...and some in swimming. I was wearing two layers of clothing and was grateful for them. All the people seemed to be in this part of the beach...so I went around further to a more secluded place.
The tide was going out, leaving wonderful patterns in the sand.
I picked up feathers and shells and stones. Then I just sat for awhile in the sun and listened to gentle waves come in, remembering that more than once it was not gentleness that washed ashore but Vikings who sacked the monastery and murdered the monks on so many occasions that the spiritual center of Scotland eventually moved from here to safer ground.
Then it was time to start back if I were going to make the next event. It was hard to leave, the day was so beautiful.
Again, that's Mull you're looking at across the water, and in the far background the mainland of Scotland.
The next event was in the chapter house of the Abbey. The chapter house in abbeys is the place where the monks met to do business, and in this case our business was a "big sing." That is because it was Sunday. On two other days we had a "wee sing." The difference between a big sing and a wee sing is about 15 minutes.
The sings were led by Emily, and in the plaster-covered stone of the chapter house, the music sounded grand. All the music at the sings and most of the music at worship in the Abbey was unaccompanied. We did a lot of world music, which Emily taught us in four parts without us having a shred of music. It was pretty amazing. In about five minutes she had taught all four parts...often in an African language...and we put it together, adding a part at a time until the room rang with the harmony. On Wednesday and Thursday, those who took part in the wee sings in the afternoon became the choir for the evening service (pronounced sairrrrvis...roll the r).
The sing was finished about the time that Team C needed to get set up for supper, and we headed back to our respective centers...the Abbey and the Mac. Staying at the Abbey was a group of teenagers from Massachusetts...Episcopalians participating in a 2-year program called Journey to Adulthood. It culminates in a pilgrimage, which they were making with this trip. They had begun, appropriately, in Canterbury.
Sunday evening we were introduced to our program for the week, which was storytelling. There were two leaders...a woman named Yvonne from Northern Ireland and a man named Russell from Glasgow. Both of them presented to us together on Sunday night...with Yvonne doing a puppet show and Russell telling us a story about the unluckiest man in the world (pronounced wairrrrld).
An interesting cultural difference showed up in the puppet show. The storyline was about a old white woman who went to participate in a program. As she arrived at the venue, she was greeted by a young black woman and instantly stated that she would not stay in such a place. There were a number of Americans in the audience, and we were sure this was about race relations. But it wasn't. The woman wouldn't stay because the puppet was Catholic, not because she was black. As Americans, we imposed our issue on the situation, but those from Britain never went there. Here the main divide is sectarian...the Protestants and the Catholics. I just thought it was a interesting cultural note.
The evening service that night was a service of quiet. Nothing like sitting in silence in a candlelit medieval abbey. They could have all been that way and it would have suited me just fine. This was especially true since silence was quite hard to come by. Over half the guests staying at the Mac were children...most of them elementary age, four of them under 5 years old. The room labeled the "quiet" room roared with videos, the common room with more active games. Each meal ended with a moment of "silence." In a week of three meals a day, it got to actual silence exactly once.
Bedtime was welcome, and I could hardly stand up by this time. They say that the veil is thin on Iona. I found that the floors were thin and a room full of elephants populated the room above ours. Once everyone both in my room and the room above had gotten into bed, I was at last able to sleep, rising again before 7. And there was evening and there was morning the second day.