Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"…a thin place where only tissue paper separates the material from the spiritual." ~ George MacLeod, founder of the Iona community, describing this holy isle

A smaller passenger ferry…
map source:
 transports visitors to the wee island of Iona west of Mull,
unless you are one of its 177 residents 
allowed to drive their vehicles on and off the island.
During the Early Middle Ages
 a monastery is believed to have been built in 563... 

by an exiled monk from Ireland…
Columba, or Colm Cille.
Iona survived multiple Viking attacks with its Celtic crosses still in tact
and continued its spiritual history when the abbey was built in 1203, 
until its destruction during the Scottish Reformation 
when the Duke of Argyll gifted the ruins to the Church of Scotland.
Services are still held in the Abbey.
 A few years after the abbey, a convent for Benedictine nuns was built in 1208
 and its ruins still remain.
A small portion of the Bishops House, 
believed to have been built in the 1630's is located north of the abbey.
This unique community has been flourishing since 1938
when George MacLeod led a concerted effort to rebuild the abbey.
Over the years, Iona, has been and is today…
"a dispersed Christian ecumenical community working for peace and social justice, 
rebuilding of community and the renewal of worship." 
A beautiful, peaceful island 
where people have lived and visited and worshiped for many centuries.


Monday, September 8, 2014

"Every summer has a story…" ~ unknown

Across the pond,
Labor Day is a book-end to summer,
where crisp linen outfits and white shoes know the time has arrived
to be stored away until Easter.

Here in Scotland,
 the end of summer is subtle as the daylight hours 
grow shorter day by day, 
and the ubiquitous fields of harvested hay…
wait for use during the approaching autumn and winter days.

Meanwhile, after a whirlwind summer.
there is much to tell,
I do believe I will begin at the end.

Ren Man and I just returned from a weekend road trip to...
 the west coast of Scotland, 
where we wandered about Oban
and spent the night at the lovely Manor House Hotel, 
a Georgian villa built in 1780 for the Duke of Argyll.

Overlooking the Oban harbour
our breakfast view was only a teaser before sensory overload…
 as we boarded the ferry...
and headed to the Isle of Mull
where its mouth opened wide and spit us out.
Only the clouds changed as often as the scenery.
Single lane roads give you the feel of being the only visitors 
until of course you end up behind a tour bus, 
although drivers are very considerate 
and pull over at the designated 'passing places' when necessary.
I do believe we came very close to exploring all 338 square miles of this Inner Hebrides isle...

as we breezed through villages…
and walked along the crystal clear waters 
of Calgary Beach...
where we were NOT tempted at all to take a dip.
Boats turn up in the most creative ways.

More on Mull in the coming days.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

"Edinburgh is a mad god's dream…" Hugh MacDiarmid

As usual…
it takes an eager visitor to shake up our normal routine while in Edinburgh,
where for the next month,
 nothing will be normal. 
 Fringe Festival has taken over the city and is currently diverting the attention of all. 
Events are scheduled all over town 
in small and large venues,
providing a great opportunity to see the city
 while theatre, music, comedy and more literally ooze from every street corner.

For example,
while in town most recently,
we finally made it to the Royal Botanic Garden
where our attempt to break the Guinness World Record for a group tree hugging 
is still awaiting official confirmation.
I was accused of finding the most unlovable trees of all to show our affection.
In August, as a venue, you can enjoy Fringe and the gardens all in one swoop.
See what I mean?

Having walked past St. Giles Cathedral many times,
its location on the Royal Mile, 
 is front and center for street performers 
and small snippets of fun to entice you over to the full events around town.
St. Giles offers an oasis worthy of a few moments of reflection, 
but is also a venue for Fringe events, some of which are free.

One of my fave shopping haunts in Edinburgh is usually frantic at best,
however, since our visitor was here for the longest day of the year…
 we were in search of a view…
and we finally slowed down enough
 to check out Harvey Nichols Fourth Floor Bar.
A lovely place to watch nightfall, 
and also overlooks a Fringe venue at St. Andrews square.

We enjoyed one impressive event coinciding with the Fringe…
and is mentioned right here on TS…
the Military Tattoo... 
which takes place outside the Edinburgh Castle each evening. 
However, somehow we have avoided actually exploring this historical castle until now.
Ren Man even had the pleasure of watching them set off the One o'clock Gun
fired every Monday through Saturday at,
well, you guessed it
1:00 p.m. since June 7, 1861.
Quite an amazing view of this city we have grown to love. 
Hugs and kisses to our visitor for giving us the opportunity to examine it more closely.

Hugh MacDiarmid, in his poem quoted above, continues

"...But irresistibly at last 
Cleaving to sombre heights 
Of passionate imagining…" 

Monday, July 21, 2014

My Aberdeen Monday...

As far as Ren Man is concerned,
one of the best perks of living in Aberdeen, 
is its proximity to the ubiquitous whisky distilleries.
Unfortunately, we have not actually toured many.
We keep saying we will get around to them one day.
Of course, there is also the problem of responsible transportation 
after giving the products a good taste.
AWA came to the rescue 
and one of the members organized a bus to whisk us north to the Spey Valley, 
on the Malt Whisky Trail through beautiful Speyside in the Highlands of Scotland.

Our final destination…
is the only malt distillery pioneered by a woman 
and eventually concocted one of the main ingredients of the Johnny Walker Blend.
Because of this,
it is referred to as the 'spiritual home' of Johnny Walker.
I found this quote fascinating, 
coming from a company who, 
in an effort to change the direction of the company, 
felt it was necessary to change the direction of the 'striding man'.
The marketing gurus will tell you it made all the difference.
However, who knew that heading to the left was considered walking away 
and heading to the right is walking toward 'something'.
News to me.
After a tour of the stills
and getting a peek of the pure spirit kept guarded in a safe,
we were invited inside the stone walled tasting room...
where we narrowed down our favorite...
beneath the glow of one massive chandelier.
The library offered a cozy final taste,  
and made our tour feel much more personal than the average public tour.
Good questions to ponder as we headed to the gift shop 
for our own bottle of the fifteen year Cardhu.

Quite a tasty tour.
'Keep Walking'


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