Iona was a very special place. One of the reasons that it is so special is because it is separated from the rest of the world. You have to take three ferries to get there and a one hour drive on two islands in between the ferries. This part of being on the island makes it a special journey and a different kind of place.
Every Tuesday on the island there is a special walk. This walk is called a pilgrimage walk and was what we decided to do for the day. They told us that this pilgrimage walk was not to find Jesus where we were going, but to find him within the group on the journey. This journey was seven miles, all the way around the island. We started walking.
The group had about 50 people in it. About half of the group was a youth group from Baltimore. Everyone else was from a different place in the world. Some people were from France, Germany, South Africa, Italy, the United States, and England. Everyone in the group had a different story to tell. Before we new it Jesus was found.
Everyone started talking to each other. They started sharing of their travels and their lives. This was truly amazing. I made several friends. One of them was a woman named Julie. She is an organist in a church and is also on sabbatical. She had come to Iona as part of a group and was staying for a long time. She got along with us all in different ways we couldn’t even imagine. Alistair made friends with birders who were interested in his stories of South African birds.
Later in the hike we arrived at different spots that held stories. One was the only industry on Iona for some time. We arrived at a marble quarry. The Irish, Scottish, and English would come and take marble from this spot. It used to be extremely famous because it is some of the oldest rock upon the Earth. A famous person once stood there and said, “This is the Earth’s downfall. This is the most beautiful spot that is now shattered.” He was speaking of the fact that we put gain, economically and prosperously, in front of our own Earth. This truly shows the maximum problem created by fossil fuels and global warming. Our guide said, “The Earth deserves better treatment than this.”
We also hiked to a rock beach for lunch. We could see fibre plankton in the water casting its green glow and emitting oxygen. We were told to pick up a rock and throw it into the sea signifying what we wanted to get rid of. Wanting to throw away our greatest sins. We were also told to pick up a rock and take it with us signifying what we want to take away from this day. “Friendship and Love”.
As the day progressed it began to rain and not in little quantity. The wind picked up, the waves on the sea began to puff and swirl. The weather did not predict this but we were warned, “The wind changes at the top of a hat,” were we not? The rain came quickly and drenched us to the extent that Mom, Dad and Alistair decided to take a trail back towards the abbey because of their lack of rain gear. I decided to stay because I would feel a lack of accomplishment, even though we were about three-fourths through the hike. 2 miles to go.
We continued to walk. I met new people and new friends. I met a woman and her husband who lived in Madagascar for 10 years. They shared stories of there travels there and abroad. I did likewise. I also met the youth director who was leading the youth through their journey. He said that they had so many youth that they had to split the group in half with one half coming first and then the second half joining them as the first half goes home.
We made it to an enclosure of stones. This circle could have very well been where people came to pray and meditate. The island at the time had about five thousand people on the island. This really crowds the island because of its small size. People would need to escape from the maddening town and escape towards the subtle, yet amazing shore on the opposite side of the island. We were silent for several minutes to contemplate the sounds of wind, rain, water, and anything else that might be heard. This showed the true, maximum peace, despite the wind and rain, of Iona.
Some time later we left the spot. We continued to walk in awe. Conversation and laughter were found that soon joined song as we sang our way back to the abbey. Finally concluding with “Alleluia”. In the abbey we ended with a prayer and final song.
One of the beauties of this event was that it was a journey. A true journey with 50 people continuing to the end. 7 miles of walking in fellowship. We all made many friends by simply talking to many people. This was a beautiful thing. The leader explained this simply, “The greatest gift on Earth is the gift of friendship. This you all have been shown today. Go in Peace.”
The gift of this lives on. Julie is going to continue to be in correspondence with us.
“The greatest gift on earth is the gift of friendship…”