Homebodies - Travelling on…


By Rita Friesen

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The holiday was intended to be a time away from responsibilities and a time to recharge the spiritual batteries. The time on Iona did that wonderfully.

The major presences on the island are the Iona Abbey and the ruins of a nunnery. The abbey, constructed in the 1200s by the Benedictine order, and the nunnery around the same time by the Augustine order. Massive stone structures, serene and calming. The time on the isle did all that I had hoped for. As I mentioned from hell to heaven and then back to the real world.

Marie and I spent the better part of a week in Edinburgh, renting a lovely flat one block off the Royal Mile. Four flights up – good for the step counter! High on the list of impromptu stops are churches. While admiring St. Giles, a public announcement asked us all to leave as a wedding was to celebrated in the lovely cathedral. (we returned another day to complete our tour). Down a side street we found a small church, one honouring the Ste. Margaret Sinclair, a dedicated nun who died at an early age. This was the one and only time we felt very uncomfortable. There were a half a dozen folks, sitting in quiet contemplation when a young woman walked purposefully in, flung her bagged lunch on the communion table and then hopped up, and sat there, staring at us defiantly as she tore into her sandwich, casually swinging her legs as she observed us. None of us sitting there spoke, I assume we were all tourists, and after an uncomfortable few minutes, we slipped out. If it had been my church, would I have spoken? I believe I would. Should I have? Greyfriars Church was next and, of course, I stopped to rub the nose of the bronzed Scottie dog, Bobbie, who, legend has it, remained at his master’s grave site for some fourteen years, before passing away himself.

Music – an Irish Catholic marching band, well escorted, drums booming, pipes skirling, drew crowds. In our walking we had discovered Canongate Church, lovely ancient structure, well used, and attended a concert presented by a young choir from Alabama. Acoustics incredible!

We spent a day in Edinburgh Castle. Crowds of people everywhere! Sat in for high tea, chose a quiet tea room rather than the lawn for the weather was warm. Of all the sights and sounds on the hill, the military memorials moved me the most. The hall was silently reverent, no cameras allowed, and any conversation was in whispers. Reverence. Books and books with the names of the fallen, including the Canadians. A young lad standing beside a grave, and the inscription-‘known only to God’, a moving seaman’s memorial – ‘ they have no other grave than the sea.’ A poem by Moina Miichael- ‘We shall Keep the Faith’ in response to ‘In Flanders Fields”, the section honouring the chaplains. So beautiful and so impactful.

Couldn’t leave the area without climbing Arthur’s Hill. I nearly made it to the top! Equal to 95 flights of stairs.