Oban disappeared from my view as the ferry steered towards the Island of Mull. The village that captured my heart now shifted only into memory. Moving locations so quickly on this trip forces me to be unattached to locations, but I find I have learned something from each one of them. Some fact or understanding about the past, present, and future that has cultivated these lands to be what they are. And each location I have fond memories of bonding with my peers through experience and deep conversation.
The bus traveled across Mull to reach another ferry that would transport everyone to the island of Iona. A place that is considered a “thin” place, meaning, the earth is close to heaven here. Traveling to this heavenly place perhaps had two perspectives.
The wait was dreary as the wind pierced through ones clothing. Everyone crowded onto the small ferry with all their belongings. As the ferry went to cross the icy waters, the waves tossed the boat back and forth sending streams of mist to cascade upon its passengers. As the damp passengers dragged their things up the dock, the wind continued its toil. The passengers trekked miles across stone and sheep pastures with their bags heavily strapped on their backs. The weight of their bags creating a slow moving pace with clouds threatening overhead. After miles of trekking, the passengers arrive at their hostel on Iona.
The wind danced around causing the waves along the sea to sway in rhythm. Everyone loaded on the ferry to cross to Iona with their belongings delicately in tow. The sea was a deep turquoise as the pink rocks along the shore line came into view. The island of Iona stood with stunning beauty as the ferry gently rocked to the dock. Passengers unloaded and walked along the road headed towards the hostel. Sheep speckled the countryside as a soft blue covered the sky. With good conversation, the walk along the road to the hostel was pleasant. After arriving, a few ventured to the beach where white sand covered the shore and colored rocks scattered as the waves moved in and out.
With two perspectives, an attitude was chosen. I chose the one to see the day as a gift and a beauty. I walked along the beach with peers in good conversation. The environment during dinner however was a tad hectic. A group of older bikers were apparently booked at the same hostel on the same day as us. With frustrated comments from the bikers I was a bit uneasy. I would be frustrated too if that had been our group who came after, but it seemed strange to me that some of them seemed more frustrated because we were young. We all worked hard to be here, just like them. We may have not biked for miles, but we certainly have trekked for miles. The miles are what teach us more about ourselves and about the people around us. And what better time than to learn while we are young adults. Perhaps by seeing the world, we can clarify our life’s purpose. I just wish older generations would see it that way as they encounter young people traveling abroad.
In the evening a few of us went to the Abbey healing service. After following a tabby cat to the door of the church we entered to find a glorious room of arched stone. Rows of wooden chairs lines either side and led to a stunningly beautiful glass window. The service seemed rooted in ritual, but it seemed to bring people great peace. One of the first sections of the service spoke of Isaiah 55. A verse that has brought me through many trials. It was interesting being at a healing service considering the day was the worst my spine had felt since traveling. One line particular stood out as the leader prayed, “We pray for those who suffer silently”. I know that feeling all too well. Where chronic pain becomes your everyday. When people tire of you trying to voice how you feel, so the pain is just hidden. Behind the walls of the heart, the dull ache remains. Suffering silently, but not without joy. The hymns sung spoke of the simplicity of joy, hope, and healing. Despite the service being ritually strange, I found my heart to be at peace as the leader read names of those who sought healing. I smiled as I heard her say, Bethany. Even as pain creates the silent sufferer, I still hold onto the hope of healing. To one day wake up with no pain. Sitting in a wooden chair in a centuries old church, I sought hope once more in healing as thousands have done before me. As the congregation sung, I let hope overwhelm me.
After a cup of tea, we trekked back home in the dicey cold air and shared an evening of stories and community. Iona had brought its peace. The island where tranquility is found through the simplicity of beauty. Where thousands have traveled to find healing, refuge, and hope. Centuries pass, but the quest for hope is still the same. Humanity trying to reach for the heavens to find understanding of life and to find healing for those who suffer silently.