Over the past few days, I’ve felt a longing for Iona, Scotland. It has been two years since I traveled there on my Solo Journey, the first to an international pilgrimage site. I chose that island located in the Inner Hebrides to attend a week at The Abbey. There I joined forty other participants in learning and sharing around the theme, “The Pilgrimage of Life.” Our group had folks from many countries and diverse backgrounds but we all had in common being seekers, wanting to look deeply into our walk in our Christian faith.
Mid-week we hiked across the island and our Scottish leader, Alistair McIntosh told us stories about each significant landmark. We stopped to eat lunch by Columba’s bay, finding rocks to sit upon and eat our sandwiches and fruit. With the constant wind that blows in the Hebrides, I was glad to find a spot under a large rock outcropping, protected from the wind and sun. A woman whom I’d only talked with briefly, Beverly, joined me.
She and I fell into an easy conversation, sharing our feelings about the week, what we were getting from the sessions, what had surprised us about Iona. Eventually we talked about our lives back home. She lived in Canada and liked to take solo journeys, like me. But unlike me, hers had started after a painful divorce.
She shared, quite candidly, about the impact of that time in her life. I felt that she was trusting me with a most important story. As I looked out on the bay, the wind producing white caps and sand blowing, I felt we were being protected in the cleft of the rock. Two days later, we walked out with others into the early morning darkness, the first group to leave The Abbey and make our way through the rain to the ferry dock.
After a short boat ride, followed by a bus ride across the Isle of Mull, and then a longer ferry trip to Oban, Beverly and I decided to shop while we waited to catch the train. How nice it was to have a traveling partner as we visited a chocolate shop and talked about the places we wanted to go on future journeys. Too soon, I had to catch a noon train to Edinburgh and told Beverly goodbye, exchanging emails and promising to stay in touch.
We did keep in touch with an occasional email. She agreed to be an early reader for my memoir. One day last March, when I was wrestling with doubt and getting ready to hit the publish button on Amazon, I received a card from her. She’d taken a journey to Cannon Beach, Oregon and she purchased the card in an art gallery. The work is by Kathy Hastings and her “story of transformation from loss to creating a meaningful life” had resonated with Beverly. She’d just read my book and thought Kathy’s work would resonate with me as well.
That card was ‘manna’ for me that day, giving me the encouragement I needed to push away the doubt. Recently, Beverly read my blog post in which I announced my separation from my husband, how I’d been blindsided by this sudden change. She sent me a very kind email and let me know what had helped her at that time.
This morning when I walked, I was thinking about what I’d write in this post. It was cloudy and I remembered how often it rained in Iona. I could see my lunch with Beverly by the bay, how she shared her journey through divorce with me when I couldn’t see what was ahead. When I got home and checked my email, Beverly had sent me a message, checking in on me, telling me some of the ways she’d handled that time.
The afternoon before we left Iona, I took a hike to the South beach, an area that folks had told me was stunning. I’d never seen a more beautiful place, with sheep grazing and the water and sky forming a canvas of blue hues. The sand felt like brown sugar and the black rock silhouettes contrasted with the neutrals of the shoreline. I took lots of pictures while breathing in deeply the renewing air of Iona.
Days later, when I looked closely at my pictures, I realized the lone woman walking by the beach was Beverly. Now, I have a picture of my supportive friend in Canada, who is helping me on my unforeseen journey.
How about You?
What friends have you made that were a happy surprise?
How have you provided each other support through the tough times of your journeys?