Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Day 44 -- the Holy Isle

We woke to a beautiful morning. The lambs were playing in the field across the street from the B and B we were staying at, and the birds were singing -- so many birds! Here's a view from out our window -- sheep on the hill -- the lambs were playing!

A nice breakfast set us up well for the next few hours heading to Lindisfarne.

Steve and I reflected as we headed off -- crossing the A1, that we started out on May 3 on the first leg of the walk, having arrived at Melrose and touring Melrose Abbey the day before. We will end today on May 10 at Lindisfarne -- having walked in the steps of shepherds, sinners and saints. It seemed surreal!

We passed an old abandoned granary:

We didn't know the week before we started this walk if we could do it -- Steve's back went out so badly that I thought for certain it was over before it began. We prayed and he did what the doctors told him to do -- and by the time we got here he was back to feeling good!

When we got to the top we had  our first good look over to the island:

As we turned from the road onto the field we saw our "friend" from Belgium. He was crossing this morning and walking back this afternoon -- as the tide comes back in at 4 he had to hurry. We wished him well on his journey!

There was our last bit of sheep fold walking -- we lamented that it may be the last time we are able to walk among these beautiful creatures of God. 

We crossed the railroad tracks and made our way to the Causeway. 

We decided not to go on the Pilgrim's Path, as it is across sand and mud. The Pilgrim's Path is 1 mile shorter than the Causeway route, but it is much more difficult -- and given the fact that I've made it this far on my knee and sand is a "no no" for my knee, we decided the extra mile was worth it. It turned out, from others we had met along the route (the two English women), we made a wise decision -- one went in up to her knee in mud and really hurt herself. We had been warned at breakfast that morning by three very experienced walkers that going across the Pilgrim's Path is extremely difficult.

We got to the Causeway and realized a few things:
It is very long.
It is wet -- after all the water just receded from it.
There isn't a side walk -- we have to walk on a fairly narrow road with lots of cars.

Okay -- we were off.

It was all pavement -- so it was hard on our joints. By far this was the roughest walk, albeit a short one (6 miles from our start in Fenwick to arriving at Lindisfarne). The majority of it, even coming out of Fenwick, was on pavement). It was a nailbiter as cars passed us!

We made it!

We both looked at each other, and sat on a rock before we entered the village. I wanted to cry. In my life I never thought I'd ever do anything like this, especially given the state of my left knee and left foot. And to do this with the man I love and do so prayerfully was, well, life-altering.

We headed up into the village past the car park where visitors park -- it was pretty full at 11:30! There were many visitors on the island today.

We went to lunch at the Ship restaurant -- I immediately made reservations for dinner the following night (I had made reservations for dinner tonight months ago at the Manor Restaurant). There was a very helpful man who took our reservation and our order at the Ship restaurant. He looked at my credit card and asked me if I was from the west coast of California. He told me he used to live in San Francisco -- turns out he was an Episcopal Franciscan -- he left about 10 years ago. He had come to Lindisfarne to be Assistant Vicar -- and met and married his now wife. He was very kind!

Lunch was great and I was exhausted -- you may be able to see that in my eyes. I don't know if it was because we had walked so long over so many days, or if it was because I was relieved to finally get there, or ....??? All I know is that I felt bone tired! We still had time until our check in time at the Bamburg View (between 2 and 4) -- so we went to get our stamps in our books at the Post Office (it's a combination coffee shop and post office -- very interesting!). We did! We got our books stamped! I nearly cried then too!

We stopped at a place called Pilgrim Coffee (how appropriate!) for a cup of coffee to relax a bit before checking in. Who should come in for something to drink? Pierre -- our friend from Belgium! We invited him to sit with us. He was the one who told us about the English women -- the one sinking in the mud crossing the Pilgrim's Path. We talked about his life and his family -- he is 65 and has done many walks all over the world. He thought this one was quite difficult (thank you, Pierre -- vindicated again!). He recommended others to us -- we will be checking them out. We bid him once again a good journey -- we knew this would truly be the last time we saw him.

We checked into the B and B -- it is very comfortable and spacious, and the owners are kind. It is close to everything (well, there isn't much that's far in Lindisfarne except perhaps the castle!).

We unpacked and took showers -- whew! We're human beings again! I made the shift by putting all my hiking clothes at the bottom of the suitcase and the clean, street clothes at the top -- this shift of the luggage hit me hard. It's over -- the eight days of walking and praying on St. Cuthbert's Way are over -- we are here. I wanted to cry. Yes, there are more moving moments ahead, but I didn't think this one would hit me this hard.

I didn't think we had enough time to see the Priory so I suggested we see St. Mary's Anglican Church. It is built on the site that they believe the original Priory was built on. It was, for me entering it, a very "thin" place. From the moment I stepped on the grounds of the church yard, which shares space with the Priory ruins, I could feel and sense centuries of worship, pain, joy, gratitude, lament and prayer. I couldn't speak for a bit -- it was overwhelming. 

The beauty of the building speaks for itself:

We met a lovely woman who started attending as a young girl with her grandfather -- her grandfather had been warden of the church for over 42 years! She cares for the flowers and other things that need tending to. She told us that in WWI over 110 men went to the war from the Island, with many not returning. "In the last war most of our men went, and many didn't return" -- she was talking about WWII. There were placques on the walls honoring some of the young men who didn't return. The island isn't very big, so I wondered how so many could leave from there. She told us that back then families were large -- 10 or 12 children or more per family -- so the numbers were greater. She also told us that the congregation is small but faithful. They have a Vicar who is currently ill, and a Curate who care for the congregation and the visitors who come to the Island.

We had a bit of time so we headed over to the Priory -- turns out we had enough time to tour it today, and will come back again tomorrow. The nice woman at the Priory told us where to find St. Cuthbert. We knew we had to go and see him, and to walk the grounds of the Priory. We loved it as much as we did Melrose!

And St. Cuthbert:

And St. Aidan:

At the end of our time walking around the Priory we realized we were close to the time of Evening Prayer, offered daily at St. Mary's. We went. It was lay lead -- there were 3 members of the congregation there and 22 visitors. Yes, 25 for Evening Prayer! It was a lovely service. I loved the opening prayer:
Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation,
To you be glory and praise for ever.
Raised to your right hand on high
The ascended Christ shows us the prints of love
And bestows on us the gifts of grace.
As your Spirit renews the face of the earth,
May we bring forth the fruit of the Spirit
And reveal your glory in all the world.
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Blessed be God for ever. 

I also loved, near the end, the prayer dedicated to St. Aidan:
Holy loving God,
You called the gentle bishop Aidan
To proclaim the Gospel from this island;
Give us the same heart for the Gospel,
That we too may seek your kingdom of justice, love and peace; 
Through Jesus Christ. Your Son our Lord, 
Who is alive and reigns with you,
In the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
One God, now and for ever. Amen. 

Just in time we made it to our dinner reservation at the Manor Inn and Restaurant. I remembered that Mark Weitzel stayed here last year while he was on the island. We were seated at the window looking out at the castle. We couldn't ask for anything better and felt blessed.

After dinner we took a long walk out to the castle. On the way we ran into the nice man from the Ship restaurant who used to be an Episcopal Franciscan. He knows Brother Ambrose, Br. Jude, etc. -- but I forgot to get his name! 

We went on up towards the castle on our walk and to our delight we were once again among the sheep. It made my heart sing to be out there, look out over the Sea, look up at the castle, and be in nature. 

We saw a "bunny condo complex" -- wow so many rabbits and baby rabbits! You can't really see them in the picture -- but all the holes in that hill had rabbits in them.

Walking back we both reflected on how quiet the island was when all the day visitors left. It was only people who live on the island or those staying in B and Bs or inns that were here, and it wasn't the large crowds we encountered this morning and afternoon. It was quiet. The birds were singing -- lots of birds. It was peaceful and peace-filled -- and that's the way I felt. 

Peaceful and peace-filled. I loved this prayer I saw at the entrance of St. Mary's:

This has been a journey I've longed to make -- and here I am. I know processing this will take time. I'm ready to take that time. 

Total steps today: 27,012. 10.84 miles (6.39 to Lindisfarne, the rest walking around Lindisfarne). 


  1. Congratulations. What an accomplishment! I hope you will share some of your experience with the Fellowship at our Gathering next month.

  2. What a wonderful journey, thanks for bringing us along. :)

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  4. The photos in St. Mary's church are particularly moving.