Saturday, October 21, 2006

Dear Kitchenettes...

This is how a note to us housekeepers began... So we're part of the furniture now?? Sorry for the lack of update. Life here is incredibly busy and full and asks you to be so engaged that I've found it hard to get to this computer. Or even string two thoughts together sometimes... Hospitality is a full on task. That is definately something I'm taking away with me. It is hard to convey the experience of hard work and huge blessings without sounding like you're complaining or that everything is idyllic! "Ora et labora." Pray AND work. It is a crazy combination, and so meaningful to me and something I'm working through so I probably can't make any sense right now!!

And thus onto other things: Last night we celebrated Diwali in the Abbey. Colourful cloths were spread on the stone slabs by the alter for those brave enough to ignore the cold, candles were lit, we were asked to take off our shoes, we sang a Punjab song, a couple of chants in Gutarati (sp?), and generally celebrated light. It was really beautiful and I treasured the chance to experience this ancient Abbey in such a fresh, new way - from the floor surrounded by sparkly things. The service was led by some residents who had spent time in India, and it was a lovely service. LAst Monday's peace and justice service was about Cambodia (again one of the residents has lived there for three years) and was truly powerful reminder of issues beyond our comfortable western precepts of the world. I've really appreciated the remiders and experiences of the wider world now that I'm on the edge of the world myself. That's what Iona feels like in so many ways. George MacLeod called Iona a "thin place" and I think that is a very apt phrase.

On the pilgrimage that the Community runs every Tuesday people are invited to choose two stones at Columba's Bay at the south of the island. One to keep as a reminder and one to throw into the sea as a symbol of something they wish to let go. One guest commented that the bay must be one of the most spiritually polluted bays in the world with all the things people want to get rid of... :)

I came to Iona unemployed and (mostly) homeless. I think I had an expectation within me that this time here would solve all my problems and I'd know what I'd be doing next. Yesterday morning I decided that that was not going to happen. I'm too busy to process what I'm absorbing. And I am absorbing a lot! This time is serving as a focus of what is important to me, of discovering what I value and what I've just tagged along with, it's provided so many opportunities to explore new things in a safe environment (eg I'll be leading service on Tuesday morning...), and my borders and boundaries are being pointed out to me. Do I sound like a self-help book?? :) Some of these phrases sound trite to me but they are the familiar ones that have come to mind. There has been a little group of us who have met the past two Friday evenings to have a chat and encourage each other about "life outside of Iona" (you wouldn't believe how difficult it is sometimes to remember about that!!). As far as I'm aware at the moment I'll be leaving Iona unemployed and (mostly) homeless, but since my decision yesterday I'm feeling less anxious about that than I have been.

This island has a golf course on it. It is on the common grazing ground so you share it with sheep and cows - but it is still a golf course!! Some vollies have gotten very excited about it and one day when I walked into the Abbey kitchen Jana the cook was lined up with two other vollies and they were have a lesson on how to swing a golf club - practising with spatulas... Housekeepers are currently very excited about a new washing machine that has arrived to replace a broken one and are hatching a plan to introduce the broken machine to another washing machine that has been left outside the Spar (still with some laundry in it) waiting for the "domestic uplift" off the island... And on Thursday I saw flock after flock of wild geese heading southward on their migration. I am so blessed to be here! Yesterday staff were treated to a boat trip around Iona and we had the best possible day for it. It was flat calm and going down the west coast of the isle we were travelling into the sunset! Oh this place is so beautiful...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Last Wednesday I had a day off and took off to Staffa Island to see Fingal's Cave. An hour's boat trip out with an hour onland. It was a beautiful day with big waves. The cave is really stunning and musical. Apparantly this cave inspired Mendhelson to write some classical music (Hebridean Overture, I think) while he was here - and I can see why. I'd do it if I could! On the way back we came upon a pod of dolphins (6-8) that were absolutely amasing. They swam and jumped and generally showed off all around us. It really was magical... It's the first time I've seen wild dolphins so I was very excited.

Yesterday I went to the North Shore to find some fairy rings (of mushrooms). And there they were! This island is constantly changing...

Monday, October 02, 2006

Autumn greetings...

Autumn must be here - there are massive pumpkins in the organic garden of the Columba Hotel.

Despite the apparent routine, housekeeping still manages to have some surprises left. Last Friday we "bed-bugged" the rooms, ie vacuumed all the matresses and the wooden slats of the bed (in which they are supposed to live). It was a lot of hard work, especially doing the top bunks (and as the youngest of the team I nobly offered to do most of the clambering), but accompanied by a lot of laughter too. There are some jobs where you have to laugh or else you'll cry - and this is one of them!!

There is a gentle rivalry between the cooks and the housekeepers in the Abbey as we gamely share the limited space. Catherine (a cook) and I have a contest on this week as to which of us can be the rudest... Those who know me will find that funny I'm sure!

In the past three days I've managed to get to all four compass points on this island as well as get up Dun-I, the highest point. The fascinating thing is the variety of landscapes and moods in the nooks and cranies of Iona. I'm convinced that Iona is bigger on the inside than on the outside (much like the Weasleys' tent) and I wonder how much of this the visitors can see as they walk around the village. I walked to the North Shore with some vollies this afternoon where we scrambled on rocks are boiled water on a stove for a cuppa - just perfect for an inbetween shift activity... The blue/green waters on the white sands were amazing as always.

Yesterday after my morning shift I helped Simon, our general assistant/gardener (married to the warden of the MacLeod centre), and some guests in the garden. It was a nice change from all the indoor work I've been doing. The Abbey has a little herb patch that gets used by the kitchen, even if things are winding down now. I did some digging and planting of fennel and clearing beds, which was all good for the soul:)

Sunday evening service is a quiet one with an extended period of silence in a candle-lit church. It can be a difficult one to be in after all the work where your head starts nodding off. But similarly it is one of the most touching ones as it is a blessing to really be still after all the work we do.