Monday, June 28, 2010

Indulge me whilst I have a wee moan.....

This is (hopefully) my only really dreadfully boring posting. The plan to blog from the General Assembly in Minneapolis has bitten the dust. They are happy to have me there blogging....but I have no money to get there. Sadly, were money to magically appear, I also have no baby-sitter...R in North Jersey, Dad in Philly at the Barbershop Convention, Wendy picking up her new camper....reading the signs tells me it's just now going to happen. As Granny might've said, "What's for you, won't go past you!" So, there you go! I'll spend some time with the live feed...but it won't be the same. There's no fire in that. Blah.

Due to my sad financial state I'm watching some of my cub scout buddies for the summer...sounds worse than it is....actually, having other boys at the house keeps my own boys a little busier. And having non-family there makes me less likely to blow my top and be really, really mean. Sad to admit, but at least I'm conscious of it! "Miss Jeanie" is a lot sweeter than "Mum"! Mum can be a right witch!

On a happy note, Hammonton is "Blueberry Central" these days...which doesn't suck!
I'll head out today with the boys to get some organic berries and get the oil changed in the Hammonton you still get a free car wash with it. FREE! I love FREE!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Onward and upward....literally!

I'm sleepy, but just so happy with the time I've had! Will miss the family and friends here....and the great northern light and fresh breezes, but am looking forward to the boardwalk, waves, lightning bugs, Luath, friends, and Daddy!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Verily, verily I say unto you...there is NOTHING new under the sun...

And so it is with the beautiful, beautiful Isle of Iona.

This morning started with a dreich rain. We left the Bunessan guest house in wellies and raingear, fully prepared to freeze during the Sunday service in the Abbey. We got to Fionnphort really quite early, and stood around looking at the ferry and the water and just talking for about an hour, and in that time, the sun broke through...first, quite poetically, over the Abbey on the opposite shore...which was weird. I tried to capture it on film, but that is one of the things about Iona, and indeed the whole West of Scotland, the light...well....the light is like a spirit, or an eccentric character that is part of the is thin and thick, dark and bright, moving and still......sensed and at the same time very intangible. This, as one would suspect, effects the colours, which on Iona are all the blues and greens....with splashes of pink and orange, yellow and is indeed a thin, thin place between heaven and earth.
George McLeod told me that...I didn't make it up...much as I'd like to claim it.

Today was a day when the island was laughing, and the water was dancing, and the sky was singing, and the flowers were clapping their hands!
Creation was in full-on praise!

I really didn't know what to expect today. It's been 11 years since I was last on the island, 20 years since I crossed the thresh-hold of the Abbey, and thought at the time that I would never return. Ever. Ever.
But, as Eileen believes (and has been bugging me about for the last 19 years) all circles must be completed. Today I did just that.

I was warned by Iona friends that I would see so many changes.....I did see changes, but none that were upsetting or unusual. There are a few more houses on the island, but they are tasteful and in keeping with the place. The pub has another wing added to it, again...change that works. The Abbey was the same, but with much less staff than I remember....The morning worship was much the same as it ever was when I was there as the Childrens' Programme Worker. It seemed a little bizarre that it was lead completely by women. Whatever. I think it was more about staff shortage than emasculation. I think. They announced that communion would be taken by a woman who is a minister in the Reformed Church in America. I wondered if she was a graduate from NBTS. When she began the speak, she sounded young and American, then got more and more Scotchy as she went.....I understand happens to me. It either means you have a good ear...or you're a phony. Or both.

I had the post-service cup of tea in the cloisters..talked to some folk...
Bought stuff in the shop and saw one of the Island girls that was a such a sweet kid back in the day! It was lovely to see her....she hadn't changed much! Lovely girl!
Went to the other shop and bought quite a lot of books...Eileen paid....yikes.
Then, I thought I should go up Dun I....that big lump of land on the North End. From Dun I, you can see the whole island, and many other islands, and way out to sea. Standing on Dun I, I think I first accepted that my mother was both very much "on the other side", and very much always with me. Thin place. A mighty thin place, the top of Dun I.
I harkened back to the days when I would run up it after tea..yes, run!..When the charges were all sent happily back to their parents, it was a way to shake the food down and have a stretch of the legs....oh boy.... were the 20 years evident here! I attempted my mountain goat ascent....but it just was nowhere near as fast and strong as it once was...not even a shadow! I couldn't even blame my shoes, because I realized I'm still wearing the same wellies I bought back in 1979! (Way to go L.L. Bean!)
No, it was me...I'm a lot older and chunkier! The view was spectacular. The thinness and the light so present. I could feel my pounding heart and my insufficient clotting factor tying me to the rock and grass and water, and my spirit away up in the thinness and the light. Quite exhilerating to straddle two realms in such a way.
I thought of my future....the Iona Parish without a minister...the whole of Mull without a minister. As much as I'm not so keen on being a parish minister, maybe I am meant to come back here. Maybe I'm meant to return to the Community...after all this time, and all the pain I've gone through....When the kids are older....was this a possibility? I heard barely discernable, magical music and birdsong.....what was God saying?!

On my descent, I met a lovely couple from Devon. They told me I looked like a mountain goat running up the hill....I instantly loved them. We talked about the island and the Community. They said they were glad to meet someone so friendly...I silently hoped the Community folk were nice to them....English, Yanks, Germans....sometimes not treated so nicely.

I thought before lunch I should go and meet the Reformed woman...thank her for the lovely service, ask if we had any shared acquaintences. I was thinking that the combination of female, Reformed Church, US, Iona responsibilities would make for a great interview.
The Abbey staff said she was up at the MacLeod Centre, at the Mac, they told me she was in the the kitchen door, I was directed to the sinks, where she was helping with the washing you do on's all about living in community! I queried whether I should wait, and the bloke, no, go on in. So I did.
Big mistake.
She was not only affronted that I introduce myself over a sudsy sink, but that I insinuate that she was American, she has lived in Scotland for 5 years. She is an ordained minister in the RCA, but is not American! I apologized for the mistake. I asked her surname...I thought I might send her a card to apologize for upsetting her. She FREAKED OUT! She said her surname was none of my, I left.

I walked out into the sheep bleating, oyster-catcher screeching, blue-green dazzle of lovely Iona, and knew that, indeed, there is nothing new under the sun! No magical music or birdsong...just the barely discernable, omnipotent's.... laughter! God does have such a fabulous sense of humour!!!!

The Reformed Church minister currently acting as Island Warden (yes, that's the title)does not!.... reformed, she believes, from American to Scot...but no sense of humour at all.

Nor was she aware that as busy as she was, the island was laughing, and the water was dancing, the sky was singing, and the flowers were clapping their hands!!! Shame really.
She was missing out on a fabulously praise-tastic day! With a giggling God enjoying the show at its edges!

Iona, it's amazing inspiring (especially the stuff by John Bell) ....
Iona, the ancient, holy, thin place...
Iona, of Druids and Columba, Benedictine monks and Augustinian nuns...
Iona, of Viking raids and the stormy winter sea taking back its own...
Iona, the inspired project of George MacLeod's to bring the worker and the clergy together...
Iona, of colours, light...many, many sheep...

Iona, the 'Parnassus Hill' of Scotland.....muse-central for artists, poets, priests.... ALWAYS going to draw the incredibly gifted and spiritual...

and the wannabe, freak-show, immature, sanctimonious prats who feel awesome about themselves by exiting the real world, and judging it most cruelly from atop a jewel in the sea!

Deny it they may, but there is truth in it.

Iona is what it is.
Worship God... not an island
Worship God... not a community.
I love the island and the's a large part of who I am now, and after closing the circle....I'm fine. I am really, actually, quite fine.

There is nothing new under the sun! This circle is complete!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Life....Death....The World Cup......

Well....why I keep taking photos of kirkyards is really not about being obsessed with death, but because I genuinely like kirkyards. I don't really find them creepy, although some are, I just find them....interesting. They are usually in places where there has been a lot of action.....sometimes since forever. Forever in the human occupation sense, so that's since like neolithic, or sometimes mesolithic times. In my book, that counts as forever. The oldest kirkyards are circular with a kirk in the middle. These were probably holy places way before Christianity, and the people just liked the Gospel and changed over. The conversion here was a peaceful one. So, R and I went to a few (very few) of our favourite haunts today. Tried again to get some video! The audio and video just get stupid somehow! Let me try to bore you anyway!

This trip, in many ways, has me thinking of the precarious knife-edge of life. We glide along quite happily looking at views to either side...oblivious to how precious it is. My past is evident here...the major beats of my life involve Scotland. So much has changed and yet so little has changed. I suppose this sense is magnified because it's been a year and a half since I've been back, Coll has basically gone from being a little guy to being an adult in that space of time...I have friends on both side of the "pond" who are fighting scary stuff....quite successfully, but it's still scary, and this makes me stop on the knife-edge and remember we're on a knife-edge. It just makes me really appreciate the ride we're on....and the people with whom I'm riding. How stuff twenty or so years ago has made me who I am...and how stuff now will form the us twenty years on....happy...sad....all the in between. It's just good to recognize it every now and again. I write this now at FUNWORLD Indoor Playland in Greenock...(in all honesty "Fun" world is not the name I would call it) surrounded by tutu-ed, be-pinked, three year old girls and wild, wild, freckled boys who shout! Quite a lot! I suffer for Caoir's "Scottish" birthday celebration. He is a child who kens how to work the cross-cultural span to his advantage. It's a week and a bit 'til his birthday! After this, we head home to stuff them full of sausage rolls, pizza, ice cream and the World Cup (go France!) and then on to a concert of Metrical Psalms by the FreeKirk! So, my day has gone from mountain-top to the blinking depths of Hell, back up to mountain-top! Just kidding! FunWorld isn't that's more like....purgatory! I just got beaned in the head with a ball from the ball-pit! Toddlers!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Four hundred fifty photos later.....

I went to Aberdeenshire without my laptop.....thinking I could just blog from my friend's I couldn't! Hope you missed my frequent updates!

So....I went to friend Alison's and was amazed at her harp abilities....and cooking abilities... and all round awesome abilities! I was greeted by home-made scones, home-made jam, and lovely tea. At night, she made this Moroccan Lemon Chicken Tagine that was surely inspired by an angel or a genie! Aidan, her darling husband, recited funny poems and let me shoot a soda can in the garden with his .22! It was lovely to be back in her dining room, watching the mist breathe and the grass ripple and partridges! I find this part of Aberdeenshire quite a spooky place, except for the fact that Alison just goods-it-all-up! C and C made a movie on her table with the Dr. Who action figures....which explains today's title of 450 photos! It is hard not to be creative in her house...she vibrates with creativity and is a muse! And also amusing...which is always a plus! It never really changes there!

Here is the view from her dining table!

When we left their house we went straight to Syd Graham's. Now, if I can jog your memory, Syd is the current convener of the Social Care Council for the Church of Scotland....and also the one responsible for introducing me to R...and eventually marrying us in the back garden. So...he owes me big time! Just kidding!!!!! :)
He has a new puppy...well...a big puppy! Abby and Caoir entertained themselves all afternoon. Quite a few tea cups were knocked over with tails and wellie boots!
Here's a quick interview with the man and the legend....that's his wife Edna in the background...putting the ice cream away....oh... and the lovely, beautiful, warmed rhubarb sauce....(Lord knows I love this land!)
CrossReach is a social work wing of the CofS that serves a lot of folk on the margins...he can explain it better than I can!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

In the West of Scotland.......

"Tommy" is a great name to be mourned.
I know that sounds like a horrible thing to say....especially for my friends who are, indeed, named Tommy, but it just sounds so fabulously sad.
See, the vowel is voiced in a very "AW" fashion, and it rumbles somewhere between the throat and the chest. When said with sadness, or whispered...."Och, Taaaawwwwwwmy! Ah shooower will miss Taaaawwwwwwmy." It just sounds so sad... And sad is lovely at a funeral. Happy to have known him....but sad that he's gone...Sad to have to face the rest of your days without him. As names go, it's a great one for mourning. Any name with a vowel you can sing or a consonant you can hum maybe. Anyhow. It's hard not to tear up when a mourner softly growls "Tommy".....that's all I'm saying.

Eileen does a powerful funeral....and a powerful number of them!
This is the second one for a "Tommy" since I've been here, but this is the 4th in a fortnight, and the first week we were at the General Assembly! That's a lot of funerals.

Tomorrow I preach. I'm going with the Luke text from the lectionary about the faithful centurion with the sick slave. Ugh.....still thinking about it....flipping it round in my head and waiting for it to gel into something worth speaking. I sort of wander about doing aimless tasks saying the words of the text over and over.....I'm not cut out for this kind of ministry! As naturally hammy as I am, the whole preaching thing is just scary.

So....I think I shall knit! It's like the hottest day of the year....which, naturally, makes me think what it was like on the coldest day of the year.....which, naturally, makes me want to knit! I have a fab pattern for slippers that look like horses! You knit them really big and then felt them in the washer. Since I can't waste my time with the Eurovision Song Contest, I'm as well wasting my time knitting slippers for the winter....and thinking of a sermon, of course.....because....well.....tomorrow is Sunday, and I can't just stand up and sing "Loik a sattelite, Awm in owbit aww the waiy arwowd you!" Much as it is a catchy tune and all!

Do you like the "Andy Goldsworthy-esque" rock pile photo up at the top there? The boys and I are trying to create some sort of ephemeral art everywhere we have a point in that pointless kind of way... To create something beautiful that doesn't need to last very you do....."Awwww.....Taaawwwwmy."

Friday, June 4, 2010

My nose in feet on hills.....

Here's the high road above Loch Lomond!

Sorry the postings have been a bit few and far between. I've been catching up on my reading, walking in hills and thinking, and hanging out with the lads.

If you make a comment on my blog...I shall buy you sweets! i mean it! :)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Daft day in Kilcreggan!

Here I am at the end of a fine day looking out my window at this! That other shore was where we ventured today to picnic....and play on the rocks...and have a cup of tea. Anything involving a ferry is exciting I always say! The funniest thing about the village of Kilcreggan, which is the place right on the edge of the water and the edge of our fantastic view of the Highlands, is how much it features in all of our fantasies.....the grass is not just greener, but from the Gourock side of the River Clyde, it is quieter, gentler, saner, wilder, snowier, sunnier, rainier....the grass is just greener! What can I say....we watch the remote simplicity of Kilcreggan and always think how very bonnie it is! Perhaps....we covet....I know sometimes I do. It's worth it to take the ten minute ferry over every now and again. It is quiet! It is Argyll! Which is different somehow...gentler, yet wilder, more exciting, more just is Argyll! So, as the video shows, Eileen, old pal Anne, Coll, Caoir, and Alex accompanied me over to "the other side" for hi-jinx and pondering.
As we are fans of artist Andy Goldworthy, we channeled him to create this lovely red stone wreathe-type-thing!, we picnic, and play on the rocks, and skip stones, and look for the playpark we remember from the olden days, but never find it, have tea in the pub....sit at the water's edge looking over to Renfrewshire for our house and think "Wow. It's nice here....but the view isn't as lovely as ours.....if you miss the ferry you need to wait ages to get anywhere....the wind from the sea is a bit harsher here isn't it? And then you realize....wherever you go, it's the same....your mind fantasizes about the possibilities of what could be...if only you were on the beautiful side. Deep, eh?!
So....we bought an ice cream to pass the time and wait for the ferry...and came home, refreshed after our picnic at Kilcreggan!

(Twister is the best ice-lolly on the planet!)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Rainy Mornings, Stolen Identity, MIDGES it must be June first!

Amazing, isn't it?! This is my view as I run to the Cloch Light and back...although today I only ran to it, and conveniently got picked up. It might be the most beautiful run, albeit flat, in the world! What it lacks in elevational diversity it gains in varying wind speed velocity. It smells very fresh and salty....less fishy than Brigantine, but more creasotey. So there you go.
First, I saved a little dog that had somehow gotten to the sand next to the sea wall and the tide was coming in! Yea me! So, that was exciting. Got some footage from before the actual rescue....still you could see the cuteness of the dog. My bloggie....R's in Amsterdam, so there won't be any video until he gets back! I'm done! Two more hours today with the online support. You might see the Bloggie bobbing down the Clyde soon.
Funny, but in the morning in the West of Scotland it is frequently quite wet...pelting with rain all morning, then around 1 or 2 starts to brighten up, then the evenings and nights are really nice. That's what we had today.
Planted the hanging baskets, read a bunch whilst the weather was miserable, ran to the Cloch and went to the Greenock and Paisley Presbytery BBQ when the weather was lovely. It helps that it's daylight for like 18 hours!
Went with E to the a very damp Findlaystone Estate...funny....we were just talking about how the midges hadn't shown up....I gulped....realizing it was, in, fact, the 1st of June! Honestly, the little beasts always appear on the first of the swallows to Capistrano, the Midges (nasty, evil, nearly invisible black a biting gnat) return to Argyll....but we were in Renfrewshire...still, it didn't stop me from being scared! The BBQ started OK, but by the end, it was all presbyters for themselves. E is polka dotted from the bites. I met some awesome folk at the BBQ. I always like the really old, retired ministers. I like how they talk of all the places they've been and they are always so hopeful about the everything's going to be ok. They're always so quiet and calm. Even when they are being attacked by midges.
Attack by a million midges is too good for the people who STOLE MY IDENTITY AGAIN! And this totally rots as I'm in, duh, another country and can't get a new card! This time someone spent a whole lot of my money at a Payless Kansaas! Yeah!
I'm giving up banks! This is silly twice in one month!
I do have awesome video! You just won't see it until tomorrow or Thursday. Bummer.
Believe me's nice!