It is no vacation holiday to spend time on Iona as a volunteer. You will work diligently and purposefully for the privilege of spending an extended period here. Sure you receive room and board but in exchange you will work 7.5 hours 5.5 days a week.. For some, like me, it is an escape from the consistent cerebral demands of academia or as a friend put it “I am so glad for physical labor rather than having to think all the time.” For others, it is their first opportunity to earn their own way. One young man was so excited at the end of his first week, when he received his maintenance allowance that he had his photo taken with the money. He had NEVER earned money previously. So trust me when I say we aren’t sitting in a prayer circle humming all day.
And as fortune would have it, we play harder. you get at least a day and a half to rest, renew and most days you get a couple of hours off. This engenders two things 1) you learn to cram a lot into short periods of time and 2) days off have a military operational precision to them.
Today was my day off and a friend of mine and I decided to visit nearby town about 30 miles away. The reality is you must take a five minute ferry ride and an hour and a half bus ride on a single laned road to achieve this. All this so we could shop in a charity shop (think very small Goodwill), to drink coffee and gaze at the other side of the sea that we normally gaze at. You can also purchase your ferry tickets or souvenirs in the terminal shop or visit the grocery that is only slightly larger than the one you can shop in every day. It roughly takes about 2 hours, if you move slowly and linger over coffee, to accomplish all of these. And then you board a bus and make the return journey. The trip itself will cost almost 20 pounds (35 dollars).
But the fact is that all that is such a refreshing change it does serve as a rejuvenation for the coming week. You can plan simple escapes, and we do simply spend a day off climbing the hills or wandering the beaches on Iona. We forget that this is our day to day. Exhaustion can hit us full on, or creep in slowly. Let us become aware of htis, and embrace a thin place for spirit and body.
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