“What the heart has once owned, it shall never lose.”
– Henry Ward Beecher
If you are in receipt of my previous newsletters,, you know that I’m back from leading my Scottish Highlands & Islands Odyssey and my fellow ‘Odyssey-ites’ (sixteen) and I had the most wonderfilled, magical, transformative time, ever!
Whenever I talk about the experience, people respond with a deep sigh and say, “I wish I could have been there.”
Therefore, I decided to share my day-to-day Odyssey experiences with you through a series of newsletters. Every few days, I’ll post an account with photos of our amazing adventure. Please click on the link below to visit my website if you would like to view any content that you may have missed, and please feel free to email me any questions or comments.
Lots of Joy,
October 3-11, 2014
Scottish Highlands and Islands Odyssey
(Odyssey– a spiritual quest of self-discovery; a journey home)
Tuesday, October 7th – Day 4, The Hogwarts connection…
As we prepared to board the coach for the hour long southeast drive through the magical Isle of Skye to the ferry at Armadale that would take us back to the mainland, David stopped by to bid us farewell. He, too, was leaving Skye this morning and heading home to London. We said our good-byes and I was once again reminded that his friendship is one of the more valuable gifts in my life.
Though we were excited about the adventures that lay before us, we were also introspective as we processed the experiences of the journey so far. Scotland is a most magical, heart-centered land and as the coach transported us through mile after mile of indescribably beautiful countryside, our souls transported us infinite distances inward where we met that part of our authentic selves that mirrors the beauty, strength and grace of this very special land.
It was at this point, about half way to the ferry, that Les and Nicky played us another song, The Other Side of Sorrow. Inspired by one of the most distinguished of all Gaelic poets, Raasay- Isle of Skye native son, Sorley MacLean, and played by renowned Scottish fiddler, Alasdair Fraser and his band, Skyedance, it was so in sync with the moment that I felt that they were reading my soul.
As the rhythm of the fiddle took me– my heart, my soul, my essence whispered, “I want to die here,” and in that moment I felt the most profound sense of peace, perfection and contentment. My logical mind tried to make sense of that declaration/feeling and, of course, it couldn’t. How can mere words ever do more than leave the barest indication of what the soul experiences?
I am very fortunate. I’ve been called by Spirit to many beautiful places in this lifetime, and in each of those places I’ve found an important part of myself– a part of myself that further enriched my connection to the Divine, whom I know lives in my heart. I can’t imagine the barren desert my life would be if Spirit had not chosen me for this type of journey AND if I hadn’t had the courage to follow my bliss.
All of this expressed itself to me as I listened to The Other Side of Sorrow. As tears of gratitude spilled from my eyes, I looked around at all of my fellow travelers, lost in their own reflective worlds, and I gave thanks for their presence and generous contribution to their happiness and mine.
On the thirty minute ferry ride to the mainland, Les told me that there was a surprise coming to ‘meet’ us once we landed in Mallaig and made our way along the breathtakingly beautiful ‘Road to the Isles’ to the port town of Oban. When he told me what it was, the five-year old in me ‘ooh’ed’ with delight. We agreed to keep it to ourselves until the moment arrived.
Back on the mainland, we journeyed on and stopped at a scenic lookout spot a few miles east of Glencoe Visitor Centre. Standing there, I saw once again why the Scots love their country so much. It is stunning in so many different ways and this scenic lookout spot was a really great example of God having a good day when it was created. We joyously took in the magnificence of this place, and as we did so, I also reflected on the sorrow of all of the people who’d been forced to leave this beautiful place because of the ‘Clearances’ as well as the pain of anyone who’d been forced to leave their beloved homeland, where ever it was, and I said a prayer of peace for all of us.
Something profound and powerful had happened to us on the Isle of Skye and we were all much more relaxed and at ease. So much so, that without discussion, we knew that it was here that we’d take the first group photos that would always remind us of this moment and this beautiful land. Every time I look at these photos I feel the joy of being in touch with ourselves, each other, the land and the purpose of the Odyssey. We knew we were blessed in a blessed place and it shows. Such prasad!
We re-boarded the coach and continued on to Oban. The sun came out and another rainbow appeared in the distance. Nicky and Les played, “Heart of the Highlands” by Capercaillie– perfect! As we came in sight of the beautiful Glenfinnan Viaduct with its many graceful arches, we recognized that we’d seen it before in the Harry Potter films. Needless to say, this realization alerted the five-year old in all of us and when Les said, ‘See that white smoke over there? In just a minute, you’ll see where it’s coming from. Ah– here it is– the Jacobite, or as you know it, the Harry Potter train you’ve seen in the films!’ we all shrieked in ‘five-year old’ delight as we crowded that side of the coach and took photos. Even I shrieked and I knew that we were going to see the train! More proof that between The Wizard of Oz and Harry Potter, no one has to grow up! I think that sighting and our response to it is one of my favorite moments (of many!) on the Odyssey.
We stopped at the Glenfinnan Visitor Centre and Monument for an hour and thoroughly enjoyed the beauty and meaning of the place. Framed amid spectacular Highland scenery, the Visitor Centre tells the story of the ’45– the Jacobite uprising against the English in 1745. The monument itself depicts a lone kilted Highlander atop a 60 foot high column surveying the land where the Highland way of life had been cruelly extinguished.
We arrived in Oban around 5:00pm and after checking into our waterfront, maze configured hotel (James’ joke about the hotel’s layout was that every great Odyssey must have a maze that the hero is required to successfully navigate), Debbie and I went out for a walk. It was that spectacular time of day just before the sun begins to set. The beauty of the bay and the hills beyond it were soul stirring. We met fellow Odyssey-ites, world-class siblings and great souls, Karen and Janet, and we all speculated about the forum-like structure at the top of the hill. Once they explained that it could only be accessed by climbing a very, very steep, winding street, I was content to continue to admire it from a distance. Karen, Janet and Debbie agreed with my decision. Several others, including
Winslow and Julie H. ventured off on their own and from the photos, I could see that they enjoyed the mischief they got up to there.
After dinner, we commandeered one of the hotel’s small lobbies and with my copy of Scotland’s astrological chart and the birth data of the Odyssey-ites that Jan had collected, we were able to ask and answer a couple of really big questions, “What is our karmic connection to Scotland?” and “Why is it so important to us and to Scotland that we are here at this time?” It came as no surprise to us that each of us is powerfully connected karmically to what was in one or more previous lives, our homeland. The ensuing discussions were lively, stimulating and enlightening. The discovery for the mind of what the heart already knew was verification for the strength of the lifelong pull to Scotland we’d all experienced.
As the evening wound down, we retired to our rooms to sleep in preparation for tomorrow’s journey to the sacred Isle of Iona.
Hear Alasdair Fraser play ‘The Other Side of Sorrow’
Hear ‘Heart of the Highlands’ by Capercaillie
Click HERE for more on the poet Sorley MacLean
Tomorrow– Wednesday, October 8th – Day 5, With a Little Help…