Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Tales of the extraordinary

My time away on the beautiful Holy Isle off Arran in the Firth of Clyde was immense. Not just because of the island but also because of the people who chose to come on my retreat. A truly nourishing 5 days.

However, as always in my life, 'interesting' things happen - or at least they were certainly interesting to me... maybe you needed to be there?

The view from my window over to Lamlash on Arran

1. The Battleship
We do quite a lot of mindful walking during our stay. On the first day there I was walking slowly, taking in every blade of grass on the foreshore being blown in the wind and watching the shadow of my body moving, when I heard a thrumming noise. I looked up and there, in the narrow strip of water between Holy Isle and Arran was a battleship going by. It was quite a sight, but what was even more extraordinary was, apart from the thrum from the engine, I could actually hear the voices of the sailors on board being carried over the water to the silence on Holy Isle. Naturally I didn't have my camera on me!

2. The Dreamers
There was another retreat going on at the same time as mine. This one was about Lucid Dreaming in a mindful way - yes... I had to pause and think about that one! Anyway, their retreat demanded that they be up at 4 in the morning to go to sleep/dream together on the floor in the space they were using. This meant that the majority of those on my retreat, including me, also had to be up at 4 because of the clatter they made as they banged doors and chattered away. I don't know how much sleep that retreat got, but they all looked totally shattered at the end, with huge dark circles under their eyes. At least those of us who were in our own beds did get to doze comfortably off again. It made us smile anyway.

Also, there was an amusing moment on the ferry on the way back when one of their number said to me and one of my retreatants that they'd being doing this thing called mindfulness for an hour or so during their retreat. 'You know,' she said in all earnestness, 'it's when you really look around you and you become aware of so much more.' Neither of us liked to tell her that that's what we'd been doing for the whole of our 5 days. We just smiled.

3. The Contact Lenses
I've been having a try at some different contact lenses and I only had 3 pairs left (they're dailies) for the 5 days. I wore one pair on the first day and then thought I'd save the other 2 for the last full day and the journey home. For the other days I used the old dailies that didn't really suit me that well. On the second day we went into silence (that lasts for 48 hours) and I picked up a poem to read at the end of the meditation. I blinked. One of my contact lenses dropped out! Trying to read with my vision all over the place comes under my heading of 'interesting experiences never to be repeated'. Eye strain or what!

4. Soay sheep and the football
On the second day of silence I was walking along the shore and heard some shouting. I realised some of the Lucid Dreaming blokes had found a football and immediately set up a match. I rather like the normality of the find-a-ball-and-make-a-blokey game mentality of young men on retreat! The next day I was walking again and there, quite a distance from where the guys had been playing, was the ball with a Soay sheep bleating and eying it up. Of course the moment it saw me watching it wandered nonchalantly away. I wasn't quick enough with my camera, but it made me smile to think it might have found the ball and taken it to it's chosen place and be calling to its friends to come and set up a find-a-ball-and-make-a-sheepy game.

Blokes being blokes
'Nothing to do with me, guv'
5. Soay lambs, Eriskay ponies and wild goats
As always, going to Holy Isle in Spring is glorious. No matter that the weather was cold and felt more like Autumn, the sheep still had their young lambs and the ponies and goats were wandering about in the total freedom of knowing they won't be harmed by anyone. As I walked along the pathway from one end of the island to the other, ponies poked their heads around the side of the boathouse. Further along the path, and lying right on the path itself a Soay sheep and a couple of seagulls. The sheep couldn't be bothered to move and I had to move round it, but the seagulls swooped off as I approached. I then heard a piteous baa-ing and could see a Soay sheep all on it's own, bleating away. Next thing it bounds off the rock and I see a teeny tiny lamb, obviously very young. So cute.

Soay sheep and lambs
Eriskay ponies at the boathouse
Wild goats on the hillside
'Well I'm not moving...'
'... well we are!'
'Wait for me Mum!'

6. Frisky moments
On the last day I opened my curtains to see two Eriskay ponies hanging around just there for me to see. Then I realised the female was in season and... well... I don't think I need to tell you what they got up to. I was very polite and gave them a bit of privacy.

Eriskay ponies outside my window

As I said, maybe you needed to be there to get the full effect of all these things, but they certainly bring back some very happy memories.

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