Thursday, March 06, 2014

Back to St. Magnus Cathedral

The first time I crossed the Pentland Firth I was with my brother and sister in law. In fact, the only reason I am in Scotland now is because they invited me to come on their trip with them.  So many things about who and what and where I am are the result of their individual and combined example. Mike is gone now, and we are all struggling each of us in our own way to come to grips with that. St. Magnus Cathedral is part of that for me.

It is about a thousand years old. It was built as a penance supposedly for some of the internecine bloodshed that fills much of Caithness-Orkney medieval history. I like staring at the massive sandstone columns and thinking that dozens of stone masons spent their entire working lives on this single building and reading the walls and listening to the secrets of the millions of people who have been here with broken hearts, newborn babies, all the big and little moments of our lives echoing off the stones.

I am grateful that I push open the heavy wooden door into an emptiness. Today I do not want to share this cathedral and my time here with anyone else. I do not want to pass the time of day with a stranger or even a well-meaning guide. I punctuate the silence with my sturdy walking shoes on the outer aisles and linger over the ancient stones. I like the phrase from some century long ago--'beloved in life, regretted in death.'  Then I sit awhile in the dappled, multicoloured light from a stained glass window. Another time I might have liked to study them. Today is about listening, finding stillness within myself that will allow the healing.


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