weareallpilgrims

Camino de Santiago

Month: September, 2016

Small Details Matter

Small details matter when you talking about quality and things that last. That is the thought that came to my mind this evening as I was looking back at some of the photos from the last two days of some of travel. The two images were one of a restaurant we ate lunch and dinner at in Dingle and the other was the ancient beehive stone huts.

The restaurant in Southwest Ireland in the town of Dingle, was called “Out of the Blue”160925-dingle-tour-55

They have a motto “either fresh or still alive” for their seafood. What stood made this great Seafood restaurant stand out was there attention to detail. The seafood was to die for and was so fresh and cooked to perfection but also the sides of the dish were so thoughtfully selected and perfectly prepared. As Terri pointed out, the sides of a main dish are often just an “after thought” with little attention to their selection or preparation. Attention to the small details can really make a huge difference in the quality! We are so glad we found this little out of the way little restaurant as they were a good reminder of this truth.

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The other image I mentioned that caused me to think about the importance of details was the amazing design and construction of the ancient stone beehive huts of Ireland built, in some cases, over 1500 years ago. The ones we have visited all remain intact just as they were constructed. The used a stone building technique called “corbelling”. It required amazing patience and attention to details as each stone was carefully selected and chiseled and placed in just the right position so the final beehive hut would provide shelter against the very tough Ireland climate and they continue to stand to this day just as strong. Truly and amazing engineering and craftsmanship feat.

There is no substitute it seems to me if you are interested in quality or things that last, you  have to pay attention to the small details!

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Blessings,

John

 

 

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A Slice of Heaven

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One of the wonderful things about travel, especially when you are traveling on your own like we have done for the past week, is getting to meet and talk with the local people of the region you are visiting. Yesterday we experienced what I would call a “a slice of heaven”, when we met a beautiful Irish woman at the bus stop. She had missed the bus in the morning and was waiting like us for the 11:40am bus to Killarney. Her name was Bridget and she had grown up in the area.

As we talked during our wait for the bus and on the bus ride to Killarney, we experienced what I term a “slice of heaven”. Bridget was the quintessential Irish woman full of life and hospitality and warmth. She “lite up the room” as the saying goes. Her vitality and love of life and people just flowed out of her.

I read in the book I am reading that “Everyone is in heaven when he or she has plenty of room for communion and no need for exclusion”. There was no exclusion in Bridget. She was all about communion with others. She inspired me to be more open and loving to all I meet. She was a true inspiration and we only spent a short time together.

We all need to be more of a “slice of heaven” to all we meet!

Blessings,

John

Photograph of Ireland

Little Skellig Painted Birds

Love this image. I spent some time in my “creative processing” after I took the image to make it look like this.

The Skelligs – The Grandeur of God

Processed with Snapseed.

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“The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” Gerard Manley Hopkins

This quote came is what came to my mind this morning as we awaited for our boat ride to Skellig Michael island. I realized when we got back home safe to our B&B that this was indeed the right words for the day.

This was a once in a lifetime opportunity that we got to do today as we had a 50/50 chance that we would not be able to make it due to the weather and seas. We both had figured there was no chance when we woke and saw the weather forecast was for rain and wind all day but we got a pleasant surprise, the boats to the Skelligs were running today!

This was my first experience on open and rough seas and I found it very invigorating (I loved the spray of the Atlantic on my face for some strange reason). Maybe in connected me to some long past relative, who knows. It was all so new and different and just a little scary.

Soon, we had our safety briefing and we were off climbing in a stiff wind the 600 vertical feet of uneven steps to the Irish monk monastery located at the top of the island rock. The views around you were simply astounding and I definitely could feel the “grandeur of God” all about me.

This is a very special place of history in the world for sure as this monastery was built in year 500 BC by the Irish monks and they lived there for 5 centuries! The stone beehive huts and stairs are still there just as they left them. There is so little that lasts very long in this world and Skellig Michael is bucking the odds it seems.

Those Irish monks came over 1500 years ago seeking to be closer to the “edge of the world” and to feel the “grandeur of God”. Near as I can tell they found it!

Blessings,

John

P.S.

Here is a video of Terri reaching near the area near the top called “Christ’s saddle”. It is where the final scene of the last Star Wars movie was filmed as the Luke Skywalker is found on the top of this remote island.

Terri arriving at “Christ’s Saddle”

 

 

Walking On The Wild Side

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Oh, how interesting it is to hike around in Scotland and Ireland, talk about walking on the “wild side”. As many of you know I enjoy hiking and am a very active hiker that loves the trails. That said, I have never encountered hiking trail conditions quite like what I we have been doing here in Ireland and Scotland.

The weather is something you have to pay close attention to here as it can close in very fast and you can get lost easy. There are no really clearly defined paths or trails like what we are used to walking. The terrain is very, very wet and often quite boggy. You definitely need some seriously good boots that are waterproof and rain pants for sure.

This countryside so interesting and we are definitely enjoying a “walk on the wet and wild side” for sure!

Blessings,

John

Our “Sacred Dance” Time

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“Many of us learn to do the “survival dance” but we never get to our actual “sacred dance”. Bill Plotkin

This quote is from a book I am reading called “Falling Upward”. I was thinking on this a bit and realized that for the majority of our lives Terri and I have done a great job of doing the “survival dance”. Terri and I have had a wonderful life building our family as well as having good success in the jobs we chose. We learned to do the “survival dance” well.

Now that we are both retired and have really had the time now to learn out actual “sacred dance”. The Camino walk was our real start on learning this “new dance”. The long walk was just the medicine we needed to help us learn more about this new phase of our lives. Our precious time as grandparents now has been a pure joy. This trip to Scotland and Ireland is a new chapter now in our “sacred dance”. These lands are very special indeed and the people are simply delightful and joyful. We are loving our “sacred time” here.

Today was certainly one of those special days. We visited a most special place, the Blasket Islands off the southwest coast of Ireland. The island is a one of a kind experience for sure. The island has a purity and soul to it that you feel the moment you step on the island. The ruins of an old village, where for generations the Blasket Island Irish families lived until up to 1953, was very haunting to walk through and the natural beauty of this island though was stunning. It definitely felt like “sacred ground”.

Terri and I feel so blessed to have this special “sacred dance” time together!

Blessings,

John and Terri

Photograph of the day

The Blasket Island Beauty

Stunning vistas everywhere you look on Blasket Island.

 

 

Giant’s Causeway – Loved To Death

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Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway at the far northern end of Ireland, is a sight to behold! I made the image shown in this blog from today’s visit to the Giant’s Causeway. I can say very simply that it is the most beautiful and unique seascape area we have ever seen. We simple could not stop saying “wow”, everytime we came to a new area to view. It was our “Wow day” for sure. Just blew us both away! Ireland has not disappointed us so far. We have been here now two days and I have had some amazing photographic opportunities.

The thing about today, though, was how many people we were with today! There were so many folks “loving on” on this most beautiful area of the world. We heard and saw people from what seemed like almost every corner of the globe. You could hardly walk the pathways there were so many folks there today. I wonder what it would be like on a summer weekend day! I had a heck of a time trying to make a photograph without people in it. (The photo above has people in it they are just way back in the distance).

It came to me this evening, that this is an area of the world that is getting “loved to death”. People come from far and wide because the raw beauty of this area is something else. I just hope it can stay intact and not get destroyed from  overuse.

This always the way it is it seems to me. We are attracted to a place like this and we all just want to go there and see it and yet somehow we still need to protect it from getting damaged from overuse. That being said, you should all put this on “your bucket list”. A truly amazing natural seascape beauty!

Blessings,

John

Oh, Ireland!

This photo is taken of the coastline of Northern Ireland on what is called the Antrim Coast. Stunning seascapes!

The “Real Story” of the Scotland’s Kilt

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One of the good things about traveling with the Road Scholar program as I mentioned in the last blog is the value of getting some excellent guides for the local area your are visiting. We are many things we have to “unlearn” sometimes as we learn the “real story” of what happened or how things really happened. We have a lot of stuff in our head that is myth and incorrect. Of course, we must remain open to learning anew. I read that we on a good day, most of us are only willing to call 5 percent of our present information into question at any one point! Now that seems like a very low number to me but it is probably pretty close to the mark, I suspect.

So what is the real story with Scotlands’ kilt?

Scotland’s kilt is tied to its history. The people of the Highlands were the folks that used the kilts. They were a very broad and wide boat of fabric 6 ft by 9ft. It was a “swiss army knife” in that it had many very practical uses for the “Highlanders”.

As mentioned the kilt was very practical dress for the terrain that they lived in which was very “lush” (word they use for wet grass and vegetation). If you wore traditional trousers or pants they would be soaked through in very short order. The bare lower legs would get wet but would dry quicker. The kilt also was important when they hunted as they covered themselves to create a blind (that is why the colors of the kilt were the same colors of the terrain). The also used it for shelter (a tent and a ground cloth).

The kilt was key element of their lifestyle of the highlander. It was part of “who they were”. After the battle of the Culloden when the last Scottish uprising was put down by the English they banned the use of the kilt and the bagpipes. They also began to “clear them off the land” as well. They wanted to completely “kill off the culture of the Highlander”.

But, as so often we see in life, we love to romanticise things and people after a time has passed. So the kilt and bagpipes returned in the Victorian era (1800’s) as it was then fashionable to wear the kilt again. This has continued on to this day.

So, there you go. The history of the kilt is not quite what we think. It is has a history that is very important to the people of Scotland!

Let us all remember, there is always often more to the “story” than we know!

Blessings,

John

Photograph of Scotland for Blog

Scotland’s Scenic Iona

During our stay in Scotland we had experienced the all kinds of weather (four seasons in one day as our guide, Robin MacGregor said). Our day trip out to the Isle of Iona was no exception. The island of Mull and Iona were beautiful. This image tries to capture the beauty of the coastline of the isle of Iona.

Scotland A Land of Heroes

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One of the advantages of taking a “Road Scholar” tour is the quality of the guides. You learn so much about the areas you are visiting. We have been blessed with a wonderful Scottish guide named, Robin McGregor. He has been just fabulous and we have come to understand “just a wee bit” of Scotland through his excellence guidance.

This is a land rich in heroes from what I have learned. Men and women that represent some of the best. These are people of strong character. They were good stewards of the lands and of the people. The would go the distance and do whatever it takes to serve the common good. A clan chief was a steward of the lands for his clan and they served him with loyalty and knew he looked out for their good. A number of the kings of Scotland that ruled their nation with great justice and Scotland prospered under their leadership.

But, alas the strong energy to rule or be the one who rules does eventually result in some very tough and difficult times and Scotland sure has that history as well! The clan warfare and the their struggles with England are truly epic stories of struggle and triumph. You can’t make this stuff up even.

So we are now rapidly heading to the end of our visit to Scotland. I can say, very honestly, I truly respect and appreciate this great land and people.

Long live Scotland!

Blessings,

John

P.S. The image above is of King James IV of Scotland one of the last kings of Scotland to speak Gaelic.

Photograph of the Week

Loc Shiel

We got to enjoy of wonderful boat ride down, Loch Sheil, one the lochs in the Highlands of Scotland. A loch is body of water surrounded by land on at least three sides. In the Highlands they have very tall mountains surrounding them.

The photography was taken from the boat of a glen (valley looking to the West, I believe it is in the Moidart region).

The Highlands – Raw Natural Beauty

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I have fallen in love with the raw natural beauty of the Highlands of Scotland. They are like nothing I have ever seen or experienced. I used the word “raw beauty” as it is the first words that come to my mind when I try and explain these most interesting landscapes.

I have attempted to try and capture their beauty in the photographs and videos I have taken but I am afraid that it is not going to do justice. I am on a Road Scholar tour, and as such I am limited in my opportunities to explore and really capture some of the beauty of the Highlands.

I did get some opportunity and whenever I did no matter what the weather conditions (and there was some very harsh weather) I went out and stomped through the landscapes. Wow, I have never walked in such difficult and tough conditions! We are in still in summer and the land is so wet and soft and filled with soaking vegetation it is hard to walk any distance. How did people get around? These Highlanders of Scotland were one very hardy bunch, that is for sure!

What struck me when I thought how they made it in this land, was how close they must have been as a community or clan. There is no way you survived on your own! They had figured out way of living in this “land you just survive” and made it their own and they loved it. It was their own.

I no longer wonder why the Romans gave up and never conquered the Highlands. It was too hard to do and there was no value they could see they could take from these lands!

What an amazing place this Scotland Highlands are! I love them the fact they have not been changed. They are eternal landscapes, raw beauty!

We have “developed” far too many wonderful places in this world in the name of progress. Long live the Scotland Highlands!

Blessings,

John

P.S.

The image at the top of this blog was taken from a train going through the Rannoch Moor in the Highlands. The home you see is a Highland home that was destroyed by taking out the rafters by the British when they conquered the Highlanders and cleared them out of the lands. They would not sell them the wood to restore the home either. Many of the Highlanders were “cleared from their lands” in this way.

 

Shaped By Social Networks

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We had the opportunity to visit the humble home and museum of the great Scotland poet, Robert Burns. He is the national poet of Scotland and was and still is today revered for his poetry and lyrics (he wrote Auld Lang Syne). There are special “Burns Supper’s” celebrated in his honor every year on his birthday (January 25th).

In learning about Robert Burns at the museum we visited, I saw something that made me pause and think. Over his short life span (37 years), he had over 200 friends and he wrote over 700 letters. He was shaped my his upbringing and education but also by his network of friends. We are all shaped by the people in our lives.

I believe creating and maintaining friendships is a key to a healthy and vibrant life. That is why when we make a big transition in our lives, like graduation from high school or college or moving to a new city, it is so important to continue to grow new networks of friends. I can especially see this danger when we retire.

Robert Burns was a most interesting and imaginative man and made a huge impact on many people in the world and continues to with his poetry. Let us all remember how important it is to grow and to maintain our friendships!

Blessings,

John

Photograph of the Week (from Scotland, of course)

Scotland’s Highland’s Are Calling

The Highlands of Scotland have amazing history, culture and beauty. It was quite interesting to get to this spot to photograph this scene. Lots of wet, wet and very long grasses with mud and water everywhere!