Day 1 Glendalough and Belfast
I’m not sure what this picture says to me, but I love it. My daughter Alana took this yesterday while Pat, (my husband), Alana and I were on a day tour from Dublin … “the Wild Wicklow Tour” … a tour of the Wicklow Mountains, and the famous ancient monastic site called Glendalough. The weather was horrendous – raining hard, misty and foggy, and cold the whole time. Our tour guide said it was one of the worst days he had experienced weather-wise as a tour guide. But we pressed on. “Believe me”, he said as he pointed out the window, “this is one of the most magnificent sights in all of Ireland. Do you see anything? Do you want to get out and take a picture?” Some did, most didn’t. It was fog, and we get plenty of that in Nova Scotia.
I was desperately looking forward to Glendalough, the early Christian monastic site which dates back to the 6th Century. Certainly we could tour the site and see some of the ancient structures, but the majesty and splendour that I have read about would have to wait for another time to experience first hand. Instead, this is the view that many of us had while listening to our tour guide. He chose not to use an umbrella, (said it got in the way) and so for 20 some minutes, he took us around in the pouring rain, telling stories and reciting historical facts while we shivered and shook under our “broillies”.
For some reason, this picture speaks to me as I stand at the beginning of a third pilgrimage to Corrymeela in as many years. Counting the three student trips, this makes six groups that I have brought to Corrymeela in three years – over 50 people. I never get tired of the collective sighs of wonder as we enter the site, at the delight over the hospitality received from the first moment, at the deep appreciation of the hard work that is being done in the name of peacemaking. As our whole group of 13 met for the first time this evening, it was me that was emitting the sigh of wonder as friendships began and community was formed. Over dinner, stories were told. Our participants this year come from Calgary, Toronto, and Halifax. The ages range from mid-twenties to at least mid-sixties (don’t want to make assumptions, but that’s where I am!).
We have several “tour guides” along the way this week who will help us interpret the context of Northern Ireland, and the work of Corrymeela. I suspect that they too might sometimes feel like they are standing in the cold rain without an umbrella, wondering if their words and stories hold any meaning to those listening … those protected under their own umbrellas of comfort and privilege. I wonder if I will have the courage this week to put down my umbrella and stand in solidarity with those who invite us to walk with them – encouraging, challenging, and teaching us to see in new ways. May the journey begin!
Below is the traditional first group picture on our first night’s dinner at Robinson’s. Not everyone made it into the picture … David is taking the picture and Gail and Irma are slightly hidden.