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107 ChaptER 12 Iona In midsummer 1955, we sailed out of New York Harbor, landed in En­ gland, and from London took a train to Oban, the Scottish port of departure for the Outer Hebrides. Our adventures now began in earnest. At Oban, we boarded a small but stout boat commonly at the ser­vice of travelers bound for the inner and outer Hebridean Islands. They ­ were known as Puffers because of the billowing smoke clouds that issued from their ­ steam-­ powered engines. The Puffer pushed fearlessly through the rough waters of the Hebridean Sea to the slim island of Mull. Here we transferred to an antiquated bus for the last land leg of our journey on a narrow, uneven road leading to Fionnphort, Mull’s embarkation port for Iona. The faded, frayed velvet seats of our conveyance and the weathered mail pouch our driver tossed out to waiting villagers along the way remain solely in my memory, for like the audacious Puffers, this vintage bus no longer serves passengers.1 108 New Harmony, indiana The only vessel in sight at Fionnphort was a sizable rowboat. With some anxiety, I arranged for the own­er to take us across the sound to Iona. Perhaps Kenneth’s dim view of my itinerary and what he called a “wild-­ goose chase” was correct and more prophetic than either of us realized, for we ­ were not aware that the rebuilders of Iona had renewed an early Celtic association of a wild goose with the Dove of the Holy Spirit.2 It is possible that invisible stout and broad wings hovered over us as our obliging oarsman loaded our bags, Janie, her wheelchair, Carol, Emma, and me into his shallow boat for what became a turbulent and wet crossing. When I, a repentant and foolish mother, told George MacLeod of the risks I had taken in the small boat and of our near escape from drowning, hecomfortedmewithoneofhiscardinalarticlesoffaith,a­one-­size-­fits-­all response to seeming obstacles and danger: “If our deepest intent is acceptable in the sight of God, He will take that intent, run with it, and carry it further than we could ever imagine.” He left no doubt in my mind that the oarsman who had steered us safely across the estuary separating Mull from Iona had been the recipient of extraterrestrial help and that my heart’s intent had found ac­cep­tance. One doesn’t arrive in a rowboat at an island three and a half miles long by one and a half miles wide without attracting attention. Moreover, we had been expected. Our host had posted scouts—one of whom was the watcher Charles Turner, a ­ six-­ foot-­ four retired En­ glish general and vo­ lunteer assistant to Sir George—to be on the lookout for errant Texans. Charles Turner served as an essential bridge between sacred and secular worlds. The gentle giant waited on the white shell beach to greet and lead a wet and weary group to the St. Columba Hotel. No idle talk intruded as we washed away the dust from our journey with two pitchers of hot water left outside our door and prepared for bed in our unadorned room. I took Janie and Carol’s silence to be a veiled reproach to the hardships I had brought on them. Quite the contrary, as I tucked them in for the night, they embraced me with more than their usual warmth and thanked me for the “explorations.” In 1955 Disneyland had not yet captured the imaginations of American children, but I was confident that ­ were my daughters ever to visit lands of ­ make-­ believe, they would be able to separate fiction from fact, entertainment from nourishment. Thefirstday,ourlordlyhostMacLeodstoodinaposturethatreminded me of the bronze effigy of Archangel Michael on the entrance wall of Basil Iona 109 Spence’s rebuilt Coventry Cathedral. Like St. Michael, Sir George fought with the flaming sword of the Spirit. In his own assessment of the archangel , MacLeod writes: “Michael must come back into our consciousness (not just our intellects). Angels must become our consciousness again ​. ​. ​. ​ not floppy damsels in their nighties, but dynamic forces in their serried ranks ​. ​. ​. ​‘the ­whole company of heaven.’”3 But the resemblance to the archangel was not exact: Sir George Mac­ Leod carried a shepherd’s crook, not a spear, and wore a dark blue shirt, not chainmail. A ­ well-­ worn tartan was sufficient shield from possible enemies and the intermittent rain that had already descended upon us...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780253016638
Related ISBN
9780253016249
MARC Record
OCLC
903357020
Pages
400
Launched on MUSE
2015-03-20
Language
English
Open Access
No
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