It had been a wonderful day, in spite of the long drive, with the delight of the sparrows on Holy Island and the magnificent stone circle at Duddo as its highlights. By the time we reached the outskirts of Edinburgh, the light was already beginning to fade.
The hotel where we really wanted to stay was full. We couldn’t book in at the second choice either… so I just booked the cheapest available guest house with a beach in the area. Other than a good breakfast, we only needed a brief stopover, so I didn’t really look. It was not until just before leaving that I printed off the booking confirmation and glimpsed the cropped picture that the cogs began to turn.
“I am sure it is that place we tried last time…” We had been unable to find a hotel on our way back from our last Scottish excursion where we didn’t quite make it as far north as we had hoped… and, for some reason, I was sure that this was one of the places we had tried in vain. It had been January, and getting late. My companion pointed out that such a coincidence would be far too random, even for us, and that the tiny sliver of building that was visible on the photo was nowhere near enough to identify anything anyway. But, sure enough, it was… the self-same guest house, the first we had tried that night. This time, however, our booking was assured.
My birthday dinner, in another echo of that previous trip, was fish and chips…but this time, we did it right, eating them from the paper on the seafront, watching a sunset and watched by a hopeful seagull. Next morning, we had the car packed with time for a walk on the beach before breakfast. We were just starting to eat when two other guests came down… and we knew straight away there would be no early start.
There is neither logic nor reason to such meetings, just a kind of recognition. The two women who greeted us were very much on our wavelength and, by the time we left, we were leaving friends behind us. The meeting put a sparkle on the morning and was to be instrumental in putting the flesh on the bare bones of our next workshop weekend.
It would be easy to miss these moments that stand at the crossroads of possibility, but as soon as you begin to pay attention to the small synchronicities and oblique nudges from the universe, life takes on a new depth and connectedness. You simply do not know where any path or meeting might lead, but unless you are open to what they might hold and ready to follow their silent beckoning, you can go nowhere.
We were heading up to Inverurie for a weekend workshop that was being run by an old friend. I have known Running Elk a very long time. We ‘met’ a decade or so ago, also in rather odd circumstances and that strangeness has never really abated. It has always been a sadness that he and his family live so far away. They are people I would love to spend much more time with… but it is also one of those friendships where distance and time matter little in the greater scheme of things.
The first time we actually met in person, he and his womenfolk came south, from Scotland and over from Canada. We visited Stonehenge, in spite of the horrendous crowds and barriers. I had stood with those stones when they were not so bounded by bureaucracy and it was a very different experience. West Kennet, Silbury, Avebury and the Rollrights had followed, healing some of the distress we had all felt at Stonehenge. By the time we parted, they were even more firmly ensconced in my heart.
One of the delights of working with the Silent Eye has been meeting them all again. They were all there for the Birthing of the School and we have seen at least one of them every year since then, often taking time after the events to wander the landscape and explore its ancient places, if only for a few hours. There is never enough time for all that needs to be said, yet there is also the certainty that nothing needs to be said.
It was, therefore, a very personal joy when Running Elk agreed to guide us around some of the sacred sites in Scotland. The recumbent circles have long been on the list of places I really wanted to see, but the chance to spend a little time with him and his wife was the best thing of all.
There would be other friends too, old and new, as well as one I have long wanted to meet, accompanied by her gorgeous dog. What I did not expect was a fierce hug from the ‘Canadian contingent’ when we would finally arrive for the workshop… she usually visits in June, but what with one thing and another, ‘just happened’ to have arrived in time for the weekend. That was a truly wonderful surprise! And, it seemed, an instance of another very odd connection with one of our party…
It was, therefore, to be an unexpected party of twelve souls that Running Elk would shepherd around the ancient stones of the Don Valley. We had little idea of what he intended to show us… but that too was a gift. Normally, the itinerary is in our hands or known. This time, all we would have to do was experience and enjoy…and revel in the wonders we were shown. But there was still a long way to go and I was planning on taking a short-cut…