a place to be

by Maggie Scout

 The Priory window, Holy Isle

  “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfilment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

As she turned the corner, the strength and bitterness of the wind and bright autumn sun caught Lizzie off guard.  She gasped, catching her breath, and thought that sunglasses might have been an idea!  Then she could have pretended to be Audrey Hepburn, wearing black with kitten heels a la 1960s, sunglasses, and looking terrifically chic in a Holly Golightly A girl can’t read that sort of thing without her lipstick fashion.  Imagine.  Reality check! Here she was, a non-hat wearer, about to put what she could only describe as a tea cosy on her head. But it wasn’t just any tea cosy.  It was a luxuriously soft cashmere in charcoal grey tea cosy that had been a gift from Maggie last Christmas.  Kate and the girls said she suited it.  It shows off your pretty face and sparkly eyes Lizzie and it’s very modern!   Oh wheesht!  Thank God it didn’t have a pompom.  She hated hats.  And she wasn’t Audrey Hepburn.  And there was no Cary Grant in this particular scenario.

Her still slim figure walked with purpose and she caught some appraising glances as the heels of her flat boots clicked rhythmically on the concrete.  A reliable sound.  A fascinating memory of a grandmother clock, tick ticking its way through silences in between bowls of the best homemade soup and apple pie ever, Scrabble, card games and snoozing on Sunday afternoons, all burst forth from her memory banks.  Life at at her grandparents.  Where on earth had that come from? Lizzie made her way towards The Priory, footsteps slowing, lingering, desperate for a distraction.  She wasn’t ready.  It wasn’t time. Not yet.  A shop window to look in.  People passed and still she stared.  Not seeing but thinking.  Wondering.  Moments passed.  Not yet.  She suddenly felt tense and anxious.  Her mouth felt dry and her heart began to beat faster as an avalanche of memories invaded her consciousness.

What if this was a bad idea?  What if it had changed?  What if it wasn’t magical anymore?  What if it doesn’t mean the same?  What if it was all imagined?  What if the memories are too strong now?  Why the ‘what ifs’ now, Lizzie?

From nowhere, or somewhere, she remembered her last conversation with Alice.

Thin places.

This was a well worn path.

It was where she and Kate had met almost fifty years ago.
It was where she encountered Ralph and his brother for the first time.
It was where she would make decisions that would alter her life forever.
It was where she sought sanctuary, mercy, healing and grace.
It was where the boundary between heaven and earth was especially thin.
It was where she knew, for certain, that God was.  Waiting.

It wasn’t busy but for a few people on retreats following the path of St Cuthbert. Lizzie breathed in the sea air and walked through the gate.  From the beginning the stories of Cuthbert’s charm and generosity to the poor, his gifts of healing and insight, his selflessness and life of austerity, intrigued Lizzie. There was a real sense of the monk and hermit to be found in this place and, not for the first time, Lizzie felt a connection to his yearning for solitude.

Peace and calm embraced her like a blanket, or the way an old friend would.  The Priory ruins protected her from the wind and at once she was drenched in glorious sunshine.  Just like before.

She felt right.