What I learned looking at Skye
Previously, I had recounted my experience of hiking the Quirain Ridge on the isle of Skye in Scotland. Here’s the exciting (one can only hope) conclusion…
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What I recognized of the way here only lasted about an hour before I began to experience that hollow feeling in one’s gut that one is not where one should be. I looked ahead to a sheep gate with small steps designed to carry people up and over. I had recalled such a thing on my way here. Just not this one.
But there was still a trail and I was happy to be on it, so onward I went. Another hour passed and anything resembling a trail had faded into a maze of boggy grass, rivulets of water flowing down from the uplands downward to one of the many smaller bodies of water lower down. Before me was the ocean in one direction, the hills from whence I’d come in the other.
Both were equally baffling.
Did I chance the eastward march through the middle of nowhere, aiming to eventually meet up with the shoreline and hopefully, the A455? Or, did I retrace my steps back upwards and seek out the original trail? The decisive guy I am, I decided to walk in circles for another hour and a half becoming increasingly frantic in so doing.
Finally, I made one last attempt back up to the rock faces that had formed my right wing on my initial route. And I saw them. A young couple who, also lost, were so evidently besotted with each other that it mattered less to them than to me, a soaking wet, sweaty, panicking fifty something.
We introduced ourselves. Then, I proceeded to recount my sob story of late middle-aged geographic retardation and we came up with the following game plan. We could try to find the eastern trail that would lead back to the motorway where was my car. Or, we would turn the other direction and hopefully find our way back to where their car was parked on the western side of the island. One would then drive the other back to their respective vehicle.
I successfully made the case that I had already been lost for two hours and would provide little in the way of reliable directions back to anything, let alone my car. So, the decision was made to retrace our steps with the intention of finding our way west across the island. As it turned out, over two hours later it was happily clear that this had been the right decision.
Many sheep, loose stone stairways, close-cropped trails clinging tightly to precarious cliffs, and heartbeats later and a glorious sight awaited us: the parking lot. We had made our way to something recognizable from which we could then regale others with the very tale I now tell.
How metaphoric this is of the spiritual life. Broad, open vistas at one turn, sheltered inland waterways at another, all make way for more rigorous upland turns leaving one out of breath and struggling. Our better curiosity about the intricacies of the abundant life comes with a dash of danger, and much that is unknown. But it is precisely for that reason that life’s best lessons are never served up on china or crystal but in clay pots and dirty goblets better fitted to the task.
Of all the stories I tell of our trip to bountiful, this is the one that stands out most. It represents something more than the expected stops of the run-of-the-mill tourist. There is a wildness here. A particularity of incarnational wonder peppers my experience of being lost on Skye. And now, removed from the imminent danger and fear of the event, it is the most memorable. And, dare I say, formational.
My connection to Skye was both immediate and profound. It bled me from the start, leaching itself onto my spirit with ferocity and tenderness in equal measure. She is a wild, unkempt, treeless wonder, at once spell-binding and succulent. I was hooked.
But more so, I had touched something primal within me, the place of raw, untested faith, eager for challenge. As a man not generally given to risk-taking, it was exhilarating. It was liminal in all the best ways and will provide rich fodder of burning peat fires of faith still needed for the days to come.
And after all, that’s much of the reason I came in the first place.