The Magical Journey to Iona, Scotland
“Hello!” Kate Emmerson stood waving by The Green Shed gate on the island of Iona, Scotland. The driver drove along the two tire tracks in the dirt driveway and stopped. The other Cutting the Threads That Bind retreat attendees and I piled out of the van and hugged Kate one by one. The morning after exploring Edinburgh’s magical Royal Mile, I’d gotten on a train and traveled west through beautiful countryside across Scotland, to Oban. The four-hour train journey gave me a lot of time to think about what threads I wanted to cut during the retreat. I’ve done a lot of emotional, mental, and spiritual work over the last decade and I’m proud to say, my boundaries are pretty strong. I’ve cut ties with energy vampires. If I don’t want to go somewhere or do something, I say "no." I no longer people please or sugarcoat things. If something is bothering me, I talk about it – even when it’s uncomfortable. And when I'm wrong, I take responsibility and apologize.
As the beautiful mountains and blue lakes rolled by, I felt really fortunate to not have an urgent thing I needed to cut out of my life. So, I decided I wouldn’t overthink it. I would start the retreat and let whatever comes up come up. When I went to the ferry station in Oban the next morning, I searched passengers’ faces for the women I’d met over zoom. “Carol?” I said to a woman with short grey hair.
“Yes!” she smiled. “I’m Suzanne." We hugged like long lost friends. Seconds later, we found Lesley. Then Dory. We’d traveled from all over to cut threads. As we boarded the ferry, I felt so good. All these women resonated with fun, open, and “ready for anything” vibes. Insta-friends. Together, we stood on the deck of the ferry and crossed the Atlantic Ocean to the Island of Mull. Blue skies peeked from behind clouds. Mountains rolled by. Glorious green grasses covered hillsides. The land and sea felt holy. Next came a long bus trip across the Isle of Mull. As we asked each other where we live and chatted about kids and significant others, someone started singing “Morning Has Broken.” Another person joined. Then another. My retreat mates and I looked wide-eyed at each other and giggled. Next came “She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain When She Comes.” One passenger even sang a verse in Dutch. When another passenger sang, “Doe, a deer, a female deer…” the whole bus joined in. It was a moment I will never forget. People from all around the world united by belting out that Sound of Music classic. After almost two hours, we got off the bus in Craignure, Mull, boarded another small ferry and took a short and beautiful ride across The Iona Sound to the tiny island of Iona. There, we were picked up by the island taxi driver. We traveled the island’s one main road to get to Kate at the gate — to get to this moment — our final physical destination and the launch of our journey to a new spiritual destination. I’d met Kate on the writing retreat I attended in Lesbos, Greece. There, I told her, “I’ll follow you anywhere.” When she told me Cutting the Threads That Bind on Iona was next, I signed up. Now we hugged on Iona, Scotland. “I can’t believe you’re here!” she said. “Neither can I!” I said.
After putting our things away, the other attendees, Kate, and I joined together in The Sea Room. A lovely, comfy room with a bookcase made out of a boat hull, huggy sofas, and a large dining table and kitchen area.
We cozied up and set our intentions for the retreat. All the confusion about what I was or wasn’t there to do disappeared. I don’t know if it was the magic of Iona (which I later learned is seriously MAGICAL) or the fact that I’d had some time to mull it over, but seemingly out of nowhere, I wrote, “My intention is to build the courage to finish my memoir, including all of the icky hard parts.”
During the Greece writing retreat, I realized I’m supposed to write a memoir about healing Chronic Lyme Disease. The thing about healing disease is that you cannot heal the physical body without healing trauma. And dredging up lifetimes of trauma can be hard, uncomfortable, and really ugly.
My memoir isn’t about just my trauma, it’s also about intergenerational trauma, societal trauma, and spiritual trauma. With that, comes a responsibility and a potential to make a lot of people unhappy.
So, I finally knew what I needed to cut. I needed to cut the fear of upsetting people by telling my story.
Over the next five days, there would be work to do, but I was in such a beautiful place with such fun people that it wasn’t scary.
After setting our intentions, we ran to the chilly, beautiful beach thrilled with an absolutely perfect start to another adventure.
PHOTOS: 1. Mountain and lake view from the train 2. Duart Castle as seen from the ferry from Oban to Mull. It dates back to the 13th century 3. Brillian green grasses and blue sea view from my room at The Green Shed 4. The beach in front of The Green Shed Iona 5. Cutting the Threads That Bind attendees beach selfie