This piece follows up on a description of my day of departure from the states – here.
Suffice to say I got to and through Newark (where I had an awful Mexican supper badly burning the roof of my mouth on an obviously “nuked” chimichanga), and arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. I had pre-booked a rental vehicle from Enterprise Rent-a-Car, but finding the rental agency counters in the Edinburgh airport terminal is a bit of a trick … because they aren’t in the terminal; they’re in a separate building on the other side of the multi-level car park which thus can’t be seen from the terminal. Good planning.
Anyway, I got through immigration and customs with no problems (except a long wait because of some sort of public workers strike and then a computer outage), found the rental agency, got the car and a quick run-down on its features by the agency manager, loaded my things, and took off … only to discover that I’d misunderstood the instructions on how to get out of the parking area, made a wrong turn, and ended up blocking the way for in-coming rental returns. That’s when I discovered that I didn’t know how the put a Vauxhall Meriva five-door runabout into reverse! I put the vehicle in neutral, got out, and pushed it out of the way. Then spent several minutes looking through the owner’s manual and finally figured it out – I’d been pushing down on the gear shift knob (which was the way one got into reverse in my last two manual transmission cars) but learned that the Meriva has a pull-up ring around the gear shift stem. Well, OK, it works. And the car has turned out to be fun to drive.After driving it for three days, however, it was time to fuel it up. I pulled into a Tessco petrol station, got out, and couldn’t get the fuel tank door to open. After looking everywhere for a release lever and not finding one, I pulled into a parking place and spent several more minutes with the owners’ manual, fruitlessly this time. I was almost ready to call Enterprise and ask, “How do I get this darned thing open!?” Then a calm voice in my head said, “What about the unlock button on the key fob?” “No,” I said to the voice, “it couldn’t be that easy, could it?” — The unlock function on the key is one of those where you press it once and the driver’s door opens, press it again all of the locks in the car are released. I pressed it twice. The fuel tank door opened! Thank you, calm voice in my head! I swung the car around the pumps and filled up.
American gasoline consumers! Listen up! The cost of petrol in the UK (the lowest grade being 95 octane, by the way) is currently between £1.309 and £1.399 depending on where you are and what station you prefer to patronize. I paid £1.319 per liter, or a total of £56.28 to fill my car with 42.67 liters of gasoline. In American terms, that’s $90.58 for 11.27 gallons – or $8.04 per gallon! Gasoline in Medina, Ohio, the day I left was $3.45 per gallon. We really don’t have anything to complain about! (I’ve since filled up twice again at similar prices.)
Anyway ….All of these minor annoyances, those set out in the earlier post and those described here, are just that, minor! When I was resting, praying, meditating at the Duddo Stone Circle and again a few days later when I was walking across the grass field at Whitby Abbey and then later that same day listening to the electronic guide commentary at Rievaulx Abbey, it occurred to me how difficult the lives and travels of the Celtic missionaries must have been. These men set out from Ireland not on jet aircraft arrived mere hours later; they sailed across the Irish Sea (not the most hospitable of waters) in small currachs, practically insignificant skin-covered boats. They traveled the countryside (which was wild and untamed, not the neatly farmed landscape of today) by foot, not in comfortable air conditioned vehicles whizzing along at 70 mph! No matter what the inconveniences of modern air travel, no matter how bad airline or airport food may be, no matter what difficulties one may have learning how to pilot a rental car … nothing that I have detailed above amounts to a hill of beans in comparison to the difficulties those Celtic monks must have faced! It was the Celtic missionary tradition to send out thirteen men – an abbot and twelve brothers emulating Christ and the Twelve – to find a good location for a new monastic community, settle there, build their caiseal and within it their huts and other buildings, and begin seeking out the local peoples and telling them the Good News of redemption in Jesus Christ. They sailed in tiny boats; they walked across wild terrain shod only in sandals; they carried everything they needed – holy books and vessels, especially. They did the hard work of converting those who had never heard of God or of Jesus. And they did it successfully. They have much to teach us and we have much to learn.
This trip is teaching me about patience; it’s teaching me about letting go of annoyances; it’s teaching me about trusting God. Traveling charms, invocation of God’s protection while abroad, were a common part of the Celtic Christian experience. There are numerous examples of them in Alexander Carmichael’s magisterial collection of Scottish Gaelic folk hymns and poetry called Carmina Gadelica and in Douglas Hyde’s collection of Irish verse entitled Religious Songs of Connacht, from which the lyrics of many of the songs in Dantá Dé are taken. The following is from Hyde’s collection, the Irish and the translation are both from his text. It is not found in Dantá Dé. First, the Irish:
I n-ainm an Athar le buaidh
Agus an Mhic a d’fhulaing an phian
Muire ‘s a Mac go raibh liom ar mo thriall.
O a Mhuire cas dam ag an phort
Na leig m’ anam thart
Is mór m’ eagla roimh do Mhac.
I gcumaoin na naomh go raibh muidh (sinn)
Ag éisteacht le guth na n-aingeal
A’s ag moladh Mic Dé le saoghal na saoghal.
And the English rendering by Dr. Hyde:
In the name of the Father, with victory
And of the Son who suffered the pain,
That Mary and her Son may be with me on my travel.
O Mary meet me at the port
Do not let my soul [go] by thee,
Great is my fear at thy Son.
In the communion of the saints may we be,
Listening to the voices of the angels,
And praising the Son of God for ever and ever.
I’ve begun saying this invocation each morning before beginning my drive, thinking of the Celtic and Roman missionaries and the later medieval monks who traveled this way before me.