Callanish – standing of the Sun 2015

11536458_10153999128869097_5277186619398291004_o(1)

‘Callanish’ has always been an evocative word for me since I first read about the place many years ago. ‘Callanish’ – a magical, mythical place, the Stonehenge of Scotland with overtones of Lord of the rings and maybe Narnia; I knew it was a special place. Although the North West has felt close in my heart since I was shown it years ago as somewhere my spirit guide said he would meet me, it’s geographically so remote it had always been inaccessible to me due to financial and time constraints.
But not this year. This year has been emotionally exhausting for me and spiritually hard going, and here, now, was a call and an opportunity.
I started making plans and plans started falling through – everything from not being sure if the car would be up to the 600 mile round trip to the ferry being fully booked to an unexpected guest arriving.
When I finally got on the road my biggest thought was ‘I must be mad!’ – a change of route due to having to take a different ferry, a long drive in unknown territory on my own in a car with a couple of unresolved issues and a dodgy android navigation app, and no accommodation booked…..
However the drive north was incredible, Glen Lyon, Ben Lawers and Scheihallion embraced me and sent shivers down my spine, and when I finally got to Ullapool the CalMac crew were helpful and reassuring, which as a woman travelling so far alone, and taking a car on a ferry for the first time I was very grateful for.
On arrival in Stornaway there was no data connection for navigation, so I had to rely on a map the girl in the on board coffee shop had drawn for me on the back of a till receipt. I missed a turnoff and after miles of driving in the foreign windswept landscape of peat bog and little crofts that is Lewis, I found myself at the end of the road in a place called Nis, which I reflected is sin spelled backwards. Sad to say I found this mildly amusing in such a strongly Christian community ! Nis is right at the northernmost tip of the island and there was no sign of any stones so I turned round and headed back, noticing that many of the local ancient monuments are signposted for the tourists, but nothing for Callanish. By the time I found one (and there was only one!) it was 11pm, and I arrived at the visitor centre car park shortly after, hoping that the silver lining to such a late arrival might be having the site to myself – no such luck though! The pale light of dusk revealed a dozen or so assorted cars and camper vans in the car park and another thirty plus beyond the site, as well as twenty or more tents pitched randomly in the peat bog surrounding the area, so the internet had been wrong about the promise of merely encountering ‘ a few respectful wiccans’ . However it had happily been right about the visitor centre toilets being left open all night, and better than that there was a large gazebo with picnic tables so folk could shelter from the rain. As I headed over to get orientated I was greeted by a friendly Irishman who explained where everything was and directed me to the stones. There were people walking back down the path who offered a polite greeting along with interesting odours of patchouli and other things….

11425489_10153999106709097_6902963009293813808_o
As I approached the stones in the half light some of them appeared to move, and I realised the site was thronging with people. Getting closer I could hear someone playing a guitar, and from the centre of the inner circle of stones someone else joined in with a drum,and a girl could be seen among the stones dancing and rattling maracas.
The centre of the stone circle was crowded with people and dogs so I walked meditatively round the perimeter a couple of times, and was approached by a woman my own age with a drink in her hand, who offered me a drink and introduced me to her husband. We engaged in some small talk before I excused myself and headed back to the car to meditate and perhaps grab a couple of hours sleep before dawn. Friendly though everyone was, I hadn’t come to party!

Just before dawn on Sunday morning I wandered back to the stones hoping the revelers might have gone to bed, but the party was still in full swing and the first musicians had been joined by a somewhat inebriated piper, and the music, drunken shouting, swearing, and dogs barking would have drowned out anything the gods had to say. People were urinating at the edge of the site and dogs were humping each other within the circle. Sunrise came and went with nothing more significant than a slight lightening of the grey sky, and I went back to the car for some more sleep.
I awoke later in the morning to the arrival of a coach load of Japanese tourists. By the time I’d had coffee from a flask and visited the toilets they had mostly returned to the coach, so I walked back up to the stones.

10929124_10153999128379097_5909803512375627192_o(1)
For the third time I walked round the circumference of the site, and as I passed the western approach I realised there was silence. I looked to the northern approach, to where He walks into the circle on midsummer’s morning, heralded by a cuckoo. People were backing away from the avenue of standing stones; and then I heard it, everyone actually heard it! The cuckoo call, four times, loud and clear announcing to the four directions – behold The Shining One! I entered the circle and sat down facing Him. No archangel trumpeted his way down between the stones, no bright sun god or alien presence. Just a gentle flicker of golden light which danced into the circle and stopped by my side. A stillness fell over the site and I felt enveloped in radiance, chest vibrating and fingers tingling. Precious moments in the presence of the One, The Golden one who initiated me so many years ago, the still small voice that whispers through the eons to those with ears to hear. A holy moment filled with deep understanding and joy. All things are one. And the request I hadn’t been able to express in the weeks beforehand suddenly found it’s words, and was asked and answered.

11427266_10153999129369097_306332859031828625_o(1)
As the presence faded I opened my eyes and raised my head to find I was sitting in a single beam of sunlight that had broken through the clouds. I heard a rustling to my left and there was a lady at the the west quarter turning to walk away. Her partner on my right in the east quarter was still standing with his arms outstretched, and as I turned and left the circle I saw the friendly Irishman from the night before standing to the south with his arms raised. As I approached him from behind he dropped his arms and turned to smile at me with a bright ‘Good Morning’
‘Morning’ I replied, my voice unexpectedly gruff – and yes, it was, an exceedingly good morning

Ben Nevis Ups and Downs

joannalilburninspirations

10686324_10153172376834097_1138086447_o

Ok, so somehow; despite being somewhat unfit and in no way a professional anything related to mountains, I got roped into climbing Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain; with my teenage son for charity last September.

It all started quite well with an on time early morning arrival at the group meeting point in Dundee, where we picked up our passenger and fellow climber Andy, and even had time to top up the red bull and comfy insoles supplies before we left, but any hope of further plain sailing was to prove futile!

Not far out of Dundee the sat nav crashed; no problem thinks I, we’ve got printed directions ….. so out to Dunkeld and the A9 we went. ‘Take the A9 and A86 to Fort William’ said the printout. We got to Inverness with no sign of the A86. Ok so it’s got to be around here somewhere, this…

View original post 1,264 more words

Ben Nevis Ups and Downs

10686324_10153172376834097_1138086447_o

Ok, so somehow; despite being somewhat unfit and in no way a professional anything related to mountains, I got roped into climbing Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain; with my teenage son for charity last September.

It all started quite well with an on time early morning arrival at the group meeting point in Dundee, where we picked up our passenger and fellow climber Andy, and even had time to top up the red bull and comfy insoles supplies before we left, but any hope of further plain sailing was to prove futile!

Not far out of Dundee the sat nav crashed; no problem thinks I, we’ve got printed directions ….. so out to Dunkeld and the A9 we went. ‘Take the A9 and A86 to Fort William’ said the printout. We got to Inverness with no sign of the A86. Ok so it’s got to be around here somewhere, this being the end of the A9. So we followed the A82  at a snail’s pace due to heavy traffic through Inverness and out the other side, with my son Jared studying the directions. A few miles out of Inverness heading for Fort William Jared announced we should have taken the first exit at the second roundabout, so we turned round and headed back into Inverness. The traffic was dead slow to stop, however when we got back out onto the A9 the sat nav decided to uncrash and directed us back through Inverness the way we’d just come – another half hour of gridlock!

Finally made it onto the A82 to Fort William thinking ‘Can’t be far now’ when I saw a sign – Fort William 66 miles’ . 66 Miles!!!!!! Two hours forty minutes you said in Dundee Mrs sat nav lady and we’ve already taken four hours – 66 Miles!!! So for 66 miles Jared and our passenger Andy snored and I admired the beauty of Loch Ness while stuck behind tour buses and caravans. I did actually see the monster I think – yes really I did!!!

I would thoroughly recommend a drive along the A82 to Fort William for anyone who fancies a good look at the loch and isn’t in any particular hurry to climb a mountain or anything. Finally made it to Fort William and Glen Nevis at about 2.30 pm after six and a half hours driving, and there was one tiny space in the car park which I shoe horned the car into. Toilet visits made and boots donned – complete with heel lifts because my achilles tendons had been playing up – we set off up the mountain. I was slow because I was carrying so much stuff and also the weight of the boots was causing a problem with my tendons, so I sent Jared on ahead to meet the rest of the group – they had a two and a half hour start on us.

Ben Nevis is quite aptly described as the only mountain with a pedestrian motorway to the top and it was jam packed. The Nevis run was on and we were just nicely in time to see the runners coming back down – hunners and hunners of runners coming down as we were going up……. and everyone from toddlers to grannies with chihuahuas who had turned out to watch. So lots of standing and waiting to let people past and wait for a gap in the crowds to get through – bit like Tesco on X mas eve actually. There were however enough big rocks to clamber over and steep bits to scramble up to make it feel a bit more like climbing a mountain, and half an hour up I was fighting back tears at every step due to the tendonitis, so I stopped and changed my walking boots for some comfy dolly shoes that I had in the rucksack before drinking some of the large bottle of water I also had in the rucksack and carrying on.

Oh the relief!!! Danced over the rocks for the next bit; it was great! After some time though I was starting to feel really hot, lightheaded and shaky so I stopped for a cup of tea from the huge flask in my rucksack and some strawberry bon bons. Still no sign of the rest of the group but I got chatting to a group of Irish tourists, one of whom asserted that we were at about 500 metres at that point. Yes well I don’t think so, it was AT LEAST 5000 metres by that point, but that’s the Irish for you.

As I continued up the mountain it started to get considerably colder so I put on the waxed jacket I’d been carrying. Still no sign of the rest of the group or Jared. After another couple of hours climbing, during which I was lucky enough to get a clear sighting of a Ben Nevis yetti (but unfortunately just missed it with the camera), I was getting concerned that I wouldn’t have enough daylight to get down, and due to taking so many photos I didn’t have much battery power left for using my phone as a torch, so I started to head down. There were a lot of people still heading up and some thought it was funny to ask me if there was a Sainsbury’s at the top as i was carrying my walking boots in a Sainsbury’s bag; so I just started telling everyone yes, there was a supermarket at the summit and they sold walking boots……

I expected that the others would be down before me having possibly taken the shortcut that many people were taking despite there being signs warning to stay on the track, but there was no sign of anyone at the bottom except Andy our passenger who was waiting by the car – had been for about 4 hours I think. Wandered about and managed to find a little phone reception, but couldn’t get hold of anyone – guess no one else had reception either. So Andy and I drank the tea and ate the chocolate that had been up and down the mountain in my rucksack and waited for the others to come down from the mountain.

First back was Ben who was able to tell me Jared was with the group having met them at the summit – I was very proud to hear that he had caught up with them, despite them having a two and a half hour advantage – he actually made it to the summit in just under three hours. I had been worried as I’d not been able to make contact with Jared or anyone else so I didn’t know if he’d found them or was still on his own up the mountain.

So we all made it up and down safely and then on to the hostel – albeit via the beginning of the West Highland way (a dirt track going the wrong direction), a caravan site and a restaurant before we found the hostel!  No dinner, was too tired to figure it out – just a very welcome glass of wine and a few hours sleep in a dormitory with about 14 other people, although not being used to sharing a room I kept waking up panicking that someone was in my room ….. aarrgghh!

In the morning we found the A86, it goes from Spean Bridge to the A9 – who knew!!!!! But it’s not a nice road;  it really didn’t like us. The temperature gauge on the car suddenly shot up to the red about 6 miles in with twenty odd miles to go, very limited places to stop and no phone reception, but I somehow managed to nurse it over the winding mountainous road with one stop and the last of our drinking water, to Dalwhinney where I was able to top the radiator up properly – phew!!!

Painkillers, hot bath, deep heat and foot massage did little for the aches and pains incurred; however the views were amazing, the people I met on the mountain were cool and the atmosphere in the crowd up there was almost party like. We raised loads of money for the charity, my son did something amazing, and in one day I drove the length of Scotland’s deepest and biggest loch before climbing Scotland’s highest peak – not bad – can’t wait to do it again next year!!!!

Hello world!

welcome to my inspirational blog! I will be writing here about experiences that have inspired me and which I hope you will enjoy reading about.

Some of these posts will have a bias towards the spiritual and supernatural world, and will be written from a pagan perspective, so if you’re scared of ghosts back away now!

Others will be about more mundane things, but still subjects which grab my attention and make me want to shout about them – could be anything from an old letter found in the attic, a chapter of an unfinished story, a recipe from my grandmother’s handwritten notes, the current state of my greenhouse or the current state of the world, anything that I think you might like to read about.

There will of course also be stuff about dogs, stuff about horses, chickens, honey bees and probably compost heaps, as well as accounts of my travel adventures and philosophical ponderings. Once again I hope you will enjoy my ramblings

Jo