It was about 4.5 hours total, but I could write a book about our time with Skellig. And I will, in the coming months, but I'd like to share with you a few thoughts on the experience for now.
Due to complications beyond our control, our team was stripped down from seven to four. The final decision was to have Philip and Tom carry me while Luke filmed. Now, there is a 45 minute boat ride to reach the island and then back, and these proved to be a great times of prayer and reflection for me as we sputtered along through the open blue. Unlike its predecessor, this was a clear day with sunshine and not a breeze in sight. What was funny to me was my reaction as we first passed Lesser Skellig, a smaller island just a stone's through from Skellig Michael. It is a jagged, uninhabitable rock, covered in birds and my response was a breathless "It's huge!" Then I thought of the name and laughed to myself. We ain't seen nothing yet. Just a few minutes later and we reached the ominous feet of Skellig Michael, and our ascent commenced.
Tom started, as he felt most confident in his legs to make the step from boat to shore. This was our primary concern from the get-go, but Tom made short work of it, steadying himself carefully on each sopping step. There is a plateau which levels out a little more than halfway up, called Christ's Saddle, and our plan was to switch carriers there. Before arriving there, though, we scaled several winding steps of thin stone (dry, thankfully), past the Weeping Woman rock, and up one long, vertical staircase. We'd recently invested in a set of trekking poles, which came in very handy on the climb, and Philip stayed close for support.
As planned, we took a much-needed reprieve at Christ's Saddle and then Philip took over. Though Philip's climb may not have been as far, it was fraught with areas of danger. I find myself struggling to glance out over the sheer drop-off just inches from us, but Philip is a sturdy man and carried himself (and myself) well. Overhead was the monastery, and it did my heart good to explore this area with Philip. We studied the huts - some homes, some chapels for gathering - and we had opportunity to talk with a guide about the history of these particular monks. But most of all, we gazed out over the ocean to the mainland. That was why the monks called this home, for the view of their beloved country, the subject of their ever-faithful prayers. It was a profound moment, to pause their at the height of our pilgrimage and take in a view of such historic conviction. It reminded me of the lengths Christ's love will go.
And so we descended, resting again at the Saddle and finally returning to the mainland. The rest of our team awaited us with open arms and a seat at the pub, where we celebrated the day. It was a good day of labor, pain, exhaustion, commitment, revelation, and beauty.