Category Archives: Lemurian Abbey
What a glorious last morning I spent on Lenore. I was up before dawn and made my way to the top of the promontory to greet the sun. As the sky lightened it was bedecked in swathes of orange and cerise, like Indian saris drying in the breeze. I sat and made a list of the things I wished to do before I left.
1. Thank the Abbess and the nuns for their kindness.
2. Buy two bottles of the Liquid Velvet liqueur so that I can enjoy little tipple from time to time. I’m not a drinker, but a tiny drop of the liqueur is most uplifting.
3. Have a last look at the Abbey’s artworks.
4. Collect a few blooms from the Abbey garden and press them in my book.
5. Send postcards to my friends and family.
6. Carefully pack my bag – I will carry my little ‘art’ basket in my hand as I’ve decided to travel by walnut shell. Very handy for getting back from places, but to use it on the outward journey would entail being able to visualize your destination. Not always possible.
I wandered back to the Abbey and showered and dressed, and then went down to breakfast. All the gang was there. Brenda and her cohorts were planning a big day which involved donkeys and donkey carts. I had eggs, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes and two slices of toast and butter. Once again it struck me how flavoursome all the food was. I had two cups of tea and then headed to the Abbey shop.
I purchased two bottles of Liquid Velvet and bought some postcards and stamps. I also bought a jar of ‘Ecclesiastical Honey’ – good for eating and for medicinal purposes. I sat in the huge entrance hall and wrote my cards. The nun in charge of the shop showed me where I could post them in a small postbox, which was emptied daily. I also wrote out a ‘Thank You’ card, addressed it to the Abbess and left it on the hall stand.
Next I wandered out to the garden again and selected six flowers to press as keepsakes – a red salvia, a marigold, a white petunia, a small pink rose and a yellow snapdragon. The snapdragon made me smile. It brought back childhood memories of ‘talking’ snapdragons. I took the flowers back to my room; arranged them carefully between pieces of toilet tissue and placed them in my book. I then had to bind it tightly. Not the best method for pressing flowers, but it seemed to work when we were kids. It was only a temporary measure, anyway. I would find something hefty to squash them when I got back to the ship.
I carefully packed my bag, then stripped off my bedding and folded it ready for laundering, and I was ready for off. A last look at the artworks first though.
I visited the Lady Chapel to view both the stained-glass windows and the stunningly beautiful, embroidered altar piece. What hours of work must have gone into that. Lots of couched gold thread employed. Very rich and heavy. I also looked at all the tapestry hassocks, and saw that the inspiration for them had come from the garden. Every flower you could think of was represented.
I wandered along the corridors where oil paintings of church dignitaries and also beautiful landscapes of the island, were displayed. I finished my tour in the Library, where several, centuries-old illuminated manuscripts were displayed in glass cases. I imagined all the time and patience needed to create these – and the concentration! You wouldn’t want to do all that and then make a mistake at the end, and have to start again.
It was about 11.30 am by the time I got back to my room. I grabbed my bag and the tiny basket; checked I had my transport in my pocket, and went downstairs to hand in my key.
I shouted a ‘Cheerio!’ to friends who were gathering for lunch and headed out to the courtyard. This was going to be tricky – only two hands and three things to hold. I gripped my walnut shell tightly and hooked my arm through my bag handle and cradled the basket in my other hand. I closed my eyes and visualized my cabin on the Vulcania – whooooosh, thump! I was there!
It was nice to be back onboard the ship and I certainly appreciated the little luxuries after the austere atmosphere of the Abbey. Time to have some lunch and study the noticeboard to see what entertainments were available.
It’s 5.30 am and I’m heading down to the garden. This is my favourite time of the day – just me and the dawn chorus. No people; no extraneous noise. Peace and tranquility.
The gardens are beautiful. Not regimented like the gardens of large buildings usually are, but rambling and cottage-like, and are obviously very well tended. There are little grottos made of stone dotted about, and some delightful statuary, and not all of it religious in nature either. There is a beautiful bronze mermaid laying languorously on a large rock, with her fingertips in the fishpond. The fishpond is only small, and is home to a few goldfish and a frog or two. It is surrounded by a variety of ferns.
Through a very ornate iron gate is the abbey’s walled kitchen garden. Every variety of vegetable and herb is here, and all grown on sustainable, permaculture principles. Every inch is used. There are compost bins in one corner and I can hear the steady buzz of a beehive somewhere. Espalier fruit trees – apples, pears and stone fruits – stretch their limbs across the faces of the walls. This all accounts for the delicious flavour and quality of the meals served to us.
I’ve wandered around, sniffing the flowers and herbs and I’ve made myself a small posey to put in a glass in my room.
I can hear movement now, so I will go and wash and make my way to the refectory for breakfast. I have no idea what the day will hold; I’m not sure if activities are organised or if you can wander at will, but I can ask someone.
Ah, there’s Woody and Sal, coming down the stairs. ‘Morning, you two. I’ll join you in the refectory in a few minutes. I just have to have a wash.’
‘Did your bed soften up after you got in it?’ said Woody.
‘Yes, I had a wonderful night’s sleep.’
‘Well, we’ve discovered another bit of magic. We were having a wash in that ice-cold bathroom, and I said ‘I wish this were warm water’, and, just like that, it was!’
‘Oooh, thanks for telling me. I’ll be down in about five minutes.’ And I headed towards the bathroom. I think I might risk a bath after breakfast if I can have warm water.
I left my room a few minutes before seven and, just outside my door bumped into Woody, a friend from the ship. ‘I didn’t see you on the ferry,’ I said.
‘I was in the wheelhouse, chatting to Ishmael, and I didn’t get off until after the first carts had left. We have a friend in common and were having a good old natter.’
‘How’s your room?’
‘Cosy, seems an appropriate word.’ she said, ‘ Have you tried your bed?’
‘Mmm.’ I replied, ‘I don’t think I’ll be able to get out of it in the morning and if I do, I will be walking around like Quasimodo until at least lunchtime. My days of being able to sleep anywhere are long gone.’
‘I know, I like a soft mattress too. Maybe we’ll be able to get an overlay or something.’
‘Perhaps there’s a pea hidden underneath, to see if we are really princesses,’ I said, grinning.
‘I know this abbey’s order advocates austerity, but I didn’t think it would apply to the guests,’ said Woody, ‘We’ll probably get gruel for dinner!’ We got the giggles going down the stairs, but managed to get ourselves under control before entering the refectory.
On the right, as we entered the doors, was a wall of the most magnificent stained glass windows I’ve ever seen. They must have been about eighteen feet tall and were set off in all their glory by the setting sun. On the wall opposite were portraits of past Abbesses dating from about the mid fifteen-hundreds to the present day. The vaulted ceiling was high and made of stone, with gargoyles featured on the tops of the pillars. Along the short end wall opposite the door, was a huge and old wooden crucifix, and beneath it a long table spread with a white damask cloth and laden with a variety of foods and bottles of wine.
Several of the guests were already seated at the tables, and we joined them. All the nuns were seated together on one, very long table. At 7.00 pm on the dot, the doors were closed and bolted. (Mental note) Tardiness for meals is obviously discouraged. The Abbess stood in front of the food table and asked us all to join hands for the benediction, which we did. Thanks were offered up in Latin, which is not in my repertoire, so I just waited and joined in with the ‘Amen’.
‘We would like to welcome you as our guests.’ she said, ‘While we observe vows of poverty and austerity, our guests are not expected to do the same. Please, help yourselves from the buffet. We take our meals in silence, and would ask you to respect this. We hope you will enjoy your stay and take advantage of all the island has to offer.’ Woody and I were elbowing each other like kids at school camp. ‘Please, don’t make me laugh,’ I whispered, and decided to avoid eye contact until the meal was over.
The fare was delicious and far from the gruel we were expecting. There were tender, spring lamb chops, steaks and shepherd’s pie and a wonderful range of vegetables. The bread and the wine were products of the abbey, and there was a bottle of the famous abbey liqueur Liquid Velvet for us to taste after the meal. Apparently it’s made from roses, blueberries, mead and spices and has been made by the abbey for four centuries. I was so hungry I was really looking forward to the meal until I glanced over at the nuns and saw that they each had a bowl of thin soup and a roll. This took the edge right off my appetite, and I just chose a couple of chops and a few veggies.
The wine was excellent – very smooth and fruity. When everyone had finished eating, the nuns served each of us a tiny glass of the liqueur. Oh, it was ambrosia! I’m definitely taking a few bottles of that back to the ship.
We approached the Abbess with our concerns about the firmness of the mattresses, but she told us not to worry, all would be well, and that we would sleep soundly. We left the refectory and looked at one another with raised eyebrows, saying nothing. On the way back to our rooms, I asked Woody if she fancied a wander into the town of Gilead, which was situated a couple of miles inland from the abbey. ‘Sounds like fun,’ she said, so we grabbed a couple of cardigans in case it turned chilly later.
The roadway meandered through the woods and down to a sheltered hollow containing the town. No motorised vehicles are allowed on the island, but we saw a few bicycles and donkeys. There were also several people on foot. It was twilight by the time we reached the town and lights were beginning to appear. We wandered around the streets and gazed into shop windows. Lenore is noted for its artisans and there were some beautiful items on display. The shops were all closed, of course, so we decided to shop for souvenirs the next day.
The strains of cheerful music and laughter wafted towards us on the gentle breeze, so we went to find where it was coming from. It was a small cafe on the edge of the town square. Obviously a popular place, as it was quite crowded. We waited for a table and then sat down and ordered coffee. ‘Do you have Tim Tams?’ I asked. ‘My friend here has never experienced the delights of Tim Tams.’
‘Certainly, ladies. Coffee and Tim Tams it is,’ and he returned a few minutes later with our coffees and half a dozen of the delicious biscuits.
‘Now, Woody, I am going to teach you the fine art of Tim Tam straws.’
I showed her how to bite of diagonally opposing corners of the chocolate covered biscuit and then suck her coffee through it. Oooh, decadence!! The hot coffee melts all the inside of the biscuit and makes it all soft; but you can only do two or three. Any more than that and you would be sick.
Woody was delighted to have mastered the art, and we sat laughing over the mess the warm chocolate made. We sat and talked for an hour about our various experiences on the cruise, and then took a leisurely walk back to the abbey.
I think I’m going to have to check out if there’s anything in my magic walnut shell that can have some influence on that mattress.
*Postscript – Having found nothing appropriate in the walnut shell, and having no other option, I lay down on the bed. As I lifted up my feet and pulled them onto the mattress it suddenly became soft. Yet another amazing happening. That must have been what the Abbess meant when we spoke to her. I hoped Woody’s was nice and comfortable, too.
My journey to Glastsonbury came as a surprise not only to myself but also to Gallahad and Angel. Not too long after leaving The Cave of the Enchantress a messenger caught up with us and handed me a scroll.
Intrigued, I opened it. I could not contain my joy as I read the words, ‘an invitation to claim a room at the Leumarian Abbey, Glatsonbury’. I smiled so much my mouth ached. Thanking the messenger, I turned to Gallahad and ordered gleefully, “a change of plans Gallahad, we’re going to Glatsonbury’!
“Glatsonbury”! What happenned to finding the Gypsy Camp”? Asked Gallahad. “We will still visit the Gypsy Camp but for now we go to Glatsonbury and I wish to hear no more about it”!
Gallahad is a donkey of distinction, dare I say a gentleman, who knows when to keep quiet so he decided to read my mind rather than ask any more questions. He also has an uncanny sense of direction and before I knew it we were on our way. “Not too long, not too long and you’re nearly home”, whispered Angel from my bag.
Morgaine rode quietly upon Gallahads back thinking, remembering. She had never been to the Abbey in Glatsonbury even though it was situated quite close to her beloved Avalon.
Avalon was like her second home, she had been moved there as a child to learn the ways of the Goddess and become the next teacher and keeper of those ways.
When the mists enveloped Avalon for the final time, Morgaine knew there was no return to ‘paradise’. Tears welled in her eyes as she remembered the happinness, sadness and the deceit that closed the mists of Avalon for all time. She, who was the pawn in the game, manipulated by others, felt like the mists had also closed around her heart forever. How could she ever trust again?
If all that was not enough Arthur had died and the Saxons invaded, leaving a trail of destruction behind them. Camelot, the once bustling, happy town was ruined. Morgaine escaped to the hills
and claimed an abandoned farm which she named Camelot, here, she could live in peace. A few villages and their families had followed her believing she could keep them safe, these she hired to work the farm.
The Saxons moved on and up to conquer, the villagers and Morgaine settled in to life and work on the farm, yet Morgaine was still restless. One of the villages told Morgaine about a journey called the Silk Road, she had also heard it from a travellor before the Saxons came, it was then Morgaine determined to take the Silk Road Journey, herself – it was what she needed.
Morgaine left her Camelot the next afternoon confident the villages would not let her down, after all, it was their home too. So here she is travelling to Glatsonbury, about as close as she’ll ever get to Avalon.
Scoff mock jeer jibe we tempt the great life force
Taunt the ice flow moving from the north
Ridicule the past, look to the world as if it were all ours
Our hours so few
Our green and dancing spring is gone
We earn no laurel crown
In my part of the world we are heading towards autumn although Swinburne’s “month of the long decline of roses” is not yet upon us.
Here in the abbey gardens the sun flowers still turn with movement of the sun but their seeds are setting fast.
The leaves on the climbing vines are beginning to sport the new autumnal fashions
and the rosehips offer themselves to the hungry birds
The laughter fades away as I walk underneath the cold stone archway.
I step into a new world
where it’s difficult to remember who I used to be out there
The atmosphere is quiet and sombre
But as the sun rises
So do the people
They smile as they see me
I smile as I remember who I am
I smile more as I remember my family’s laughter that had faded
I can hear it once more
What once appears to be thus
May not be what it appears first to be
I’m grateful that there is more depth in the world
Than there first seems to be
If we couldn’t dig deeper
How could we grow?
Guides will take seasoned travellers and new pilgrims to the Abbey which lies on a small island, across the lake upon which the City of Ladies is perched. All comers are welcome to join the Abbey and undertake the Soul Food Labours. Residents work on the A to Z of Alchemy and observe the transmutation that takes place within this divine sanctuary, far from the hustle and bustle of twenty first century life.