What are you afraid of?

Lindisfarne is a tiny tidal island in the North Sea. It is in northern England, not far from the Scottish border. Lindisfarne was founded by St. Aidan in the seventh century to help spread Christianity in that part of England and it has been a place of pilgrimage ever since. The island’s first priory was destroyed by Vikings in the ninth century. The ruins below were built c. 1150 and housed a small community of monks until Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1537. 


Lindisfarne Ruins

Twice a day the rising tides make passage on or off the island impossible. Sir Walter Scott wrote:

For with the low and ebb, its style

varies from continent to isle;

dry shood o’er sands, twice every day,

the pilgrims to the shrine find way;

twice every day the waves efface

of staves and sandelled feet the trace.

I made the walk onto Lindisfarne last week with 2 other adults and 8 newly confirmed teenagers. We followed the ancient route known as the Pilgrim’s Way. Tall poles mark the safest route (there is the possibility of quicksand) and rescue boxes are available for those caught by a rising tide.

I quickly took off my sandals and walked barefoot through the squishy, splashy mud with the kids. We had been asked to make the first part of the journey in silence. It would’ve been easier to ask the tide to stand still. You see, it turns out that one of our group is afraid of mud–terrified of its texture, especially when slippery seaweed is added to the mix. 

She thought she had the right shoes, but they quickly filled with mud and silt. So I gave her my shoes and I gave her my hand to help her along the way. Soon others were helping–one on each side–preventing slips and offering encouragement. And when that wasn’t enough, the boys literally carried her through the mud. It was simultaneously funny and moving. We worked as a team and helped our fellow pilgrim.

Fast forward a couple of days. We’re off the island and in the fabulous city of York with its centuries-old wall surrounding the town. The Romans built the walls to serve as a defense against invaders in the second and third centuries. We climbed up the stairs and set off to walk the walls. It was an easy stroll until we got to a section that only had one wall and no railing…meaning there was only a narrow passageway between me and the ground. Most of our group walked on without a care.

But not me. I am as afraid of heights as some people are of slippery mud. I don’t even like to stand on chairs to change a light bulb. I didn’t go up the scary stairs in my grandmother’s antebellum home until I was a teenager.

I was toward the end of the group, so most didn’t realize my fear. I mentioned to the one behind me that it was “pretty scary” as she passed me. So there I was with no other pilgrims around, navigating the way. Pressing myself to the one wall when others passed going in the opposite direction. Heart racing. Knees like jelly. Focused on putting one foot in front of the other, trying not to cry.

But I made it, by myself.

I much prefer having my two feet on the ground. Or in the mud–that’s fine with me too.


Filed under Travel

15 responses to “What are you afraid of?

  1. Julie Fisher

    You’re home!!! So glad. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has missed you. Read all the posts on the pilgrimage website, and it was truly a fine thing to read of these young people’s thoughts and travels of all kinds.
    As for mud versus air, I agree with you. I vote for feet in mud any old day. Is it because we know that on the ground we are more in control than when we are perched twenty or so feet above terrus fermus?
    Another thought: but what if we could fly? Now that would be the best of the best of breathing in and out!

  2. i share your terror… have tried multiple times to get past it, mostly ending up frozen and blocking the passage for some non-terrified soul.

    but when i was in cambodia, and my daughter (who shares the fear) wanted to climb to the top of the inner temple – broken, narrow stairs with only a tiny, wobbly railing to hold – i decided to ‘spot’ for her. we both made it, sweaty and shaking. and were proud that we’d tackled it…

    way to go!

  3. I don’t mind heights. I’m tall, so thats lucky. I am slightly scared of falling from a great height and dying though. I can go up to places like that and look down but I need to be totally on my own, as in no one there that may accidentally knock me to an untimely demise!

    Well done for making it through and I’m glad to hear you had a good trip. The mud part certainly sounds like fun!

  4. Welcome back. Nice work on the climb. I’d like to get to the bottom of the mud phobia. Phobias come from somewhere and I’m sure it’s an interesting story. Every time I visit the UK I realize how young our country is.

  5. Have you ever heard of the music group Iona? They have a beautiful song titled “Lindisfarne” . . .


    It’s only $0.99 . . .

    Welcome home!

  6. mongoliangirl

    I’m so glad you’re blogging from the mud and heights and just being beautiful you all over the world.

  7. Kimmer

    Welcome home Cindy T! Good for you for going toe-to-toe with your fear of heights! Thanks for sharing the good stories.

  8. Julie Fisher

    Wait a minute, wait a minute. . .it’s “terra firma”, not “terrus firmus”. What was I thinking???

  9. I get weird with heights too…I don’t know if it’s a fear so much as an extreme discomfort.

  10. I fear no thing. Sucker.

    Well, I’m sure there’s some thing out there I’m afraid of. I just don’t know what it is.

  11. Lil

    Ugh, heights. I don’t like them either. Good for you making it across. 🙂

  12. I’m not big on heights either. And England is a challenging place for vertigo. I don’t know how many old churches, castles, etc that I navigated with gritted teeth.

    Well done, you.

  13. Julie–I just thought your Latin was a little different from mine.
    Daisy–Not sure I would’ve made it…and I’m never sure if going up or coming down is worse.
    Beth–Someone told me once that fear of heights is more accurately described as fear of falling. And you’re right–the mud was awesome.
    UB–American never seems as young as when you’re sitting in a country church that’s been around since the seventh century.
    TD–I have a feeling you would like Northern England. You should take a visit some day.
    MG–Thanks! More to come about this trip for sure.
    Kimmer–It’s good to be home. I’ll call next week.
    Gwen–For me, the fear goes way beyond discomfort.
    Rassles–I hope you never find it. Or that it finds you.
    Lil–It wasn’t easy and it’s not something I want to do again.
    AFM–There were a couple of times I almost went to my hands and knees. I will say that Yosemite is worse for me than England though…probably just due to the sheer amount of space.

  14. glad you made it back in one piece. And stronger.

  15. Pingback: What’s the Hold Up? « Here In Franklin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s