05 August 2012
Pilgrimage to Iona, part 2
My watercolor sketch of St. Matthew's Cross on Iona from the day before. Not my best effort, but I simply wanted to capture a sense of the scene.
Morning found me on the road across the island as I hiked towards Columba's Bay. It was so lovely and peaceful along the road and my appreciation grew for them not allowing everyone's cars to come across ~ it would have changed the character so. As it was, it was a delightful walk.
The road ended and the path crossed the golf course along the beach, the path faintly visible. I wasn't positive that I was on the right track at this point, but figured that since it's an island only 3 miles long, it would be difficult to be truly lost!
But eventually I met up with this much more defined track, so knew I was headed in the correct direction! At the top of the hill there was a small loch and I lost track of the path and went to the right. I ended up looking over the west side of the island overlooking the Atlantic. It was one of those serendipitous things. So beautiful. I found a rock to sit on, pulled out my watercolors and just sat.
The silence was immense. Not a human sound other than the sound of my own breathing. There was birdsong, the wind, the flying insects buzzing around. The line came to me from the old hymn: "Alone with none but Thee my God", which in turn led me to John 16:32, "Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me." And there on that hillside, away from the cares of the world, I felt the grief of the past year lift and the weight of it became easier.
After a long delay in that space, I made my way back to the correct path and continued the journey towards Columba's Bay.
Topping another hill, it came into view. A lush valley of grass, heather and bracken and a stony shore.
On the high shingle, the cairns left by other pilgrims long past are visible.
The shore is covered in smooth tumbled stones ranging from quite large to quite small, all equally smooth.
Dotting the shingle are pieces of Iona Greenstone, the green serpentine laced marble from the island. Soft and warm to hold. Choosing a few special pebbles from this beach are among my favorite souvenirs of this trip.
Along the side, the rock walls have been carved into basins by the endless action of the sea.
Upon turning to leave, I discovered this stone labyrinth that I had somehow not seen before.
I walked the path and thought of how like life it is. The race ahead in the early years, then the slowing and seeming never to arrive. Then arriving at the heart of life and choosing how to go on. The retracing of steps, the renewing of what is important. Stopping to take time to replace stones fallen out of place. Along the way, stumbles, unanticipated steps off the path, but then getting back to it and continuing on. and at the last, freedom from the constraints of the path. On, to new life! I was shocked at the feeling of freedom on leaving the labyrinth ~ as though I had been let loose to freely experience life at last. And it came to me that our life on earth is like the labyrinth, limited and constrained, and dying, passing on is to experience life unconstrained and free.
With those thoughts in my heart, I made my way back up the hill and to the little loch where I could now see where I had "gone awry" (but so beautifully) before.
Back down the hill to the golf course. By now my legs were tired and shaky and I wished for a ride back the remainder of the way, but immediately thought that it would cheat the whole experience, so I walked on with renewed energy.
The path faint, the grass dotted with myriads of tiny daisies.
I met this ewe along the way, who graced me with a lovely photo of her!
I crossed this sturdy little footbridge..
enjoyed the wildflowers along the road...
the birds, "house sitting"...
The aqua laundry hanging on a clothesline...
the red sails of an aqua blue boat as it sailed the sound...
and a last trip to the Abbey.
The simplicity of St. Oran's chapel was a balm at the end of my journey.
This beautiful day ended with a lovely sunset across the island. A peaceful, amazing day that will long live in my heart.