We stepped onto the shore, a motley bunch of Pilgrims,
Bidding farewell to the Fionnphort ferry and her skipper
And to pink-granited Ross of Mull,
Distantly looming across the waters of The Sound.
We walked our first tentative steps on sacred soil,
Holding our breath
And holding our hopes and aspirations before us…
Iona…a thin place where heaven and earth meet and mix and mingle,
Where Spirit roams free,
Welcomed by all the illuminated souls gone before.
The Abbey beckons us in, drawing us towards her ancient stones,
Where the very air in which they are suspended,
Chants those holy names of I AM,
And we remember…
Jesus is the cornerstone that the builders rejected.
Disengaging with matters spiritual,
“Cells” are allocated, worldly sustenance discussed.
Leaving the Bishop’s House,
We discover the well trodden, hidden, Abbey path,
Entering that sacred space, the quiet, humble and unassuming Way.
Touching St. Martins’ Celtic cross,
Pilgrims spanning the centuries connect with us,
In prayer, in hope, in soul-searching contemplation.
We feel we have come Home.
Rest and Blessed Assurance.
The Strand of the Seat invitingly provides a pure white, sandy cushion,
Where we sit and watch a blinding, illuminating sun, sink slowly down
NorthWestwards, towards the ebbing, flowing waters of the vast Atlantic
And we are spell-bound, entranced, enraptured,
Held gently in the palm of Eternity.
With a last breath, the fan-like rays of the setting sun
Whisper softly that “The day thou gavest Lord hath ended…”
And we know that we are truly loved and blessed.
Heading NorthEast, in the heat and brilliance of a glorious Ionic day,
We are drawn to the turquoise blue-green jewelled waters
And tranquil breathtaking beauty of The White Strand of the Monks,
Traigh Ban Nam Monach…Gaelic treasure!
Ethereal lighting, vibrant depth of colour, surreal rock formation
Forming an intricate tapestry that is God’s Handiwork.
Verily, this is Heaven on Earth!
Solemnly, we gather in Martyrs’ Bay looking East and out across calm waters,
Picturing the brutal, bloody, Viking slaughter of innocent monks
And feeling the very grains of sand under our feet,
Screaming out in torture and torment and despair.
With hope and with purpose we cross the Machair,
Following the bracken-edged path over the hill, skirting the lochan,
And with senses magnified and heightening anticipation,
We arrive at the Southern, secluded, pebble-strewn Bay of St. Columba.
The very stones and cliff ledges carrying testimony to that
Distant, dangerous, yet momentous landing in 563 AD.,
When a brave, flimsy coracle, navigating turbulent ocean,
Deposited Columcille and 13 others upon unknown Druidic shores,
The Word guarded in hearts, a guiding beacon and light to all.
With bowed heads and open hearts we hear and accept
The inviting invocation of monks who once prayed in this self same spot
Looking nostalgically over the sea to their distant homeland of Ireland.
We gather up a couple of pebbles, ones that have called and shimmered to us,
Mentally transferring all that weighs heavy within us onto one…
And hurtle the Past away from us, as far as we can throw, into the waves.
The other, the Future, imbued with a little of Iona’s Holy Alchemy
We place in our pockets to treasure and take home.
Finally we scale Dun Bhuig, Boggy Hill, one of the many rocky, rounded knolls
Rising out of moist and fertile, unique, grassy plains, Hermit’s Cell in our sights.
Feeling and breathing the ancient gneisses, the metamorphic rocks
Upon which we sit, towering Westwards over the Bay at the Back of the Ocean,
We are transported, indeed metamorphosed and acutely aware
Of the sacredness of the very stones to which we are conjoined…
Only much later do we discover that we had stopped to rest and meditate…
…upon the site of an ancient burial ground.
All earthly time, all beings and peoples,
All linear history and future, written, not yet palpable,
Sucked into a cosmic vortex of Love, Light and Blessed Peace.