Reflection: 9&10 October 2017: 9 October was another travelling day – a 210 mile car drive, a ferry to the Isle of Mull, a fifty-minute across the island on its circuitous road from one port to another, and then another ferry to the Isle of Iona.
I stepped off the ferry (9 October) onto the the Isle of Iona, that Isle of Druids, at 6.30pm. Spiritual? Nature? Profound? As I stepped onto Iona the wind howled, the temperature seemed just a little above refrigerator temperature, and it was raining. It was cloudy and darkness was looming.
I knew well the ‘s’ shaped trek of over a mile, and through rugged and hilly terrain that I was to take, and with failing light, I set off. The instructions were clear: you’ll go through several gates along the way, please ensure you close them once through. I did so.
And then I had to go through a gate that had a sign on it: ‘Beware of the bull’. I had hoped that this was some kind of joke, but my pace quickened nevertheless. And, then it slowed. There was a bull, and the bull was seventy-feet it front of me. A huge, dare I say ‘ginger-coloured, hulking bull. As calmly as I could I plotted a wide half-circle around him – I wish I had paid more attention to geometry at school. I then noticed that the bull, fortunately, was more interested in the cows in a neighbouring field. So, I arrived at the next gate quicker than expected, but very relieved.
Today, 10 October, by contrast I walked the thirty minutes from the cottage where aim staying to St Oran’s Chapel, and a few yards further on to the Abbey. The Chapel is a simple stone building, with little inside except a rough altar, a rough cross, and one of those light-a-candle-rack in the corner. The room was simplicity itself. Hewn of rugged stone, it bore none of the niceties of modern-day living, modern-day church buildings, and it was dark and it was dusty.
And, yet it ‘glowed’ with energy and power, and the songs of monks and pilgrims permeated from its walls as whispers. I was surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. As you read this, you are with me, and so I am not afraid to admit that as I lit a candle for all those that had ‘gone ahead’ – my parents, my ancestors, and those who have ‘passed on’ that you know by name – I sobbed like a child. Not because of sadness, though I’m sure that we all miss them, but tears of love and anticipation. In this place they don’t seem far away. They continue on, and one day we will all be united. This place transcends any denomination or faith. It testifies to Life itself and in all its many and varied forms. This small, dark, dusty room on a remote Scottish Island shouts that out, loud and clear. Those Christians knew this, and the Druids and others before them.
Spiritual? Natural? Profound? Oh yes. The bad weather when I stepped of that ferry, the bull, this wonderful ‘thin place’, St Oran’s Chapel with the varied faith of many down the centuries, indeed the whole is island, this Isle of the Druids is a deeply spiritual, natural and profound place – and you, in one way or another, are with me now.