Having left the Isle of Iona, today was my first full day of the wonderful Isle of Skye. Last evening as I drove across the Bridge of Skye I kept a moments silence as I ‘greeted’ the island and it welcomed me. And then, I couldn’t help it. As I drove the car, whether it was a moment of flippancy or (more than likely) a spiritual passion at having arrived, I couldn’t help but sing the Skye Boat song to a traditional Scottish tune, as loud as I could. I laughed and it felt good.
Speed bonnie boat like a bird on the wing
Onward the sailors cry.
Carry the lad that’s born to be king
Over the sea to Skye.
So, today was my first full day on Skye. The Isle of Skye is as mythical, magical, and as deep and profound as the Isle of Iona. Here, too, is the Source of All, energy, the memory and presence of the ancestors, and it too, is a wonderfully ‘thin place’.
I’m staying in Portree, and in common with these islands, nature wild and rugged is never far away. And so I walked in a green-grey landscape (wonderfully part-grass, bracken and gorse covered hills and grey, huge, mountains), and thought, and meditated, and in my spirit went to that place, ‘ Out [there] beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn’t make any sense.’
I walked and the wind howled, and in the wind That Which Is Larger Than Us’, spoke words beyond words and imagining. In such cases the analytical brain is of no use. All that one need do, indeed all that one can do, is to remain silent and be ‘bathed’ in words that have been spoken since before the universe was called into being. That Voice speaks to us all – to you, as you read this, as you’re here with me on this pilgrimage – and the Voice never stops. Wherever we are, we are in communion with the Voice.
And then, as I followed the path, and turned a corner, the Old Man of Storr came into view.
The weather was getting worse – the wind was picking up and the rain had increased, and thinking of some of the steep slopes I had navigated in getting this far, common sense dictated that I should go no further. I stopped.. That rocky pinnacle, some 165ft (50m) high and pointing skyward was about 1/3 mile away, and it looked awesome. I stopped and just gazed in silence. In awe.
As I’m travelling and my iPad isn’t synchronised to my camera, I’ve got a directed link of the Old Man of Storr: see here https://goo.gl/images/NFoVGh
There is a story that says that the Old Man of Storr was a giant who had lived in Trotternish Ridge. When he was buried, his thumb was left jutting out the ground, creating the famous jagged landscape. There are some who think that that isn’t the giant”s thumb, but another part of his anatomy – but I’m too polite to mention it here: but please email me for details.
But there are other stories. One tells of a brownie – a Scottish hobgoblin – who is said to have done good deeds for a family he chose to serve. On Skye, it is said that a man called O’Sheen saved the life of a brownie and the two became good friends. O’Sheen died from a broken heart following the death of his beloved wife , and the devastated Brownie took it upon himself to chisel two rocks – one in memory of O’Sheen and a smaller one to remember his wife.
And, so I headed back to Portree, a little wiser, and having experienced the might and majesty of the Old Man of Storr, and witness nature wild and rugged, and it was good.
Yes, the Isle of Skye is a wonderfully ‘thin place’, that has an effect on the individual far beyond mere words, and that ‘viriditas’ is not only accessible here, but is present where you are, right now.