It is difficult to believe that it was four months ago that I was on the Isle of Iona, the Isle of Druids, an island frequented by Columcille, also known as St Columba, over a millennia and a half ago.
With a longing to go back there, I set foot on Iona after a long gap of many years, and it felt like a home-coming. The desire to go there, was not a superficial visit to mark it as one more item ticked off my ‘bucket list’, but I believe the response to a deeply-ingrained inner longing etched onto the fabric of my soul. Have you been so called?
And on, or about this day four months ago I was walking around a grassy mound near Iona’s south-westerly beach.
This mound probably some fifty feet across and thirty feet high, is easy to overlook. And yet, it is so significant. It is known as Cnoc nan Angeal or The Hill of Angels, and to some it is also known as Sitheon Mor or the Hill of the Fae (the Fairy Hill).
However we view it, whatever we call it, it is a place of deep connection, another ‘thin place’ on an island that is itself a ‘thin place’.
I walked around the base of this mound, for no other reason than to ensure that, having entered the paddock by climbing a small fence, that I wasn’t sharing the field with a hefty Angus bull that might become angry at my intrusion. I was safe. There was no bull. And knowing that, I climbed the small hill, paused and could then go ‘deep’ into matters spiritual and inhabit the place. What a privilege we all share.
‘…a ‘thin place’, the palpable presence of the Other in this place, time or event’
Columcille, it is said, often climbed this small hill to commune with angels. Others before him stood on that very hill-top, where my feet now pressed, and spoke with elementals, the fae and others. It is a place of energy and light, a place where the unexpected can occur, and if a place can exude peace and love, then Cnoc nan Angeal or Sitheon Mor can.
But, why was I standing there?
A Calling! A longing to do so, an echo from some distant land that I used to know, and to which I will return. We will return. Within each of us there is a longing etched into our very souls, woven into the very warp and weft of our being. A longing of self-discovery and transformation, a longing to know our true identity, a longing to ‘find’ our task in life, a deep longing to ‘be’.
‘We are homesick most for the places we have never known.’ Carson McCullers
This longing is there in all of us. Maybe it is buried under the weight of many years of material living and busyness. It’s time to revisit that longing. Such longing may be long-forgotten, bedazzled by the ‘bright lights’ of self-imposed habits that now seem to be ‘creaking’ or collapsing. The longing is still there. Can you hear longing, deep within you, calling out to you?
As I stood, four months ago, on that hill top where Columcille stood, I heard the wind and the birds, the nearby sea pound coastal rocks. I felt the wind, and rain and sea-spray, and then there was nothing. No-thing. And yet, everything! Without the need for dictionary or translator, as I stood there, windswept, alone (or was I?), and I was immersed in the song of the ages, and my soul sang back!
Perhaps, communing with angels or the fae or others, at that location (and indeed everywhere else), isn’t about hearing an audible voice or receiving a memorable instruction, but maybe it’s about being true to that calling, and true to ones innermost self?
‘You were created to be free; within you there is deep freedom.’ John O’Donohue
Four months ago I stood atop that hill, but not without some effort. Could it be that we need to ‘work’ at spirituality. Not in the sense of doing this or that to earn ‘points’, but in the sense of opening ourselves up to the moment, to surrender (and that’s not a word that many like), and to have a certain intentionality to enter into that moment. At other times it may take trauma or calamity to ‘open the eyes of our heart’. Other times, it may be purposely drawing aside. Then, we step out of our daily, materialistic, mechanical routine, and in doing so, we, at least for a while, enter into sacred time/space, and ‘be’, and encounter our longing, and recognise it as a dear friend.
‘Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.’
(David Whyte, The House of Belonging)
On that mound, I ‘returned’ to the beginning, and in the cold and the rain, the wind and salt-spray, the notion that I had been here (you have been ‘there’) all the time embraced me like a warm hug. It felt like a palpable hug. An angel? An elemental? A fae? I didn’t need to know. I didn’t want to know. To be there was sufficient. I can live contentedly with mystery knowing that, even if I am unaware, it is unfolding. That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves has our best interest at heart.
As I sit here typing now in hindsight of what happened all those months ago, and as you sit there reading this, are we all not ‘already there’? Isn’t longing knocking, still? And yet, there is ‘room’ to take hold of it, embrace it, dwell fully in the longing that longs to be known? Be aware.
‘Longing is a constant companion…It often comes in a dream. It may call from the trees outside. It often quickens at the hearth within our homes, and beckons us to come closer.’ Frank MacEowan
Oh, it was easy to scale that small hill, tick the box of ‘seen it, done it, and go onward….’, but isn’t there a wonderful need for all of us to pause and let the longing in us to be recognised, develop and come to fruition? Just ‘be.
Pause. Relax, and let that which is deep within ‘speak’ to you. The words may not be audible, and you may come in the form of a dream or an impression, a memory-flash, an indescribable yearning for that which is Other; and it may be immediate or it may ‘unpack’ itself over a number of days; or it may even be an inclination that becomes more noticeable over time as you look back.
‘If you think you’re hearing something
And you can’t think what it is
If you feel a quiet longing
Lift your heart into the wind.’
(Cyndi Lauper, Kindred Spirits)