from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Sunday, 28 April 2013

the Iona labyrinth

It's not just that I haven't had time to type up the extraordinary week's writing retreat 'Islands of the Heart' on Iona, let alone start to catch up with the amazingly rich and productive week following that where 11 women wrote under the title of 'Singing over the Bones' on a course at Moniack Mhor with Sharon Blackie and myself; it's also that each year part of me resists coming back from Iona, and that part can't move on to carry 'Islands of the Heart' forwards as an inner experience until I've recorded it in some way. (Equally, I find it impossible to write of later experiences here in Scotland until I start to assimilate them into my inner world.)
Those who with me walked the little stone labyrinth here at St Columba's Bay will understand what I mean when I say that in walking the labyrinth one meets oneself; the spiral journey of the soul is made manifest in labyrinths throughout the world. Winding inwards to the heart of the labyrinth can be a profound experience, if we let it; how we walk it, how we let our feet speak and receive, will say something of us, and how we unwind back to the 'outer' and carry the journey with us into the world has quite a potent symbolic charge if we can move beyond self-consciousness and rationality.

I find it moving to stand quietly near the entrance to the labyrinth simply paying attention, as those who wish to let their feet follow the serpentine curves on this beach (where, as it happens, we also rather obsessively and competitively search for the semi-translucent green serpentine stones that co-occur here, and only here, with the marble and the older rocks).

There's a lot to say about labyrinths but I'm afraid my braincell's been seriously taxed in facilitating two very intense weeks back-to-back up here, so another time.

In some ways this walk, which we do in the spirit of pilgrimage in a shared silence, beats at the heart of the Iona week. (This time, sadly, one of the participants couldn't join us as she sprained her ankle badly on the first day.)

And now I'm unwinding this journey backwards in the photos I've chosen, back from the Bay of Green Stones (aka St Columba's Bay, where reputedly the saint arrived from Derry in Ireland in the C6th to bring Christianity to the pagan and maybe druidic culture here – more anon) across the little island, and across the Sound to Mull.

in the stoniest places... such transience hosted by such enduringness

Iona has some of the oldest rock in the world

the Bay at the Back of the Ocean

The eider duck gossip here at the Bay at the Back of the Ocean like old women at a jumble sale. 

At the far edge off to the right, not quite visible here, is a very tall steeple of rock, needle-narrow and very steeply sloping, many metres above ground-level and with a drop to the sea, on which a ewe had brought her two tiny lambs to graze. I almost couldn't bear to look.

These older lambs had an easier time of it.

A rain-pool on the sandy machair...

And then, crossing the bigger island of Mull back towards the mainland (which is itself of course an island, though we tend to forget that), the same little gathering of deer who were in this same place on the journey out.

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