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

Friday, 31 March 2017

IONA: even the rain

It’s barely light, there’s a small squall in the Sound, and the wind rips the gulls’ keenings past my window as I lie in bed with the curtains open on the tin-sheen of the dawn, watching the way – so close – breaking daylight plays the fractured tips of the waves.

I’m in love already with it all, once again as every day, even the rain.

This is the best kind of day: watching Neil, next-generation islander still at school when I led my first retreat here, steer his little top-heavy one-man crabber with its mast-lights out to the stormy sea, knowing that I don’t have to.

Of course there is an edge to my pleasure: the sea is always more powerful than us, and young men have died, not so long ago, in this Sound. Plus he’s bringing in crab and lobster to be boiled alive before being eaten by humans – something in which I’ve chosen not to participate myself. But my ancestors were seafarers, fishermen (and lifeboatmen) among them, and there’s always a frisson that spells excitement and danger mixed in me at seeing this tradition continued, pleasure that there are still small family working boats, sometimes single-handed, in a time of factory farming and factory fishing. And it’s local, and fresh, food, harvested in the face of danger.

And I can lie here warm, safe, listening to the ocean’s restlessness, noting an island thrush proclaiming Iona home.

Then to get up and write. And how to write of the tenderness I feel towards these twelve people so willing to trust all they are to the work we do together, to feel their way back to belonging in their own boots, in their own hearts, with each other, in this whole vast web?

And I think again what a fine and delicate act we perform, highwire we tread, when we learn at last to give responsibility for our own life to nothing and no-one else, while remembering the most important lesson: we are made of all this; we are part of all that is; everything has a place; everything counts; everything matters, yes, including us.


  1. Beautiful post-felt I was there on the beautiful island.

  2. Thanks Victoria - and I'll never forget your swimming of Columba's Bay. Rx

  3. Soon to set off to be part of the second April Iona group, I loved this opportunity to have a glimpse of the journey ahead... Looking forward.

  4. Hello Irene - have a good journey! Wild and squally here today - exciting - but ferries still plying both Sounds. It's lovely in every weather-feature, and changes so fast... See you tomorrow!


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