|window in the Argyll Hotel, Isle of Iona|
Rona probably has had cycles of habitation and cycles of desertion over a few millennia. She's generally seen as uninhabited now. So I was astonished, googling 'images of isle of Rona', to find a site of photos by a Bill Cowie, who in 2010 anyway had been living there since 2002, and photographing her.
I have a huge pull to islands (I have written about this in relation to my creative writing retreat, 'Islands of the Heart'*, that I lead each year on Iona – see entries for this March). I love the sense of being surrounded by the fluidity of sea and sky. I love the co-existent sense of serenity and inspiration that infuses me the minute I step ashore. I love that they are like little points of consciousness in the sea of the unconscious; I like that they are punctuations in space; I like that they are a stillpoint in the turning world.
I have much more to say about this, but for the moment I want to share with you a paragraph in the wonderful book Towards Re-Enchantment: Place and Its Meanings (R thank you so much for the loan of this book).
Scottish poet Kathleen Jamie spent a fortnight on Rona mapping the island with a naturalist and an archaeologist. This is part of her luminous essay:
'Daily, our sense of time slowed, days expanded like a wing... Time was clouds passing, a sudden squall, a shift in the wind. Often we wondered what it would do to your mind if you were born here, and lived your whole life within this small compass. To be named for the sea or a rainbow**, and live in constant sight and sound of the sea. After a mere fortnight I felt lighter inside, as though my bones were turning to flutes.'
* Islands of the Heart 2012 takes place 21-27 April, in the Argyll Hotel on Iona, as photo above. There are currently 3-4 places left.
** Earlier, Jamie tells us that Martin Martin in 1695 recorded in a travel journal that the people of the island were gone, and that we knew little about them other than that the Rona people 'took their surname from the colour of the sky, rainbow and clouds'.