SPIRIT OF IONA
Iona of my heart/ I return/ a pilgrim to your willing shores/ in a sackcloth of rainbow ash/ coming alive in your light/ coming alive in your dove feather hands/ I bend to the rhythm of your breathing/ my city-tainted spirit, humbled by the eloquence of your silence.
The city is behind me, with its fiery chimneys belching out desperation & calls to forever reach out, stretch cold muscles ever towards could-be & might be & if-only. I am alone on the white strand of Port Ban and only am/ my hands relaxed/ gently holding onto nothingness/ the lucid green Atlantic slowly lapping round my feet/ God the Mother sharing her mystery/ and on the still shores of Iona, I am quiet enough inside to hear/ her poetry, finer than a carved sand yantra/ the subtle intonations taking me thru’ and beyond the entire gamut of my experience and usual emotional reaction/ she moves me, as I have never been moved before/ she moves me slowly, gently, as only a mother would, to a greater and greater understanding/ deeper and deeper into the silence, into the stillness/ until I can encompass the infinite/ until I can taste her salt spindrift in the fibres of my tongue.
My feet are moss green, rooted into water and sand/ I am still as a valley oak/ my branches steady in the shimmering summer sky/ my leaves photosynthesising raw energy/ I grow, undetected/ unannounced/ quietly giving thanks to The Great Spirit.
Here begins the pilgrimage. I shall be mindful of walking/ mindful of every rock, every pebble, every blade of grass, every grain of sand/ mindful of every thought, every desire, every memory/ mindful of God/ mindful of my presence/ mindful of my journey/ mindful of the small step with which it commences.
I am a five year old, crunching across the sand with bright bucket and spade/ a smile bigger than my face/ yelling and whooping as I run down to the intoxicating sea/ my family shuffling behind/ my first time out the city/ there is so much space, I cannot contain my joy/ it pours out of me in raw, controversial noise/ my first memory of Iona/ but going back further... I am a monk in brown hessian cowl/ silence, my friend/ God, my shepherd/ joy, my serious companion/ laughter, a forgotten comrade/ my hands are large and callused, like giant spades/ my shoulders are broad/ I build huts, tend cattle, chop wood, sow and reap/ simplicity attends me/ God is in my heart/ and I am in God’s heart... and we are all in the heart of this noisy, exuberant child/ this five year old, fresh out of the city/ leaping carelessly over the legs of naked, sunbathing hippies/ yelling and screaming, fit to burst/ a stranger to tranquillity/ with no respect for ganga’s fragile sensibilities.
I have been every age here. This island knows me in the depths of its soul. Our atoms are fragmented, have interchanged in karmic tangle over aeons. I am mindless of my history, but I know, inside of me, there beats a heart of pink granite, green marble, sodden peat, bleached sand. I am Iona and Iona is me. Our spirits are melded as one. We have known formation, solitude and becoming. We have tasted the invocations of both the wise and the desperate. We have shared our light and our shadows with every seeker who has sought these shores.
Iona of my heart, Iona of my love, I have sought you throughout forever. When you were lava I was cooling water. When you were barren I was the seed. When you were empty I was the first wandering tribe. When you were faithless I brought you love. When you were radiant I came to you in all my wounded humility. And now, as you glow to sunburst intensity, I come to you, in the penultimate stage of entropy: a victim of too many lifetimes; I come to be healed, to have my burden lifted, my back straightened, my eyes filled with light, my heart filled with love. I come to be emptied out. Because, only empty, can I merge with the infinite again.
This valley of flowers, running along the western edge of the stony ground, beyond the clachancorach of my dreams, this is where I spilled myself into you: into the vulva of the one woman, into the vulva of the thousand women. It was the ultimate union, the one true yoga: the yang dissolved in yin; lingum abluted in yoni. In fucking, I became pure. I discovered my true essence. The link between me and you: the link that destroyed all sense of identity. In afterglow, I could not distinguish between sun and hills, flowers and sky, cock and cunt, semen and rain. I lost my knowledge; and re-discovered mind-less bliss.
The poppies in this valley are filled with lovers’ blood. This is the centre of the island, where the pulse of the goddess beats at its loudest, at its most clear. I can smell orgasm in the grass, taste resonance in the air. Couples are pulled here to copulate: strangers who meet by chance are tempted by the fates; hermits and solitaries, torn by withered memories. Such is the power of this place.
Who is the you, I miss here? Who is it my heart yearns for? Primal woman who embodies every woman. Goddess of my dark blood. You sing on the wind which whispers through my hair. Your scent rising through me, filling me. I am woman to the overpowering nature of your womanhood. I want to lie prone between your legs: a supplicant at your altar. A priest offering wine to your pleasure. Bend me. End me. I need to lose myself in your never never.
There is safety in circles: these scattered stones/ I am empowered, centred: at one. I sense the presence of the dove man, the pale saint from Ireland. His peace, of the profoundest kind: a peace, struggled for. There is the struggle, and then the letting go.
Only by becoming empty can one be filled.
There is more Cuchulain in my sword hand than Columcille. The Tao is in my head, but not my centre. In stillness and mindfulness, I am learning ways to circumvent the chaos. But in my middle years, I am still crawling. There is so much I have forgotten. Though, not enough. Breathing into my hara, into my solar plexus, into my heart chakra, I slow my thoughts to a minimum: become aware of the movement of clouds and grass, the stillness of stones and soil. Colours and smells come to me more peaceably now. Sounds form into patterns. Bird song becomes language: wind, pentatonic music. I hear so much more now, but not enough.
It is said, he could talk to birds. That the doves would follow him round the island. That his acolytes were constantly surprised... and loved him all the more for that. It is hard to remember he was a prince, a warlord, a murderer: hard to keep a perspective, to know that though your goal is so far away, it is still possible to travel further.
In this sacred space, I know not that I will become, but that I am. In timelessness I understand the illusion of time for what it is. God and I are one.
Three hundred and thirty feet above the sea; and I am on top of the world. The Cuillins of Skye to my North. Ireland to my South. The Atlantic to my West. The ferry home to my East. I can see everything from here. The wind ferocious in my hair. Skylarks in my ears. I am in love with the whole crazy fucking world, for all its Hiroshimas, Belsens, Belfasts, Dresdens, Sarajevos, it is still a beautiful, extraordinary place. My life lies before me now, a mystery unfolding. I will take a small part of this peace home with me. Wherever that may be.