Iona reflections - beating hearts and island gems

September 2005

Surrounded by sea and sky, I floated above an underground kingdom of seaweed forests and rock fortresses. The sky melted into sea; both the same soft blue.

For a small place Iona is burdened with expectation. Like many visitors to the island, I was longing for peace and clarity as I turned my focus towards my study in Argentina. For a few days I sought out solitude. The consistency of the waves pounding on the shore gave me time to do nothing sitting on an empty beach.

At the start of the week, my own company was all I needed and it took a while to come round to community life and worship. Initially the worship in the Abbey seemed flat and distant, despite the historic surroundings and powerful liturgy. I had to take time to connect with it and with those around me. It was only when I had gotten to know people a little and heard their stories that the words and rhythms began to tune in and the songs spoke more clearly. Kathy Galloway preached later in the week, quoting from Alice Walker:

Love is Not Concerned
by Alice Walker

love is not concerned
with whom you pray
or where you slept
the night you ran away
from home
love is concerned
that the beating of your heart
should kill no one.

Alice Walker (1985) 'Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful' The Women's Press

The beating of my heart kills when I thrive at the detriment of others.
The beating of my heart kills when I do not desire good.
The beating of my heart kills when I am less than generous with myself, others or God.

photo: Tim Young

hymn 1)
all my hope on God is founded/ all my trust he will renew/ safe through change and chance she guides me/ only good and only true/ God unknown/ God alone/ calls my heart to be God’s own. (Original words by Robert Bridges (1844-1930); based on the German on Joachim Neander (1650-168 )

I wasn’t brave enough to face up to the uncertainties of my next step while on Iona. But over the week, I came back to a sense of trusting in God. It was a blind trust of sorts - a way of not facing up to the worrying details but instead focusing on a determination to get through. Which sounds worse than I feel, because in the midst of my worries, the beating of my heart takes me again and again to Latin America and it makes sense.

hymn 2)
oh the life of the world is a joy and a treasure/ unfolding in beauty the green-growing tree/ the changing of seasons in mountains and valley/ the stars and the bright restless sea. (Kathy Galloway)

Columba spoke of ‘Iona of my heart’ and the island continues to be treasured. The contours of the hills are well traced and those places where sea and sand embrace are looked upon with loving eyes. Visitors remember the curve of the road, the sheltered cove, the view framed by the farmhouse, the way the hills of Mull fall into the waters first thing in the morning in the softest blues and indigo as if all the whole world was still. Does this island, does the way it is tended and cherished infect the minds of those who visit so that they return with fresh eyes with which to view their own surroundings?

Readers from STETS may recall that I used ‘cherish’ a lot to describe my experience of STETS over the past six years. Being valued and cared for, I realised on my last day at STETS, had helped me to shine too.


Alison Parker said…
Dear Rachel,
Cherish is a good word for the Stets experience but you were one of those that cherished others most.
Bless you,