Iona … in September.

Some months ago I made the journey to Iona.

It was September and the coming equinox was already on the way.

Rain was pouring relentlessly and a wind was blowing through the Sound of Mull off Oban. There was no promise of sailing at all so we dumped our stuff and sat to wait at the terminal. Waited and wandered, off for a coffee to the little cafe downstairs or continually to the noticeboard with the reports. There were weather warnings on the phone and only the grey sea outside.

Mid morning it cleared a bit and then we knew, with relief, that we would sail.

There’s something about ferries, about island hopping that enhances feelings in the wanderer and makes travelling a voyage of discovery. Even on short crossings the new horizons come closer with every chug and rolling wave.

So, it was across to Mull, as the day cleared and spirits rose. Perhaps there would be an arrival on Iona in the evening.

The first glimpse of the island from the little ferry brought a quiet excitement, knowing that there would be several days and nights on Iona. Last time I’d come as a day tripper from Mull. This held so much more anticipation.

The abbey, framed by ferry bulwarks, looked solid, almost growing out of the green award and rock. And all washed by the ever changing sea.

The light would perform magic in moments, grey giving up its hidden colours to sunshine. Patterns on the hills of Mull were picked out in all hues of green and brown; and the vast backdrop of mountains, distant and inaccessible felt ancient and majestic.

The soft gardens soon fell to sea and sand and rocky shore. There was calmness and the reassurance of the constant ferry, ploughing back and forth from Fionnaport.

Bright orange montbretia blazed, the flower of the coast, all along the west of Ireland and the Scottish isles. All was flourishing green, footpaths and shortcuts slippery, running streams and bogs, with corncrake and lark nesting, rising and hovering.

Sunshine and red sky lit up the west. The sculpted, looming abbey seemed silhouetted, indigo and grey beside the setting sun.

Rain, great laden clouds from the north west, from all aspects! Icy, like needles on bare legs….Drenching in moments….And the wind, tearing, pulling and squally … I lie against it, it’s power supporting me, buffetting, holding my weight with its total supremacy. I was small and utterly controlled by it’s great force.

Rough seas roared round the north bay. White sands and ebbing tide formed pools and rivulets sculpting sand patterns with flowing determination … then relaxing in pools of seaweed, crabs and creatures. Waders were waiting….searching …

Then, within the hour maybe, all would be calm, the weather exhausting itself. Paddling and swimming on a deserted beach is surely the most wonderful, exhilarating thing to do. To wash the feet in crystal water or to be pushed and pulled by it’s strength is pure pleasure always!

Right away in the distance, to the north are The Cuillins, those dark sharp peaks of Skye, now softened, blue, and misted by distance.

Sunrise lit the sky and dawn brought light as clear as crystal. All was golden and pink, with hills and mountains laid like pure, flat tapestry.

And two gulls rose through the morning sky. It was like indescribable music, soft and flowing.

And the Paps of Jura rose on the southern horizon, clearly visible from so many other places on clear days.

Leaving though, always has a sadness about it. Iona, right on the edge, is like slipping through a veil. Somehow, the world can be seen from fresh perspectives.

Here’s the opportunity to ask for years or time to make the pilgrimage again.

Butterflies, just a few…at Gunby Hall, Lincolnshire … yesterday.

Lots of Red Admirals, on plums and flowers and even on shamrocks.

The Peacock butterfly, colours vibrant and settling for just a moment.

And a Painted Lady on the same flowers, wings a bit nibbled, but that endeared it more than ever. I like imperfection!

What’s this one? A wonderful wing formation and loving the buddleia.

I think they fly off to rest in places of coolness and shade, where the whole universe is reflected in pools of shimmering water.

The light changing at every fleeting moment.

It can almost be believed ….

‘Come away, O human child to the waters and the wild

with a faery hand in hand … to foot it all the night…. ‘

from The Stolen Child, W.B.YEATS.

Many things may be believed when the light changes and the water ripples and wonderful weeds look beautiful.

In the back garden, amongst the teazles, insects and bees buzzing, and a moth lighting, it’s easy to take moments just for thought, quiet and unfolding.

And a blue butterfly, tiny, with its rimmings of white and central deeper blue.

Wander, and love the world. Take time to look, knowing that at any time it’s only the tip of the iceberg which is revealed.

Edges and verges … havens of beauty

These are the beauties of growth on the very edges

on the margins of fields, roads, lanes and pathways.

They hold out, clinging on with persistence and desperation.

Please don’t cut them in their prime!

It’s hard to be on the edges, perceived as somehow ‘lesser’.

They fight for survival against blade and clipper

because these are the ones destined for eradication.

Look at them!

Their little faces, blue, pink, white and yellow, saying ..

I’m tiny, but I’m so beautiful.

Just look and see.

Or they grow tall, reaching for the sun and the rain

strong-stemmed and utterly persistent.

And yet, somehow, they are seen as ‘the undesirables’.

At least give them a chance to set seed

to survive and complete the circle of life.

All life which endures ‘on the edges’ deserves this ….

to survive against the odds, to grow and mature,

and to come at last to it’s time of gathering and resting.

These pictures of verges and edges which have been allowed to grow were photographed at Hubbard’s Hills, Louth, Lincolnshire.

Launde Abbey

silence which is not silent.

A garden of quietness silence wrapping like soft wool

blue wool, fine woven and draping

moulding to places where pain might surface

a comfort covering

blue of bluebells, carpeting and stretching

forget me not and wisteria.

Pale yellow wool

of celandine and dandelions,

pale texture and sheen

A wrapping to delight and soothe the spirit.

Green wool, woven with silk

woven sheen of green and textures of leaf and undergrowth

fallen things and new growth springing and stretching

saplings and nettles and ivy, docks and all things green

a covering of hope.

Peep out at hope.

Orange threads of bird song

An aeroplanes crescendo

fading to song and buzzing once again

threads of sound tangling

disturbing …

making silence soft.

And then the softness of pure silk

all colours, whites, pinks and orange

woven and modelled

To lightness and fragility

cherry blossom

chestnut blossom

little faces full of silent chatter.

Easter …. thoughts on darkness and daybreak

In the earth, in the rock

all is sealed, damp and dark and ended.

Now is the nothing time.

Now is heaviness.

Now is cold and dark, a time enveloped by darkness.

A body held, unyielding

in coarse linen, warm from the day and the sunshine,

a body tired,

consumed by cold and desolation.

But the dark is black velvet,

caressing with softness the cold slab of stone,

that cold, lifeless body.

The dark is patient ..

black velvet swaddles,

shifting like shot silk seeking light.

Even in death, love is luminous

in the softness of love’s holding.

Light, released,

bursts and vibrates.

Creation is lit again.

From the velvet darkness, a voice …

‘Unbind me and let me go.

I come to freedom.

I bring spark and inspiration …

I come with power and unfathomable love.

I am not held. I am here, with you.’

Promise round the corner

It was a couple of weeks ago now, and there was a wonderful bursting of sunshine and warmth. Those hedgerows which then were grey and twiggy now have a haze of white blackthorn and green hawthorn. But then, just those few weeks ago, the earliest snowdrops were fading and brighter colours beginning to show.

I found them in a country churchyard, those fading snowdrops lighting the dark earth and the daffodils, the turning of winter to spring.

Such colour and scent, earthy and sweet, full of delight and the joy of knowing that all that hidden, resting life is ready to thrust to life once more. All this life, packed away and constantly preparing to be!

And then, wandering and clambering over roots and rotting things, there they are, sticks and twigs and old branches, still full of beauty, sinking into the woodland floor. But growing, always growing, are the nettles and poking weeds and the constant workings of bugs and insects, worms and wood lice, invisible but regenerating life all around.

I love it all! There are no words sufficient to tell the story.

Those warm days have gone and it’s wet, windy early March; but the warmth will come again and the wandering and all the discoveries which never end. Over the bridge and the beck, across the ploughed fields … next time, maybe there’ll be true warmth on my back.

Advent’s hidden light …

The paths underfoot are a churned mix of leaves, twigs and mud. The darkness of late afternoon is gathering, but in the sky still is a remaining light. The reflections in Buck Beck are like looking through the dark earth where puddles of space shine blue and rippled.

Under my feet I can feel that in the earth, under all the settling wonder of the browns and greys of composting, there are even now stirrings of life. The bare trees stand majestic between earth and endless space.

Is there ever really a time of nothingness? Or is that time just a passing moment? It seems so, because hidden and waiting there is always promise and the reality of hope in the knowledge that growth and rebirth wait with their own excitement for the days of hiddenness to pass and the cycle of life to turn once again.

So, on a cold, damp afternoon there continues the never-ending eternity of space and the solid earth, never sleeping but murmuring and storing, always gathering energy for making new, waiting for the new manifestation of absolutely everything.

Buck Beck continues to flow slowly to the Humber.

Slowly is how it goes in times of waiting.