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.

4 thoughts on “Iona … in September.

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