What I love about Iona is the deep quiet. It is a small island with few pilgrims and fewer inhabitants. There are only a handful of cars, and we are off flight paths.
We’ve had two days of brilliant sunshine. Unheard of for mid October in Northern Scotland. The azure sea, just outside my door and down the hill, has barely a ripple. I’m sitting in the back garden of our hostel, surrounded by silence.
Silence punctuated with some friendly chirrups of a native bird I cannot identify.
In my younger years I could not stand the quiet, to be alone in stillness with my own thoughts. As I age, and I think due to the rigours of my urban monastic lifestyle, I crave solitude and silence in ways I did not in my earlier years.
And it’s not like I need alone time to think, to get things sorted out. It’s more like I need alone time just to be. To be present to myself and to God. I feel quiet, and strangely, empty.
I wonder if that was the appeal of Iona to the earlier monastics. Because there’s nothing here. Just sky and sea, rocks and sheep. Beautiful desolation, empty spaces full of God’s presence and declaring His glory.