It is hard to feel the depth of the land in most places since we have
considered land as real estate and paved most of it over. My visit to Iona,
an island off the west coast of Scotland, took me to the ancient land that
slides up into your feet and eventually resides inside the heart. The land
has been tempered by the winds from the sea and the energies that abide in
her spiritual history.
Iona means place of the dove and this spirit hovers
over the soft green hills that make up the island. The graphite colored
rocks are smoothed and enveloped by the thick mossy grass and heather.
During a good part of the year the heather dries into knotted branches that
lay across the dunes and each time I have visited there I have gathered a
bag full and drawn them as they have drawn me.
The community on the island
is made up of the seen and the unseen and it is in the roots that I found
the ancient history of the island. Iona Cathedral is a presence on the
island with a kind community but as I explored Iona's history more I found
that much of the Gaelic and Celtic heritage has been literally tossed into
the sea. The beautiful, complex Celtic knotting decorates many objects on
the island but the deeper meaning of the forms that have made itself into
an art is more than design for fine objects.
One day, I heard a woman
singing in Gaelic and I felt inside my body how this language is the land.
The language was the sound of the land and the roots are the Celtic knots.
This experience reminded me of the Southwest and the spirits visible in the
canyonwalls that are expressive of the Native Kachinas or holy objects made
by the peoples.
The roots I held in my hands and the knots I would find in
the old stonework tied the history together in a natural way, the blooming
and drying and scattering made by these pieces of heather were like ancient
messages saying I am here, hold me,draw me into your life and feel the land
as the matter of spirit. I am home and the knots and roots are tying
themselves together on this white paper in front of me. Sacred places
inform us of themselves by being with them and not simply on them.