Friday, May 16, 2008

The Easter Weekend from Hell: Prelude, Part 2

"In fact I’m planning on visiting Iona, too," I told my Swiss friend Lukas Renzberger* shortly before Oxford Easter vacation in 1989. "When you’re Presbyterian and you belong to my church, it’s the expected thing."

And that was the simple truth. You were Presbyterian, you went to Scotland, you went to Iona. It’s how I was raised. I’d always assumed I’d get there before I departed Great Britain, and Easter vacation was the ideal time.

But unlike Lukas*, I had no intention of hanging out at the Abbey or doing anything with the Iona Community. In fact, I hadn’t even been aware there was a present-day Iona Community and I wasn’t particularly interested in finding out more about them now.

Yes, I planned to visit the holy sites, ruined and restored. Yes, I planned to reflect on St. Columba and how he brought Christianity from Ireland and planted it on that tiny island back in the early Middle Ages. I planned to appreciate how that seed had taken root and blossomed and spread to the Scottish mainland and back to northern Ireland and, enriched by influences from Geneva, had come over to America and resulted in the tradition I stood in myself.

But primarily I foresaw Iona as a natural retreat, not a religious pilgrimage. On Iona I would have the chance to rejoice in the Scotland I’d yearned for since I was a teenager. It would be a rest from all the driving and sight-seeing I’d be doing up to then. I would wander the peaty hills and breathe the fresh sea air. My ears would drink in the calls of the birds and the crash of the surf; my eyes would be soothed by the spare lines of the landscape.

And maybe, for the first time in ages, I could actually do some art that wasn’t photography.

I’d bought a watercolor kit and paper at the Harrod’s after-Christmas sale. I would pack those. Also my sketchbook and pencils. I’d sit out on the hills and paint and draw en plein air, and feel that my old identity as Artist was not entirely gone.

Sometime during that Easter vacation, I was going to Iona, and on that poetic isle, whether I came across Lukas* there or not, everything would be all right.

1 comment:

Sandy said...

I can see what you paint with your words!