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Iona On My Mind

This Day. I woke with Iona on my mind. The Isle that is that thin place. Where the sky meets the earth, the sea meets the land, and where people say heaven meets earth. It's called "A Thin Place," and if you have been there - you know. My feet have touched this ground, walked the stones of the ancient ruins, the old Abbey. In November of 2019, one of my dearest ride-or-die friends, Virginia Dixon, donned a backpack, and on a wing and a prayer and with the help of friends, we made our way to Scotland so that I might research for my upcoming book. It was all the things that pilgrimages are meant to be: challenging, intoxicating, an impossibly long journey filled with adventure, marked by the kindness of strangers. On a Sunday when the Isle was mostly quiet, only a little chapel of a church, doors open, inviting guests, service about to begin. And then, this.

"The moment we entered the church and sat down - and a. moment seems an odd frame of reference, a clunky way to capture an occurrence and pinpoint it on the clock, but it is this - there was the sitting. Then there was the light. And the light grew brighter. And brighter still. I had to close my eyes as I couldn't open them against the bright, and I couldn't look about the church to appreciate its beauty with eyes closed, but I wouldn't move.

I could hear two women speaking in the row in front of me, one saying, "you sit here, and I'll sit there." And then the other one saying, "We can't sit here. There's that light! We can't see anything. My goodness!" And then they were gone, searching for something more comfortable in the shadows.

From the front of the church someone began to play a Scottish tune on the violin. There are words that people use to try to describe music such as this. Words like heavenly and sublime and supernatural. But I had no words to describe that music. It was a key to a door that unlocked a thousand years. I began to weep.

With my eyes closed, my face held up to the light, I wept for the beautiful that was this life and the hope of glory that lay beyond it. For all those who had come before us on Iona. For Columba and his slain monks. For the nuns whose bones were buried beneath the ruins. For the holy men who came before them in a progression of pagans answering the call of Iona, paddling in carved-wood boats to set themselves apart, to serve what was sacred. For the millions who came seeking solace and searching for answers. For all the lives of all those who had come before us and for those who would come after, all in flight around the sun. Everyone just trying to get home.

When the song ended, I let each final note fade, roll, and fade again before I dared to move, open my eyes. When I did, the first thing I saw was James still sitting the back pew there waiting for me. He joined me when I rose, and we made our way to the door and stepped outside into the sunshine together as the church bells began to ring, calling, Come, come, one and all. The house of God is open to friend and stranger."

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