Saturday, 16 April 2011


Image above: Reliance on the morring
Location: Isle of Erraid, Mull, Scotland

I should be meditating; the windows of the sanctuary are stiffening like glass sails caught in the same breeze that is pushing the waves in the sound. The structure rocks slightly, creeks and settles back into a steady rhythm that rides out the whispering tone of the singing bowl as my breath falls away.

The sanctuary stands a little apart from the street, up the hill above the wood with a view down over the pier, the bay and sound. It was built as a sun lounge from pine, larch sidings and an expanse of glass. I once found an aerial photograph of the island that dated from the nineteen sixties, the woodland was missing but the building stood rooted in the landscape. The community arrived almost two decades later planting the wood, turning gardens and using the lounge as a meditation space, they christened it the sanctuary. Like everything this far north that is close to the ocean it has not escaped the slow sandpapering applied by the elements that ware at corners and soften the patina of varnish.

In the lower side panel of the doorway the rear of the goose, the island’s longest serving resident and sanctuary guardian, is just visible. He is preening his wings, running a greased bill over his primaries with his neck extended and writhing like a pitch forked snake. For most of the day he occupies the position of doorman, counting in, counting out and occasionally dissuading the half hearted with honks and threats. In the twenty odd years he has enjoyed this roll, there has been much speculation as to his motives and unswerving dedication, some have concluded he is a returned soul. The glass of the sanctuary is low to the ground and the goose may not be contemplating his inner self but a reflection, narcissism or possibly envy of the goose behind the glass to whom many have made pilgrimages.

Inside the glass walls of the sanctuary the candle is flickering and those that kneel have begun to sway as if teetering on the edge. On far side of the bay Jimmy’s quad bike is drawing out a white line of sheep as he moves between pastures. I follow seagulls out into the sound, and oystercatchers back into the bay, the diversions are endless. And then for in a moment I am forgotten and absorbed in the detail and the magnitude.

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