Thursday, 15 December 2011

Reverb 11: Day 15

What single image stands out to you from this year? Perhaps it sums the year up for you in the way it communicates on a wordless level. Or perhaps it just captures a truly happy moment, one that will be only memory in time but, thanks to this photo, you’ll be able to hold on to the moment that much longer.

[Today's prompt, once again, comes courtesy of the lovely Rebecca.]
Iona harbour

2011 was a hard year. Maybe not as hard as 2010, in many ways, but still difficult. I felt so ... lost. I felt like I was drifting so much of the time. But when I had that time in Scotland in July, things just clicked in a way that's seldom occurred for me over the past few years. It probably has a lot to do with the unrealistic expectations that I set for myself -- the pressure that I place on being happy, on being extraordinary all of the time.  It probably also has a lot to do, in general, with getting re-adjusted to the world after leaving the idealistic bubble that is higher education. It's so easy to imagine that great things are waiting for you when you're in school. Your whole life is one long red carpet waiting to dazzle the world. And then you graduate, and suddenly you can't get a job, suddenly you don't have any money, suddenly the smallest things like paying your rent and feeding yourself become these huge obstacles. Suddenly all of those dreams that you held in school sound silly. Suddenly you think: did I make a mistake? Am I going to pay for this mistake by being hungry--physically hungry, spiritually hungry, everything hungry--for the rest of my life? Suddenly, you can't see an end.

This is what happened to me in 2011. It happened in Scotland, too, back in 2010 -- but at least in Scotland I was working (too much, one can argue), at least in Scotland there was routine. For a large part of 2011, there was no routine. There was no drive. There was restlessnesss galore. And then, through a series of lovely little moments, I found myself on the Isle of Iona, and the restlessness disappeared.

Something about that tiny little island did it, for me. Standing there on that unbelievably white beach, looking back at the rest of the world, swept by the rain and the wind and suddenly, unshakably sure that everything in life would be okay. Unshakably sure that there was Someone, somewhere, waiting and watching and making sure that I was doing everything right. Yearning for magic in all of the right places. Growing in all of the right ways. I knew it, there on that island. I was absolutely convinced.

Of course, that conviction bled away as soon as I got on the ferry. By the time I was back in Edinburgh I could feel myself looking back on my Iona day-and-a-half and thinking: it was just a nice island. That's all. You're struggling: you want answers. You'll look for them anywhere. Nothing wrong with finding them in a quiet little corner of the world, sure, but was it magical? Hardly.

And yet this is the picture that I choose for 2011: that moment, there, on that little windswept beach. That moment, standing there on the shores of the island and suddenly being sure that everything you dream about when you're younger can sometimes still be true. Sometimes, there is still possibility in everything that you see. Sometimes, the peace that you long for -- that moment of calm beneath the restlessness that characterizes the rest of your days -- is just buried beneath the rest of life's detritus. Maybe it takes a journey to the outer edges of nowhere to find it.

Or maybe it can come to you in one of those small moments of calm in a regular day. I've tried to recreate my Iona experience, on some level, with my little 365 days of rejoicing project. Some days it doesn't work. But maybe I can use the photograph above to remind me that there are places in this world where peace and quiet and calm reign supreme. Where it is possible to unburden your mind for just a little while and let yourself sink into simple things. And maybe, just maybe, I can take that peace with me into 2012.


  1. It's funny, I have moments (and some photos) that linger from a trip to NZ many years ago that are the same to me as this one is for you. It's heartening to know I'm not the only one who slips into the graceful knowing, even if just for a fleeting moment. I wish you luck as you create more of them, though your artful heart hardly needs luck. :)

  2. Twelve years after graduating I still feel the way you described in your first paragraph, and I know exactly what you mean when you describe being in a place and becoming filled with conviction.

    I do think that's a type of magic, that thing we feel, born on the wind of hope, in a place where often history reverberates. It's where our souls find peace, as you say, and that can often be miraculous. I think at least it is a gift, from God, nature, the collective consciousness, ourselves, whatever. Whatever it is, it's important. Don't discount it just because it's fleeting. The feeling is, perhaps—though it will come again (and I remember a priest reassuring me many years ago that even though most of the time I didn't FEEL God, he was still there and that feeling was still in me only for now buried because of all my cares—but so far the memory hasn't been fleeting for you. That alone, that memory can carry enough hope.