Holy Island from Lamlash, 1994, Craigie Aitchison
Sister Wendy Beckett says, Profound silence is not something we fall into casually. This may indeed happen, and a blessed happening it is, but normally we choose to set aside a time and a place to enter into spiritual quietness. (Those who never do this, or shrink from it, run a very grave risk of remaining half-fulfilled as humans.) Craigie Aitchison's view of Holy Island pares this choice down to its fundamental simplicities. Brown earth, blue sea, red sky, Holy Island a stony grey lit by glory. There is a small ship to take us across,, if we choose to ride in it. There are no fudging elements here: all is clear-cut. This is not silence itself but rather the desire for silence. Silence, being greater than the human psyche, cannot be compressed within our intellectual categories; it will always escape us. But the desire to be silent, the understanding of the absolute need for it: this is expressed in Aitchison's wonderful diagram of life within the sight of the holy.
I hear this desire for silence, the need for it,
expressed in a Berry poem.
"The Peace of Wild Things"
by Wendell Berry
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Speak gently in my silence.
When the loud outer noises of my surroundings, and the loud inner noises of my fears keep pulling me away from you, help me to trust that you are still there even when I am unable to hear you.
"Come to me, all you who are overburdened, and I will give you rest... for I am gentle and humble of heart."
Let that loving voice be my guide.
Henri J.M. Nouwen