Ebb tide, full tide
Let life’s rhythms flow
Full tide, ebb tide
How life’s beat must go
The funniest thing happened when we arrived at the Open Gate Retreat house on Lindisfarne. My mum, having seen the sign Community of Aiden and Hilda on the wall outside and not knowing a knowing a great deal about Holy Island (and the Saints Aiden and Hilda who lived here and shaped the spiritual heritage of the island), thought that the woman who greeted us was Hilda and was about to ask where Aiden was. Thankfully she didn’t say this out loud – the woman would have thought we were barmy and I probably would have shrieked with laughter.
To help us on our retreat of the island, I bought a copy of a booklet called ‘Give yourself a Retreat on Holy Island’ written by Ray Simpson, who founded the community of Aiden and Hilda. The booklet is really useful for anyone wanting to incorporate meditation into their retreat in context the surroundings of the island. It guides you to various points on the island, where you stop and read through a short reflection and think about how it applies to your life.
We wandered to the beach and meditated on the ebb and flow of the tide and the rich array of birdlife the island has. In the silence, just sitting there on the beach, with the sun shining on us, we had the time to think and talk, and share things.
We drifted up to the Heugh –a high ridge that stands between the priory ruins and the shore, where you can look across to Bamburgh Castle rising up dramatically in the distance, and read a meditation about ‘keeping watch’. We then went on to the stone statue of St Aiden in the Priory grounds. We meditated on the torch in his hand, symbolising his missionary zeal, his staff of faithfulness and the cross at his back, representing a shield of protection.
One of the meditations talked about ‘finding a rhythm with the tides’, about how the tides speak of the rhythms of creation and remind us that our lives too are designed to have rhythm. I thought about how my London life tended to be lacking in a sense of rhythm, and how different the feel of the island was.
Another meditation I liked was ‘observe the birds and the skies’ which talked about the pale-bellied Brent Geese that fly from the arctic to winter in Holy island, reminding us that a Celtic symbol of the Holy Spirit is the wild goose. It’s not often we think of God as being wild; I liked this analogy. And when they fly it is in formation – this helps them fly three times faster than they would if they flew alone.
We finished at the Harbour, and reflected on boats and Celtic pilgrims who, for the love of God, sailed wherever God’s wind blew them, and wandered wherever God’s spirit let them. The Celtic inspired Christians saw all of life as a journey.
*The poem at the top of this entry is by David Adam, who for 15 years was Vicar of Holy Island