Once upon a time

I had the most amazing night last night. I’d been invited up to an evening at Moniack Mhor writing centre. Although I’d been once for a retreat back in November, this was the first time I’d be meeting people there.

It’s hard to explain what Moniack is like. It’s way out in the hills above Loch Ness. There’s nothing for miles around and the views are just spectacular. At the moment all the hills are snow-capped and peaceful, rising above the world in silent majesty. It’s awe inspiring to behold. When night falls, the sky lights up with a billion pinpricks of light and sometimes it feels like infinity is yawning above you. It’s humbling.

Inside, the building is warm and cozy. Pine floors and open fires, rich warm sofas and a kitchen any woman would be proud of. It has a homely feel. It’s the building equivalent of a hug from a close friend. You feel enveloped in it from the moment you walk through the door.

The party started with talks and snacks. The food was brilliant – everyone contributed and it was lovely. I met a lot of really nice people and as we all relaxed, it was like the outside world sloughed away. It’s easy to believe from up there that the rest of the world has ceased to exist.

Later in the evening, we all sat around the fire and were privileged to be treated to a concert by traditional singers and poets. The music was haunting…a throwback to a bygone age. The songs were all in Gaelic and told of both history and of the future. This was one of the pieces and the guy with the guitar, Brian, was one of the musicians last night. He had such a beautiful voice:

The Blue Mountains Lullaby:

We had mini bagpipes, guitar and singing. It was amazing. In between, two local and very good poets read selections of their work about the old traditions of St Kilda and the weavers of Harris, telling us about the history of each piece. They brought the past to life with their words. Some funny, some poignant, all were emotional to hear.

And as we listened, the most extraordinary thing happened. I looked around at everyone listening, utterly rapt, and thought to myself that this is all that’s needed for happiness – a group of people getting together and sharing things that touch their hearts. It was a timeless moment…a moment of connection between now and all that’s gone before. Strip away all the trappings of this generation and underneath we’re still the same people that weave our faith or joy into the things we make, be that fibre, words or threads of gold and silver.

I felt like we were on an island floating in time. The rest of the world was streaming around us, all caught up in the glitz and glamour of instant existence. I think that sometimes we get so caught up in what’s going on, we’re so tethered to the slavery of our technology, that we let go of the ground.

And that, in a nutshell, was what last night was all about to me. Taking the time to stop and just listen. Remembering who we are and where we come from. Seizing a moment in all the chaos to have a still, silent second of communion with where we came from…with our roots. I left feeling more grounded than I had in a long time, and very inspired too. It was a magical night.

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