How do you navigate the Spiral? Where does it start and end?
Today the group of 18 artists, scholars and organisers, completed their journeys from London, Galway, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Skye to converge on Raasay for the beginning of ‘Convocation’ and the Scottish knot of Colm Cille’s Spiral.
The Citylink bus from Glasgow, drives through a brooding Glencoe, stopping long enough in Fort William for a leg stretch, then onwards, looping past the waymarkers I always look out for on the way to Skye- the best historically named diner in the Highlands Jac-o-bites, the dramatically picture postcard positioned Eilean Donan Castle, followed by the more modest white house of author Gavin Maxwell which nestles at the foot of the Skye bridge. I see some new signs to me on Skye such as Saucy Mary’s Hostel and the Happy Hand Spinner’s studio. After the arc of the road bridge, we see another- a complete rainbow on the Sound.
The group may not all know each other, but the fact that all have been asked to dip into Abbot Adomnan’s ‘Life of St Columba’, gives a shared starting point, with each having their own observations on the text. As people seat hop over the seven hours of travel, we enter the Spiral of St Columba through conversation. Emma Balkind mentions that it is can be noted in our present and past that there has always been a threat, whether from the heathens of the past or terrorists of today. Johnny Rodger, from the GSA’s School of Architecture, talks about Columba’s ‘Back of the Hill’ on Iona, and how in Gaelic it is ‘tonn air gaoithe’, an architectural principal of orientating the back of the house to face the elements, as we see in black houses. Michael Mersinis mentions he has set himself the nighttime task of celestial photography whilst on the island, with long exposures to catch the light of the stars. The next three days, if the clouds part, we will have meteor showers.
The bus driver asks if there is a party at Sconser with so many of us getting off there, to go to Raasay. Then following a 25 min ferry ride, we arrive at an island off an island, Raasay, our destination. There is much to be discovered- a napoleonic fort, the Cave of the Oars, the remains of a prisoner of war camp and the oldest and youngest rock formations on the island. Time stretches out.