Monday, November 06, 2006

Being on Stronsay

I seem to be having trouble putting up more photos so I'll just have to paint pictures with words instead. Here's some extracts from my scribblings about the place shortly after my arrival there...

Being On Stronsay
The utter stillness of the place.
Not necessarily silence or even quietness at times, but a certain tranquility and calm about the island. A different kind of quietness from the suburbs - where there is an absence of sound and activity compared to the hustle and bustle of the city. The suburbs can feel dull and monotonous, - the degeneration of life of the elderly who are forced to slow down their pace of life or the contented middle classes who hypnotize the neighbourhood as they mow their lawns and yawn away lazy summer afternoons sipping Pimms in their back gardens. In the suburbs it can feel like life is on hold, a dream-like, trance like existence. No, here there is life to the place, the island has a soul but it gets things done in its own time, its own pace of life and that hits you about the place - it's an active tranquility, not a passive sleepiness. It hits you almost as hard as the way arriving in London hits you. Just 5 minutes in the city and you feel the pressure of it's frenetic energy. That wonderful horrible energy that keeps the place moving but causes you to burn out and collapse in weariness at the end of the week. Stronsay somehow seems to have a more sustainable energy and the calmness is almost tangible, you just absorb it.

Strangely enough I have never taken a photo of the chapel on Stronsay. A converted herring shed, it's hardly an architectural wonder but given I take photos of Bank of Scotland signs and macro shots of seaweed and other beach debris I am quite puzzled as to why I've never photographed the Chapel. But I did write about it..

The Chapel
Such a small space yet as I walked in, once again
the atmosphere about the place impressed itself upon my heart.
The familiar sense of sanctity when you recognise that you are in a place of God, when you recognise you are in the right place! Some people say that you should feel 'at home' in churches. Well maybe if home is indeed where the heart is, but not if they mean you should feel comfortable enough to put your feet up. If a church does not feel like a sacred space then where else can we find refuge from the world? What is the point of a church if it is to be like your living room, a social club or anywhere else in the world. Or of the world. And conversely if a place is dedicated to God then how can it feel ordinary - how can you feel completely 'at home' there. After all we are exiles in this vale of tears and a church surely should remind us of this.
It should help make it easier for us to contemplate the Kingdom of Heaven and orientate ourselves towards it, not make us too comfortable with staying on Earth.
It should help us to feel 'at home' in the sense that
our true home is with God in heaven.


At 9:39 pm, Anonymous Hugh said...

That was a very well written description of the chapel, and churches in general. A place to lift our Souls up to God, and a place to get away from the distractions of this world.


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