The retreat schedule, although apparently far from onerous as these things go, started at 6am and finished at 9pm. And it was exhausting. I frequently slept through the midday break. This didn’t allow much time roaming around with a camera.
The weather mostly generated a diffuse grey light, a diffuse grey-pink light at sunset.
The last full day of teaching was followed by the full moon, a particularly auspicious time apparently. A group of women who had been on retreat at southern end of the island at the Inner Light Retreat for the previous year came out that day/night of the full moon.
Each time I go to Holy Island I stay in the dorm and pounce on a particular top bunk and move the pillow from where it’s generally placed, by the wall, to the window end so when I wake up I can open my eyes onto the sea.
On the morning after the last full day of teaching the waking view was of the full moon slipping down the sky towards its own milky train in the water below made pink by the reflected glow of the rising sun.
This photograph does not, of course, come anywhere close to conveying the breathtaking beauty of the sight.
Later that day I discovered one of the women on my (little) retreat had a daughter, her only daughter, who had been on that one year retreat. The mother had been getting up every morning of our one week retreat at 5am to walk to the end of the island and leave a note, pick up a response. They had agreed, before the retreat started, that on the last day of their year apart they would start walking at 1pm, the daughter from the lighthouse cottages that had been her home for the previous year, her mother from the Centre and they would meet somewhere in the middle.
“I set off as agreed” said the mother, “and of course I know the path really well because I’ve been walking it every morning for the last week. When I got halfway she wasn’t there, so I kept going. When I got two-thirds of the way along I was starting to get worried. You can imagine. And then I turned a corner and there she was. She didn’t see me. She was standing chanting in front of the image of Green Tara.”
“I just stood and watched her. My beautiful daughter. She didn’t see me. This was not what we had planned. This was not the two of us seeing each other along the path, running towards each other. This was so much more wonderful.”