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The storm had already been lording it over the island for two days.  Rumbling, rolling, rollicking thunder shook the deep roots of the very rock itself.  Searing rips of light tore the fabric of the heavens apart.  The monk lay on his stomach and watched through the small opening in his cell.  The wind clawed at the mountain above him.  Flecks of slate, quartz, heather and mud dropped down on the small building from the ridge behind like a strange hail storm.  Eddies around the entrance flung stinging arrows at his face.

Sleep was impossible.  Such was the noise of the thunder, wind, rain and sea that even the quarrelsome gulls had been silenced.  Instead the monk contented himself with keeping a watch.  He had heard this squally thunder storm sweeping in from the Atlantic for sometime like some unwilling prince being dragged into court.  To outsiders the weather on the rock seemed wild and unpredictable but to the monk there was an order to these things.  It was as if a heavenly hand was commanding a game of strategy: calculating his moves and then carefully enacting them.

The creator had breathed life into the Earth.  The monk knew that the weather was driven by the Earth.  The wind, rain, storms were its breath.  It belonged to the Earth and if you wanted to understand it you had to listen to the Earth’s heart beat.  It was a heartbeat infinitely slower and deeper than his own but still recognisable.

Lightening splintered the darkness. For a moment you could see the distant mainland and Little Skellig against it. The foaming sea thrashed at its base trying to reclaim it for its own.  But the rock stood fast, defiant, daring the tempest, pointing ever heavenwards.  The view fell dark again and the air and mountain side shuddered.  It was a release of tension like the Earth had sneezed.  There was a wonderful harmony in it: the storm was powered by the Earth and the storm powered the Earth.

The distant shore was dark and silent.  He fixed his eyes on where it had been briefly illuminated.  He thought he could see faint pricks of light.  A crofter up early perhaps; trying to scrape a living from the wind blown land?  He ran his hand through the thin soil by the opening and felt its grittiness, its softness, its stickiness, its fertility.

Nothing much had moved over the last few days, no boats had set sail from the harbour at Portmagee.  Even the Bray beacon had been extinguished.   As soon as the storm finished the fishermen would return working the coastal waters.  The braver crews would follow the seals out to the islands.  After a big storm the faithful would leave a basket of fish at the bottom of the south steps.

Again lightening crackled across the sky.  The thunder storm was sprinting towards the mainland driven hard by the wind.  Again he felt the deep throaty rumble coming up through the mountain.  Perhaps the thunder was the Earth’s voice, what was it saying to him?  He flattened his body against the ground and allowed it to speak to him.

It wasn’t the noise that filled his ears or the light that filled his eyes but feeling of oneness with the rock and with the Earth and with the quivering air.  It reverberated through his body, his soul, his spirit.  The sound ran through his bones and down his spine and he understood.

Robert Williams

9th June 2010

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