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Notes from my Scottish diary

Aktualisiert: 16. Juli 2022

Where do I go from here?

It was early summer 2019 and I was utterly confused. I simply couldn´t figure out what my next step in life would be. A few years ago the life I once lived had crumbled and no stone remained untouched. My marriage, family life, many friendships and my job was gone. After going through a crisis and depression I was now completely at peace with this. In fact, I felt stronger, clearer and had more energy than ever before.

So, here I was, bursting with life and energy and not knowing what to do with it. All I knew was, I didn´t want to go back to the old world of doing things. I had shed so many layers of my old self that I felt I couldn’t fit myself into these “boxes”. I didn´t want to live in the same way, or work in a job that would drain my soul, nor simply travel from one place to the next for a while. I longed for a radical change of life and something that really sparked my passion.

Deep down I had a desire that I had not allowed to come to the forefront. It was there for a long time, whispering: “Do it, do it, ….that´s what you really want!”. But my mind screamed back: “You´ve got responsibilities, you are a mother, you are in your mid 50´s, you simply cannot do this!!!”

But the day came when I decided I needed to begin listening to my inner voice and be completely honest with myself. It was one question that popped into my mind.

It ended my internal struggle.

What would you do if you had only one more year to live?

Yes, it was the confrontation with life´s truth. You never know, when your time here on Earth is up. So I investigated this question: What would I regret not having done at the end of my days? What is my soul yearning for?

Suddenly there was no doubt. I knew what I really wanted, no matter the price: I wanted to leave Germany and live somewhere else – if not forever than at least for some time. I wanted to explore a new way of living, one that would let me get in touch with parts of myself I had´t explored before.

At that time I was living with my son. We had only moved into our new home a year ago and we both enjoyed living together a lot. So what do we do? Would he go and join me on my journey? Would he also want to live abroad? The answer was no. He had just finished school and had made up his mind to follow his passion and start an apprenticeship. He knew what he wanted.

It took me a long time to figure out, where I would head to. But before I knew where to go and when to leave, I decided to make a leap. I handed in the 3-month-notice for our flat, without knowing where we both would live afterwards. I knew from previous experiences that sometimes you have to take the first step before the next one reveals itself. And so I did.

The following weeks were an emotional rollercoaster ride. There were phases of an unshakeable trust that everything would unfold perfectly and just in time. And there also were moments of intense panic attacks, the fear of soon being homeless, and the conviction of what I was doing was completely irresponsible.

Fast forward a few weeks everything fell into place. My son was invited to move in with a friend and I knew where I would go: Scotland!

Why Scotland? Well, back then, I really didn´t know. I was searching the internet for days, looking randomly for inspiration and places to go. I stumbled upon this offer to work as a volunteer on a remote island. And then I knew. I guess it´s one of these moments, when something shows up on your radar and you just simply know: this is the perfect thing to do. I applied and got the job. Wow. What a moment of joy, hugs, and celebration it was to share with my kids who were as much excited about this news as I was.

And then it was time to get things done.

Letting go

Now I had to get clear of what to do with my material possessions. I had no idea how long I would live abroad but I felt, I needed to lighten the load. What do I really need? What can stay and what can go? What is really worth keeping and paying for storage? Am I ready for a radical letting-go?

The months to follow was a time I found the answers. By the end I sold and gave away about two thirds of my belongings:

My kitchen, sofa, chairs, cupboards, bookshelves, tables, washing machine, household stuff, lots of boxes with books and decoration, boxes of clothing, shoes, handbags…the list goes on.

It was an experience of great liberation.

Every time I sold or gave away a box full of whatever I felt a kind of relief. Over time the shelves, the cupboards, the attic got lighter. It was also fun and really satisfying to know that my things would make someone else happy. Later it got more difficult as I felt attachment to some of my belongings and I kept postponing the decision whether to keep them or not. But the closer the day of my departure came the more ruthless I had to become about letting go. There simply was not enough room in the storage warehouse.

In between emptying the flat, there was also a letting-go of something very different: my son. He had just turned 18. My boy, an adult now. We´d had so much fun living together and moving through life alongside one another. With my decision to leave I also had to throw him “out of the nest”.

Well, it actually was the result of many deep conversations about my passion for exploring life and his passion for his own path. To honor both we had to go in separate directions.

Now, what I had to let go of was my role as a mother, and the definition as to what motherhood would look like from now on. I wasn´t totally unexperienced as I had gone through the same with my elder daughter a few years before. She already had left home and was a young woman pursuing her passion and career. Once again it felt like the umbilical cord was finally cut. It was a conscious, transformative yet a painful process. There were moments when I simply could not bear the thought of not seeing both of my children for a while.

And still I knew I had to go. I can call myself really fortunate to have had my kids support. I remember when in a vulnerable moment, I said to my daughter that I felt so bad for leaving them behind, and that I feel guilty for being selfish. She looked at me straight and said: “Mum, it´s finally time you go and do what you love!”

Well… to cut this long story short, the day came when the flat was empty, my belongings tucked into a small storage box and it was time to say our final good-bye. I have no idea how I managed to do all of this. The emotional and physical stress level was high but I was carried through and it was all done.

Exhausted and overtired I finally boarded the plane. On my train ride from Glasgow to Oban I could feel a huge shift in my energy. There was this rush of joy when I saw myself surrounded by this magical countryside, the mountains, the sea, the wild land.

It felt like a dream and I was saying to myself: “I don´t know how it all happened, but I made it, I am here”.

Arriving on Erraid

Erraid is a tiny and remote island in the Inner Hebrides, on the West of Scotland, just the size of a square mile. To get there you need to take the ferry from mainland of Scotland to the Isle of Mull, then make a 2 hours bus ride across the island, get picked up from a minibus and finally get taken over by boat to Erraid.

Erraid´s only inhabitants are the permanent residents of the Findhorn community. There is only one row of houses, no streets, no cars. The community consists usually of about 8 residents plus the guests who come and join in for a week or two - sometimes ten, sometimes more.

The community looks after the island and lives an almost self-sustainable life. Most of the food comes from the huge garden, rainwater is collected for cooking and washing; wood gets chopped for heating and hot water. There are chickens and boats, a tractor, and everything needs to be looked after and maintained, and so much more! There is plenty of physical work to be done all year round.

I arrived on Erraid on a grey and rainy day in early October. I moved into my cottage where I had a room for myself and a living room, kitchen and bathroom that I would share with two others. There was a short tour around the place and then we had our first communal dinner and we introduced ourselves to one another. As I sat there in the dining room with 15 others, I felt like a total stranger. Which of course I was!

In my first night on Erraid instead of sleeping, I cried. Oh, my. Is this where I really want to be? What did I do to leave everything behind? Am I completely mad? I was overwhelmed with doubt and the fear that I would breakdown and it all would end in a nightmare.

I got up at night, laid down in front of the fireplace and gave myself time to integrate and fully land. I realized that now, all the stress and the tension of the past weeks was coming to the surface and I was having a big release!

Early the next morning I went up the hill to the Sanctuary, the community´s meditation room. I was glad to be on my own, because I was still crying. But sitting there in this peaceful room overlooking parts of Erraid, Iona and Mull, from one moment to the next, my tears subsided and I was totally calm.

I sat and breathed and observed for a very long time. This scenery, these rocks, the sea, the sky, this beauty, my goodness. I couldn´t believe it. This is my new home, am I dreaming?

It was Sunday and it wasn´t until the next day that I had to show up for work. So I went to explore my new surroundings. On a walk over the island I instantly fell in love. This little piece of land and rock in the Atlantic captivated me. The colors, the light, the views from the island in any direction. The sheer beauty touched me on a very deep level. I could feel my heart expanding, feeling joyful and so alive, just at the sight of this amazingly wild place that I was lucky to call my home for a while.

Life, work and rhythms on an island

So, here I was, with somewhat of an agreement to work for two months in exchange for accommodation and food. Community life on Erraid was a grounded rhythm of meetings, working hours, tea breaks, shared meals at lunch and dinner, and sharing living spaces with others. I wasn´t quite sure of what to make of this community.

I had visited the Findhorn Community further up in Scotland a few times before to attend workshops, so I was familiar with the principles of “Inner Listening, Co-Creation with Nature and Work is Love in Action”. But I had never lived in a community before and I had no idea what they were expecting of me. Would I fit in? Would I be able to contribute to community life? Would I be able to work hard physically? Will I make it through my initial 2-weeks trial period? What if I don´t? Where would I go if things don´t work out?

I remember vividly how nervous I was on my first working shift on Monday morning. I was helping with carrying heavy bags full of manure from the compost toilets which had to be spread as a fertilizer for the younger trees in the little wood. Before I even started working I was so much questioning my physical strengths, that I sent a little prayer because I was so scared of breaking down. I was so relieved when the day ended without me collapsing into the shit I was supposed to move around. Even more, I felt that the island and the elements restored my energy in a very mysterious way. It was the beginning of a great love affair with physical work and being outdoors most of the time.

I had no idea how much I loved being and working outside! From this day on I was bursting with energy and just any kind of job would make me happy. From gardening to cooking, splitting and stacking wood, feeding chickens, cleaning, painting boats and many other tasks, I simply loved working with my hands.

And there was plenty of work to be done, but it was a completely different way of working.

Every morning residents and guests would meet for a short moment of silence, followed by a check-in and the planning of the day. Before everyone would decide what to contribute according to their abilities and capabilities, we were invited to share our thoughts and feelings of what was going on internally and what was needing to be expressed. These few minutes in the mornings made a huge difference. Sitting in a circle, listening to one another and being seen and received, was such a simple yet powerful thing. This was the ground for a deeper understanding of where everyone was at. I believe these few minutes every morning helped us form a new bond of connection every week and I loved it. Often our guests would express in such poetic ways that I was touched to tears. Oh yes, tears of joy and gratitude and release. I cried plenty of them on Erraid.

At the end of our morning meeting we then would share the tasks that needed to be done. Guests were part of the community during their stay and so their help was expected and valued. My main task as a volunteer was cooking for the community and its guests, so half of my working hours I spent in the kitchen. It was up to me to decide what to cook with whatever the garden and the pantry provided. It was astonishing to see the gardens abundance. Throughout all autumn and winter there was such a huge variety of veggies. There were four large stone walled gardens that provided us with potatoes, carrots, leek, onions, broccoli, cabbages, beetroot, curly kale, Brussel sprouts, celery, chard, spinach, tomatoes, herbs, pumpkins and my favorite: parsnips.

I really did not expect such a plentiful variety given the fact, that the island is in the North of Scotland, right in the Atlantic. The weather although wet was mild enough to allow for long growing seasons. But I am sure it wasn’t just that. There was such an amount of love going into these gardens. This is what Findhorn once back in the early 70´s got famous for: their ability to grow food even in the most adverse conditions. It was such an inspiration to see how this co-creation with Nature would not only nourish the body but also my soul, as a gardener and cook.

I loved cooking with these ingredients as fresh as they can get, straight from the garden. It was one of the many great joys to pick and choose and then mix them with my creativity to create meals that people enjoyed. Cooking always was a fairly easy task for me but here cooking truly became my creative and passionate act of playing with colors, textures and tastes.

But whenever I could I was working on the land and getting my hands into the soil. Oh, how much I enjoyed working with this living element. The gardens were my preferred working area. Digging trenches, weeding beds, planting bushes, harvesting stuff, pushing wheelbarrows, spreading seaweed… I knew in the deepest heart of my heart: I am a gardener. How could I ever believe that working indoors all day, sitting in front of a computer screen was regarded an achievement in our personal career and life? It is not. It is insane.

The magic of time and visitors

So eventually weeks and months passed by and I was still there. Time was such a funny thing on this island. After a week I had the feeling I had already spend a month, a month felt like half a year. And soon I felt like I had lived here forever, and most of my co-workers and our guests felt the same. By the end of the week when guests left, we felt deeply connected. Time somehow dissolves in these places for whatever reason.

In the meantime my daughter came to stay for a week and again, this was not just a week, it was rich and deep experience for both of us here on this magical island. We would go on long walks, prepare meals for the community, dance together or sit in the evenings with others and just having a good laugh. In a day you get to do so many things, meet so many people, work in a completely different way and on top of that, always be surrounded and immersed by the power of nature.

I so much loved having my daughter around and being able to share this part of my life and the beauty of Erraid with her. At the end of the week in our Fridays sharing circle she said: “For as long I can remember, it´s always been mum who came to visit me wherever I was in the world, yet now it´s me who came to see my mum”. She stopped and with tears in her eyes she said “I am so happy to see my mum so happy”.

Yes, Erraid called many people and made many happy. One might not expect that living on a remote island in the Atlantic Ocean meant meeting more people than living in a busy city. I for sure have never met more humans than at this time in my life from so many places: the States, Australia, CanadaSouth America and almost every European country.

Every Saturday people would leave and new ones would arrive, from all walks of life. Many of them were in the process of changing their life´s directions, a few had hit rock bottom. I´ve heard so many touching life-stories, from heart-break and breakdown, from losing loved ones and not knowing what to do next.

One of them was Claudia from Peru. She was my fellow volunteer and for a few weeks we shared the same cottage. When she arrived I was captivated by her beauty and the way she would attract attention when she spoke about her land and culture. She would fill the room with her presence and laughter and suddenly the dining room would turn silent. She appeared so strong. And yet she was devastated. She had lost her 7 year old son to cancer a few months ago. When she told me her story, we both were crying. How do you continue from here? How do you deal with the pain? How do you remain your heart open to life when the unimaginable happens? She did, in the most beautiful way.

In these moments when I was invited to witness the total rawness and realness of the pain of life, when there is no holding back about our human experience, I felt such a deep connection I am still grateful for.

I guess, many of the island visitors – like myself – did not really know why they were called to Erraid. There was something the island was offering that they would not find elsewhere. And it was something different and magical for everyone.

Challenges & learnings

Does it seem that life on Erraid was a seamless flow of ease and happiness? No, certainly not. Living in a community can be wonderful and can be a stretch and it for sure was both to me.

Sharing living and working space with others almost 24/7 for sure brings up a lot of stuff. In a community there is no lack of situations and people that can trigger us. We all have our personalities, preferences, abilities, expectations, stories, difficulties, ways of doing things and dealing with situations, it´s all there. And I had mine too.

First of all there is the fact, that you share a cottage with guests. Sometimes one person, sometimes two. And you never know who will be your next housemate. Why is he or she here? Do they need a lot of attention or are they able to be in their own space? Do you find a rhythm of using shared spaces that works for both? If you get on well, you can have the best time ever. And if you don´t, because your needs and interests are just a little different, well then, a week under the same roof can simply suck a little.

Another thing that I bumped into was one of my patterns. In the beginning I was doubting my capabilities and my contribution so much that I had the tendency to over-deliver and stress out others working alongside me, especially in the kitchen. “Quicker, better, more efficient” that was my attitude. It obviously wasn´t fun for the community, so one day, they frankly demanded me to “Stop and relax!” Wow, it was such an unexpected and sudden painful moment. Instead of being seen for my hard-working attitude, I felt rejection. What the heck is going on? Slowly I realized how I had been functioning most of my life, always trying to prove myself and to make up for a perceived “not being good enough”. A very old pattern. A second nature. Now, only here where people are more conscious of what is truly running the show, I got called out. Ha! Yes, community life definitely brings to light what you were covering up for a long time.

And then community life on Erraid holds the constant invitation not just to reflect but also to become all of you and explore new tasks, new approaches and share something you always wanted to, just for the fun of it. There was such a variety of talents and interests and life never became dull and it truly was amazing to see what many had to offer. We had filmmaking projects and cinema nights, talks on any kind of subject and handcraft lessons, astrology readings and more. And so I too stepped in and out of my comfort zone to lead cooking courses, meditations and ecstatic dances. Yes, this all happened on a tiny island without streets, cars and no need to go anywhere.

But often I had to withdraw. One stressor for me was to be around people most of the time. As much as I love people, I am also a part-time hermit, one that loves being in her own space and who just doesn´t want to talk or interact all the time. I guess I have always preferred solitude to just hanging around and chatting. I found navigating this need really challenging as to either I had to compromise my own needs or cause upset and irritation when I didn´t take part in every activity.

And I often found community life simply too noisy! Especially during meal times I really disliked the level of noise as everyone was chatting. Oh, I often wanted to scream: “Can everybody please shut up for a while and just enjoy your meal in silence?!”

So much about my level of tolerance ;-).

Nature, my all and everything

There was something that made up for any struggle that showed up in the community. It was my connection to nature. I really had no idea how much nature and the land has an effect on me.

Since my first trip in my early 20´s I have had a very strong connection to the UK. I felt instantly at home. And so I traveled many times to England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. But Erraid was beyond any place I had visited: it was wild and incredibly beautiful.

It was like no other place I had lived before, and gosh, I really had moved quite a bit. It was like here on this island I was so intimate with the elements, so exposed to the rawness of nature like never before. It felt like my whole being was expanding, embracing and being embraced by nature.

I would spend any spare time going for walks, at dawn, during my breaks, at dusk and certainly on my days off, when I would spend all day on my own exploring the island. And no day is like another. The elements paint a different painting every day, every moment. The ever changing sky, the horizon vast, so vast. Just a few steps away from your front door the sight would change. A new world would open up. Rocks, bog, heather, the most beautiful white beach, the open spaces surrounded by hills and rocks and more hills and mountains in the distance.

Again and again I would close my eyes for a moment, listening to the sounds. Then when I opened them again, I felt like dreaming. I just couldn´t believe that this landscape was real and that I was here.

I could walk for hours, not meeting anyone but being immersed by wildlife, seeing deer, seals and sometimes even dolphins.

I had a little favorite spot on the rocks and I would sit there for a while and wait for my friends, the seals to show up. On a lucky day, one would pop out his head, then another one and one more until maybe 8 or ten were coming so close to the rocks that I could see their big black eyes looking at me. There is nothing quite as breath-taking on an ordinary afternoon like this!

At low tide I would often wonder off to the Isle of Mull across the sound called “Narrows”, this wide space between the two islands and spend hours at the “Carribeans”, one of my favorite places with a huge white beach. There were also little fairy-like woodlands of small birch trees, bend to one side by the force of the constant wind, covered with moss and

fern, and a ground so soft I would sometimes fall asleep. This was my paradise.

There was Ben Moore, the mountain on Mull with its majestic presence overlooking the area and always changing its appearance. Then to the other side, there was the sacred Isle of Iona with its ancient Abbey. This otherworldly, timeless place, so close by.

And of course, there was the sea! As it constantly changes, comes alive with the wind, changes its color and plays with the beach and with me. Yes, all of nature is playful and it invited me to discover my own playfulness. And I did. I re-discovered my joy of roaming the wilderness for hours on end, wading through the bog and the water, climbing rocks, diving into the cold ocean and dancing on the beach. It was like my inner child was finally allowed to play, to roam and to dance, to be wild and be free.

I had no idea why Scotland was calling me so strongly, but now I knew. Here I could finally breath, here I had this sense of belonging. I never felt more in touch with nature and the world around me. I had never felt more safe and held by Mother Earth than here on this island. In her arms all the struggles of the past seemed to vanish and something deep was touched and healed.

Moving on

Despite the many beautiful aspects of the Erraid community, I decided I wanted to move on. I was not ready to commit to community life (and maybe I never will be). It seemed totally crazy to leave this magical island, the people I finally got to know and my place within the community. But once again I felt called to step into the unknown to make new discoveries.

After four wonderful and rich months on Erraid that seemed like a lifetime, I left with one eye smiling the other one crying.

My parting gift was the best one ever: and a spontaneous dance party after lunch in the dining room and in the gardens. Oh, what an unforgettable moment to be dancing barefoot with my heart wide open under the February sun. I was so grateful for my time here and yet, I was ready and full of excitement of what was to come.


I moved over to the Isle of Iona on the most beautiful sunny day in February 2020. It felt like spring was already here. The winter on Erraid had been long, windy and wet. There had been quite some storms and the next one was expected for the following day. There is no ferry service on stormy days and the islands are completely cut off. Sometimes electricity fails and Wifi, two nightmares at once for the modern human.

Now, what was I planning to do on Iona? I was offered a 6-week-working period as a volunteer in the hostel. My job was to look after the hostel and the guests, supporting my colleague Marc with planting trees and taking care of John´s garden – the one that owns and runs it all. I was expecting a busy hostel, lots of young people, noise and so on. What I found upon landing here was quite the opposite: the most quiet and exquisite place, a handful of long term “artists in residence” and another handful of travelers. All women!

So I settled into my new place on this sunny afternoon and getting to know them a bit on my first night in the big kitchen. I had a private room in the hostel but would share the big kitchen which also was the living room, the library, simply the place where everyone would meet.

What no one knew on this evening was, that we were going to be stuck for a week together! The storm that arrived the next day was strong and persistent and no one could get off or on the island. So all plans for some women to leave had to be cancelled and expected travelers could not make it to Iona.

Well, as we were to find out, seven women stuck in the most beautiful hostel in the world is not a bad thing at all. While the storm was raging and the hostel vibrating with the sheer force of the wind, we would cook, bake and eat together. And all the while, we would share our stories. Real stories of life, love and loss. Deep and raw.

Something incredible happened in these days. Complete strangers formed strong bonds and found what they had not expected. The living room was our epicenter of great connection, tears and laughter, spontaneous dances and my unshakable faith that women create magic effortlessly.

My colleague Marc and my boss John were pretty curious about their new volunteer and what was going on in the big kitchen, because every time they came in, another woman was in tears…yes, tears of release and healing.

In the weeks to follow, the hostel was constantly busy. We hosted luxury book making courses with a private chef thrown in, pilgrim groups, and the ordinary individual traveler from all over the world. But no guest was truly ordinary, they all had their special reason for making this journey to this sacred island. You need to consider, it takes two days, a train ride, a bus trip and two ferries to get here from one of the main cities. Once again it was fascinating to observe that these little islands somewhere in the Atlantic call people even in the midst of winter!

I met some really wonderful people during this time where the flow between us was just instant and easy and the connection of such a kind, that it still fills my heart with joy to think of them. Two of them were Lynn and Pranam. With Lynn I had the deepest introspection into life and with Pranam I had this strong bond of fun, humour and laughter. It felt like he was (and still is) the best teacher in being able to quickly spot any wonderful trait a person possesses.

I really loved this experience of being “just” a volunteer. It allowed me to drop any role, any expectation of myself and just simply be me. After all my years and decades in professional and social life it was like a weight lifted off my shoulder as who I am supposed to be. Often, when I was doing these mundane jobs like cleaning toilets, emptying rubbish and so on, I would smile at myself because I felt so happy. And it would – without me intending it – provoke people´s interest and many times spark the question of why I am doing this. This would usually end in long and deep conversations at the big dining table.

Soon it was March and I was starting to make arrangements of where to go next as my time was supposed to end soon. And I had planned to travel with my kids across Scotland. Well, that´s the thing with plans…especially in a year 2020! Instead of going travelling or moving to my next work-away placement, I would go nowhere, the same as the rest of the world. Iona went into lockdown, every tourist had to leave and the island turned silent. The good news for me was that I was allowed to stay as long as I wanted. What a gift!

The hostel was empty, except for Marc and I. We had it all to ourselves. Not only the big, beautiful kitchen and the wonderful blue sofas with a view over the Atlantic, but the North End of the island. Hardly anyone of the islanders would walk up here and so the beach was deserted, as well as all the paths and places that would usually attract people. It was a very serene time.

I started going into the sea first thing in the morning. The water was cold, of course, but the feeling of being so connected to the sea, the rocks and the sky was incredible. Let alone the feeling of being truly awake afterwards. It´s interesting to observe how my body more and more adjusted to the cold and how much stronger I felt doing it day in and out.

My days were spend mostly outdoors, either working in Johns garden or planting trees with Marc, painting windows and boats and whatever needed new color. And I started my own little garden from a patch of grass. In my spare time I would dig and dig and prepare the soil, I bought all kinds of seeds, tended dozens of little pots with seedlings before I planted them and watch them grow with great excitement. Gardening was just so much fun!

My social contacts were mainly limited to Marc and I was lucky to have him as my colleague. We shared the same views on the current situation and we would spend the evenings discussing everything from politics to spirituality and the history and mystery of Iona.

Marc was a very inspiring and unusual character. He was what people call a breatharian. He is one of the few people on this planet who have trained their mind and body that they don´t need food to thrive. He was the living proof that one doesn´t need 5 meals a day, calories or nutrients to keep a body alive. Sometimes he would have a tiny meal or some peanut butter for the fun of the taste but he didn´t depend on it. And of course he was able to work hard. It really changed my outlook on my eating routine, as eating often is just a habit, without truly listening to the body´s needs.

I found out that it is true what some say: the less you eat, the less you need. And when you consider how much of our time and money goes into food you´ll realize the potential for freedom once you´re less obsessed with it. But hey, I am not there yet. And maybe it´s not a path for everyone. So I continued to enjoy my meals in my own rhythm and in silence…

And there was plenty of silence on Iona. Iona, in contrast to Erraid, has about 150 inhabitants and a small infrastructure in the center of the island and even a few cars. Yet, due to the lockdown and people keeping their distance, the island was quiet, the places deserted and there was so much room to roam. On top of that I was living at the North End amidst the hilly grassland and rocks, with no neighbors nearby.

I would go on hikes up the hill called DUN I from where I could see all of Iona plus the neighboring islands. Or I would walk to the wilder parts of Iona, to Hermit´s Cell, a mysterious place where no sound – not even a bird – was to be heard. I went discovering caves and beaches and rocks and more rocks. Only here in Scotland I became aware of my love for rocks! The rocks of Erraid were mostly granite, while on Iona you can find different rocks at any end of the island. Some were black and sharp, others formed into soft shapes with colors of green and pink. Some say Iona has the oldest rocks in Europe.

And then there was Iona Abbey. An ancient place and the historical and spiritual center of the island now as it has been for centuries. I guess even Iona Abbey has never seen a more quiet time with no visitors at all. Now Iona truly belonged to its inhabitants and I was blessed to be one of them.

I truly felt at home. Although I didn´t know

many people, I still had the feeling of belonging. It´s this mystery with feeling home in places. The mind doesn´t quite understand but the soul remembers and feels where it belongs.

And there was one place that was especially dear to me. Its name is Traigh Bhan. It is a small house close to the beach and pretty remote. It usually functions as a retreat house by the Findhorn Foundation. But to call it simply a house wouldn´t do it justice. It´s a place with a very unique energy, peaceful, tranquil and incredibly soothing. I guess, it´s the most special place I have ever been to.

During my time on Erraid I have had the chance to get a small break and stay at Traigh Bhan. It was January, and I was on my own during some really grey days, the view no further than to the stone walls of the garden. But it didn´t matter. The magic of this place totally made up for the outside conditions. I was working a lot in the garden, pushing wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of rotten seaweed onto the beds, doing what needed to be done and was the happiest one can be. In between I would rest in the hammock in the winter garden, observing the birds, and in the evenings I sat by the candlelight in the Sanctuary or read through the immense library. After these few days, I knew why they call it the “Peace of Iona”.

And now I had another chance to have this house for myself. An unexpected gift due to the lockdown. As the usual care-taker was not allowed to come to Iona, the beautiful garden was overgrowing with weeds and in need of a gardener. Here I was, having yet another garden to look after, this time it was bursting with Spring flowers. It was such a delight to work and be here and soak in the colors I had been missing badly over the winter.

I cherished the climate of this part of Scotland and mostly didn´t even mind the long winter. Yes, there were moments in January and February when I thought that days were definitely too short, the sky too grey and the rain too often. But in fact, it was never was too cold and as the weather changes constantly there is always a chance for superb sunshine. The weather towards Spring improved and we were blessed with a 6 weeks period of the finest weather.

Then in May, another storm hit the island and it was devastating to see that many of the little trees we had planted were struck so badly that they wouldn’t recover.

And John would say: Well that´s when you have great ambitions with reforesting the island. It is always two steps forward and one step back. Living on a remote island in the Hebrides definitely has its own characteristic, challenge and beauty and I was more than happy to have had the chance to experience a few of them.

Returning home

So, what was intended to be a six weeks stay on Iona turned out to be four months. But then I knew, had to return. Since March 2020 our world had changed radically and the whole situation that developed before my eyes was unsettling: the present restrictions, the feeling that there was no going back to our old freedoms, the impact all of this had on my children´s life and mental wellbeing. I wanted to be closer to them and thus I needed to return to Germany.

But leaving Iona and Scotland wasn´t easy at all. I had no home to return to and I even didn´t know where I wanted to live. Return to the area where I lived for the past 15 years? No, I couldn´t imagine living in a city anymore. How long would it take to find a new place, let alone the “right” place? Would I feel at home again, as I did in Scotland? Once again it was a time to get familiar with the unknown.

There was something that carried me through this time. It was gratitude for my time in Scotland. A time that felt like a lifetime, rich, intense, challenging, beautiful. A time that had not only recharged me but brought me back to life in a way I did not imagine possible.

Away from the cities hassle and buzzle, from traffic, from shops, from too many people, from everything that wants my attention, it was like a reset for my nervous system. It was like taking the deepest and longest breath I had ever taken in my life. One that had calmed me down, that connected me with myself and yet energized me in a new way.

I wasn´t the same anymore. I had rediscovered parts of myself that I had not acknowledged before. I finally embraced the whole of me. The one that can sit in a circle, speak my truth, laugh from the bottom of my heart or cry my eyes out. The one that finds the greatest joy in moving stinky seaweed in wheelbarrows into the garden and talks to the little robin. The one that can deeply connect with others, roam the wildness at any weather, sit in meditation, dive into the cold sea and dances at the beach and doesn´t care if someone is watching.

I had left behind what I didn´t need any longer, the stories about myself, the expectations of how my life and the many roles I inhabit should look like, the whispering of the inner critic that said, certain things are not for you.

In short: I found myself.

So exactly one year after I asked myself the question “What would you do if you only had one more year to live?” I returned to Germany. And this year gifted me with more of what I ever imagined and hoped for. This year was the biggest gift that I will always remember.

Scotland, I thank you for your hills and mountains, your waters, your rocks, your animals, your trees, your skies, your soil, your sacred land and islands, the peace and the beauty. They will remain forever in my heart.

Thank you to all the many beautiful human beings I met along my way, all the fellow travelers through life, too many to mention.

And most of all, thank you to my kids for supporting me to live my life in my unique way.

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