In the town where I live there is a bottle bank. In the year 590 AD St Columbanus, a saint of the Celtic Church, stood at the spot where it stands and bid farewell to his ninety year old mentor, St Columba, before embarking on a life time trip to Europe. The Graeco Roman Empire had fallen and Christianity had moved to Byzantium: it was the golden age of the Celts whose ideas, literature and music would spread to the world via the 100 monasteries founded by St Columbanus and his followers. Amongst the books they took with them from the town where I write this was the Aniphonarium Beannchor, the Bangor Antiphonary, a collection of hymns and spiritual songs. I have based my forthcoming collection of songs on the idea of journey and the track posted above references the ancient text using today’s technology.
A whole century before Bangor’s famous son departed for main land Europe, another group of monks set sail from Bangor Abbey. Unlike St Columbanus they had no firm plan of action. They were called peregreni, or wanderers. They set sail with no oars and simply trusted that wherever the wind blew them, that was where God meant them to be. In our modern world this seems insane: surely we must have a plan to set sail, a map and a GPS and an engine never mind oars. We would go to the financial advisor before moving to a new region, and check the cost of living in our destination country. We would want to know what healthcare was like, what was the culture of the locals…. And so on and so on.
I never intended to be a peregrenata. I watch the peregrine falcons at Scrabo carried on the wind, some of the most beautiful creatures living in a beautiful place but I had never planned to live on the wind myself. I studied hard at school and not so hard the first time I was at university and achieved good qualifications. I wanted to teach. I had a sensible, achievable plan. Then one day in hospital I came face to face with the news I had autoimmune arthritis and over the months and years that followed I transformed into a peregrenata: I could not always follow the plans I had made. I had flares of my condition and needed months, sometimes years, to receive treatment and to rest. I thought I had lost my dreams, but I had learned to dream in a new way. Most people do not like uncertainty, and people with chronic illnesses are encouraged to set goals. It is certainly foolish to never make plans but it is freeing to live as one of the peregreni. The wind may blow you to a safe haven or it may blow you onto the rocks, but you will learn to adapt to wherever you find yourself.
Jesus said ‘the wind blows where it pleases, and so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. You cannot tell where they have come from and you cannot tell where they are going to’. I have attempted to put my journey on the wind into music. The first track is Neo Classical and based on the Bangor Antiphonary, but I have also included contemporary songs about how that journey is lived today, such as Ghosts Walk These Halls below.
I hope you will join me for a time on the breeze.