Walking is For Naming

by Christine Sine

Iona pilgrims - Sarah Bingham

While I sat beside my mother lost week I read to her from the book In Search of Sacred Places: Looking for Wisdom on Celtic Holy Islands. She loved the story of Iona and Columba often asking me to keep reading even after my voice was hoarse and I wanted to stop.

One reflection from the book really stood out for me.

Everything on Iona has a name. each physical feature of the island has been part of a specific human experience and therefore thought worthy of bearing a name….

These many names are a testimony to the human scale of life on Iona. As the scale of physical size diminishes as one travels to the island-England, Scotland, Mull, Iona-the scale of individuals and spiritual significance increases. Walking is the maximum desirable speed for seeing things fully enough to name them. And when we name things we begin to value them. No wonder we want to be named and known. (37)

To really see and fully enter into the world around us we must walk not run or drive. And when we walk we want to name everything and everyone.  We say hello to the people we meet, we look at the flowers and mention them by name, we watch the birds and identify the species. We even like to give our own names to landmarks we pass and houses we enjoy.

To give something an appropriate name that reflects its nature, we must be able to see it fully. To continue appreciating it we need to slow down and notice, not once but regularly. Only in walking or in stillness is this possible.

 

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