Inchtavannach, Inchconochan, Inchmoan, Inchcruin
Our first canoe of 2016 begins with tentative optimism. The smir of drizzle clings on- no sign of the promised clearance, but we go. We go because there has to be an end to the rain, even if we only will it.
Our optimism is quietly rewarded. By Aldochlay the grey smir has seeped away into a sheen of silver with the sun illuminating faintly from behind. It is enough to put out in, thinking we could get a turn of Inchtavanich at least. Winter’s ceaseless rain means the loch is a good metre higher than usual and we will have to take care for submerged hazards.
The water is flat calm, in it the sky is polished labradorite. Shimmeressence, says Brian. A good word for it; I consider, and consequently, shimmerescent.
On our last exploration of these Western shore islands in the summer we observed a pair of ospreys by Inchcruin. Too early now the bare pines reach arms to the sky in expectation of their nesting visitors. We are waiting, they whisper in the ghostly air. We are waiting, echoes the water. We are waiting, is the soft voice of the earth on the slopes of Conic Hill and Ben Lomond. For warmth, for growth, for company.
We are here! gaggle the flocks of Canada geese, beating their wings in the air as the lift off from behind us. The loch is theirs for now and they tolerate us.
Paddling eastwards long arms of sunlight break through the filmy grey and the water is luminous with it; warmth dispels the murk of winter for the first time this year, and like all growing things we bend into its embrace. Nothing is more welcome. Low in the sky it is blinding. I paddle by instinct, by every other sense. This is the spell of the early spring sun; momentary but powerful enough to erase the memory of storms and floods.
Rounding Inchmoan we spot deer. Two- who pause to observe the strange creatures on the water. They don’t startle, we are a curiosity rather than a threat. The islands are theirs entirely but it will not last. In another month the tour boats will be passing to and fro, the roar of powerboats and jet skis will punctuate this rare peace. The day trippers, children dogs and everything else that descends on Loch Lomond once the weather is tolerable.
Today, however, but for the birds and the deer we are entirely alone, a reward for our tenacity perhaps or an invitation to return. We will now and soon, and in their own time, the ospreys to the pines of Inchcruin.