Today I was up very early as I had to be in Oban sheriff’s court for 10.00am.
As I left the house (7.30) the temperature gauge on my car read -3. As I drove away from the Clyde, it dropped to -6. At those temperatures, all the moisture in the air is sculpted onto the tree branches and blades of grass as white ice crystals. It was stunning.
Around the head of Loch Fyne, the water’s edge had frozen solid. In fact, the whole shore line was covered in a blue coat of blue-white ice, all several inches thick. Loch Fyne is a sea loch, so I can only assume that at certain states of tide, the slack conditions mean that the fresh water dominates, raising the freezing temperature.
I drove on past Inveraray, and up into the hills, over towards Loch Awe. And never was a name so apt- with the backdrop of stunning now covered mountains, and the deep blue sky for contrast.
I had a discussion with my friend Nick the other day about the nature of wilderness. We are still trying to finalise a book of meditations for use in the wild places. He had written something based around the Biblical idea of wilderness as desolation- of removal and isolation from God. However, for me, and perhaps for many people who are over used to a domesticated or urban landscape, wilderness is perhaps a wonderful idea- rich with the possibility of a Created place, unsullied and unpolluted- wild and untamed.
This idea became all the more real to me today, as I heard a story.
Standing in Oban court house with some of the other witnesses, I was discussing the journey, and the state of the roads, and the stags I had seen in the white field next to the Loch. A nice woman, who is a ward sister at Oban Lorn and the Isles General Hospital was part of the conversation.
And she told me that a few months previously, she had been heading to a training course in Dunoon, also early in the morning, and had been forced to swerve on the road past Kilchurn Castle as there was a dead deer in the road that had obviously been killed by a car fairly recently. Then she saw a large black shape near the wall.
Stopping the car, she watched in amazement as a large black cat, about the size of a leopard jumped the stone wall, and padded over the fields into the forest. It had been feeding on the dead deer.
There have been stories (Check out this article here.) Half glimpsed shapes at the forest edge. Big heavy deer dragged into the undergrowth by a powerful animal that simply should not be here… There have been sightings in Aberdeen, and many in Argyll. I always doubted them- there was no solid evidence, and after all, there is the bloomin’ Loch Ness monster!
But this lady- she was a nice, sensible person, who was not playing the story for shock value. She was in no doubt as to what she had seen.
As I drove the road on the way home, my eyes kept flicking accross to the forest edge. The possibility of yellow eyes watching me past was always there.
Nature red in tooth and claw. And right here.