Friday, 20 March 2009
Image Left: Juvenile Cormorant
Wednesday 18th March
It seemed like I had spent the best part of the afternoon travelling backwards and forwards over the bay in Ella, our smallest boat. The island had largely emptied of guests and residents; the guests had gone to Iona for the day and the residents on a shopping trip to Oban. As ferryman I stayed behind and took advantage of a lull in passengers to visit Jimmy’s lagoon. Spring had swept in with clear skies and a gentle breeze that began to die as the afternoon wore on. The small swell out in the sound was almost a welcome percussion after the flat waters inside the bay. The sun was already hovering out over the Atlantic just high enough above the haze to render fully the contrast between the white sands, turquoise waters and the dome of a blue sky.
The lagoon or lagoons sit amongst humpback monoliths of granite giving the effect of an oversized zen garden. The rocks open via sandy channels directly onto the sound of Iona allowing the passage of the swell. I lifted the outboard onto its shallow setting and navigated a course around any patches of weed that broke the surface. I struggled to gauge the depth of water, its clarity was no help neither was the featureless sandy bottom. Cutting the engine, I drifted for a while, the breeze pushing me gently in the direction of a sunbathing cormorant perched on a rock. I wondered how close the boat would drift before it took flight, the answer came as one of the fenders began to gently rub on the rock. The cormorant a juvenile, watched me fish around for the boathook before it disembarked with a half hearted flap and graceless dive. Up until I had begun to wield a boat hook, the cormorant had probably decided I was somehow part of the boat, maybe a more vital extension but a part all the same.
When I take the tractor across the sand to collect logs the wading birds and geese in the bay seldom pay any heed until I am on top of them. Creatures that would skitter at the distant site of lone human, can almost completely ignore four ton of moving tractor. As a species we have managed at least to imprint ourselves within the DNA of other species as a threat but as yet we have not added the tractor. Maybe it is not the form that animals respond to but the ego, when I drive I am part of the machine the steering wheel or outboard gives me feedback like limbs and my awareness extends to width and depth of my larger body; I am a giant clad in metal or timber. Does the cormorant look on me as a benign giant? When I hold the boat hook does the mirage slip? Maybe he sees the ghost in the machine; I am man, destroyer of worlds. I spotted some returning guests making their way over Jimmy’s fields and headed back out into the sound and then turned towards the bay and the jetty.
Image Right: Kelp in shallows