Mill pond calms, fold and stretch across Loch Shiel
as Captain Jim reverently nudges his beloved Sileas
through timeless waters, black, raven black waters.
They demand nothing but the respect
of their silver edged years. No more than they’ve earned.
And when they slow to a motionless, velvet sheen,
the high mountains of Moidart
rise from the depths
in a reflected peace that has been layered
down through the generations
with the tears of joy, and of pain,
of those who have toiled the shores of Shiel.
A peace broken only by the rhythmic beat
of the boat’s engine padding out a gentle Air
with whispering grace notes of diesel
and nurtured effort drifting past me.
Some of them stopping to infuse with the dram
I’m guarding in a wee plastic cup
with a contented grin
in a smoky blend that draws the mind
to the charcoal burning days
on the foreshores, of birch and oak of then,
where now the uniformed brigades of Spruce
await their felling orders.
The Sabbath sun like a single, sickly candle
stumbles through a languid hole in the grey canvas.
A canvas of petulant clouds, shoving and nudging
in the cramped space between the blurred horizons of Moidart.
Amidst the gloaming shrouded crags where
the eagle with majestic aloofness maintains a watch
over our steady progress past Glenalladale
pushing its green curved edges out in to the wildness beyond.
This Place of MacDonalds and a restless beauty emptied
when the White Rose wilted.
Petals blown in the winds of the sorrow
that the Butcher’s judgement passed upon it.
We puddle onwards where a cormorant
with a grumpy glare and no time to stop
crumples past to gather a bag of fish farm fry
if any have escaped their pumped out and poured in confusion.
Past the bald head of a rock
not big enough to lay claim
to sovereignty of its heather gripped tower
but where a chorus of common gulls shriek
out a dozen tunes at once
just to let us know that they can.
And we pause at Garscan, a white smudge
on the velvet green solitude
with its shiny new roof betraying the harsh reality
of those who bore the seasons
before its freshly rippled metal hat
was nailed to its bleached old bones.
The rickety old pier
like the bony twisted hand of wisdom
pointing the way home to Captain Jim
who turns us reluctantly
to follow the horizon back to raise the Standard.
Yet my mind is on more urgent matters
a pint of dark, Glenfinnan Dark
and the comforting edge of an embered hearth
to warm my contented soul
with fish and chips
safe from the Cormorant’s beady eye.