Islay’s Oa Peninsula seems to stretch on in trackless infinity. Hilly farmsteads and wide, empty wastes run off to the winds pulling electric blue across the heavens. I park the car and hike over grassy mounds and mucky declivities toward a spire in the distance: the American Monument, a marker for those that died on the HMS Tuscania from a German submarine in WWI. The familiar damp embrace of sea air slips inside my coat as I make way into the shade of a hillock. Deep, animalistic moans hammer my ears, and I break my downcast gaze to find myself surrounded by massive, shaggy beasts. Some say Highland Cow, others say Heelan’ Coo, and, at that moment, I thought: horned guardian of the Oa.
The beast towered over me, still as a stone yet blowing in the wind. Beneath his furry brow, I imagined he judged whether I was fit to pass into the lands beyond. My deference was his posture: a head bow, a returned look, stillness. This natural majesty is leaving the world, and we have cordoned off its fade from our view. I might have stayed there a lot longer had I not feared gory retribution. Then again, animals seem not ruled by such petty afflictions, humanity.