The ferry trolls the Firth of Lorn from Oban across the greenish-cast and rippled-glass waters to the eyrie of Mull. Sandwiched between the open top deck and the taciturn sky, a crowd of people and dogs gaze at emeralds of land cresting the waves slashed apart by our bow. Kerrera and other nameless blips drift by on winds stiff with salt. The boat rocks beneath me, jarring loose northern glimpses of the Morvern peninsula and even the basalt and gabbro precipices of the Black Cuillin of Skye. The last vestiges of Oban’s woodsmoke slip off our stern, and the Firth of Lorn wraps us in a noisy embrace. I shoulder down a narrow metal stair and watch as an ivy-bearded castle disappears into the woods of Dunollie.
These brilliant islands in the gray water are like so many ideas sparking to life in gray matter, eaten away by time or too much thought. Shipwrecked and bobbing, spluttering water and thrashing in the night, such a sight would be life given back. For a time, at least; the end will come there, too. I look at the families and couples and solo travelers on the deck with me and wonder how many of us are trapped on islands in our minds, praying for the Waterhorse or the Selkie to have mercy and carry us across the waters. Their absence in the waves is answer enough: swim.