I was lost in my own universe: all that mattered was the rush of endless galaxies and amber satellites coming towards me. Beyond the amber bubbles was just an enveloping and all-consuming darkness. Turning my head to the side, I inhaled on the cold air, caught a glimpse of the world above, before tucking my head back under the water. There were more galaxies to explore.
The 'galaxies' were bubbles sent up by every stroke of my arm. They raced along my forearm before becoming disconnected and free floating and rose around me as I gazed softly into the depths. The loch was so peaty that I lost sight of my fingertips - the shapes becoming uncertain in the brown water, and I looked down with relaxed eyes until my self was lost in the bubbles.
Thousands of years of ever-so-slow peat creation has resulted in this unique swimming experience. The surrounding hills are sodden with the filamentous soil: every runnel of water carries small peaty fragments, enhancing the taste and creating a slightly acidic environment. The loch itself is home to brown trout, that never quite grow to much of a size in these nutrient-poor waters. The salmon and sea trout pass through to breed in the stony burns of their conception but the best animals are those in my imagination.
When swimming across a peaty loch there's little to hold you in place. The depths pull you, but from them could come anything. Kelpies are black horses of Scottish legend that lure people into the water, whereupon they are drowned. But if I'm already in the water, could they have the same power on me? I don't know, but I don't want to test it either: luckily I've never seen one, but still my mind plays tricks and before getting in the water I have visions of something coming from the gloomy depths.
Pushing aside thoughts of kelpies, I swim on. My goggles are slowly leaking, my old hood heavy and cumbersome. By the time I get home, my new swim cap will have been delivered, making this the last swim in the old hood and I can't imagine I'll miss it much. Pausing regularly to empty my goggles, I am entranced and long to be back in the otherworld. I sigh a quiet celebration, and sink back into the water, yearning for more. The beads of amber rise past my watching eyes, so it's into them I travel, not forward, but down, further and further into the depths where the kelpie is waiting for me.
This is for Laura, who was instrumental in getting me breathing in the water again and who's wetsuit I wear.