Loch Ness was a schoolboy fixation that first started when I saw a grainy black and white photograph appear in the daily news claiming to report a strange sort of entity living in the murky depths of the lake. That the photograph as well as the legend was subsequently proven to be a large imaginative leap on the part of the photographer (along with some tricky light effects) did nothing to stop the tourist onslaught that descended on the beautiful countryside where I have lived most of my life. A legend was born and I watched it happen.
Not that I watched it with much fondness. Everything about it was farcical, including the tourist guides which purportedly mentioned it as if it was a proven piece of history. Everyone smiled and photographed themselves standing alongside the loch, as if waiting for the moment of photo-graphical inspiration when the click and flash of the camera would be accompanied by a huge upheaval of water, and the beast in the background would offer an appropriate growl and disappear back under, having satisfied both the voyeur as well as the naturalist.
Museums were dedicated to Ness, restaurants and cafe menus claimed to serve various dishes 'inspired' by it, leading me to wonder, had someone bravely fished it out with a giant hook and proceeded to coldly dispatch it to storage, to serve it with gusto and feed more than just tourist imagination ? Was that why there was no loch ness monster anymore?
Libraries dedicated entire sections to the tale, and by the time the media caught up with the folklore, a legend was born with enough momentum to turn a quiet countryside into a frenzied tourist trap. Bustling came the bus-loads, looking for signs, and you know, when you look for something, you always find it. There was always enough to fuel the mad, and the rest was pure business.
Thereby grew the legend, the legend fueled the research and finally there was no option but to wait until the technology existed to dredge the bottom, and settle the question once and for all. From a purely commercial point of view, it would be scarier had a monster not existed there. Needless to say, there was a faction that did not want to settle the issue at all. If nothing were found, all you would get then would be a piece of lake, slightly larger than some others, and it wasn't even clear water. Murky black, with a taste that clung to your insides and changed something in there. But more about that later. I digress.
I loved Loch Ness. Of the several fascinations I've actively harbored, this one was the most difficult to rationalize. While the cynic in me viewed the myth with much skepticism, the romantic in me felt close to the land, close to the lake. I wondered why people came looking for a monster, when the very black, peat colored waters, the shimmer of the evening light on the eerily quiet body of water would have been more than enough to satisfy my soul. Why look for fairies at the bottom of the garden?
No, this was beauty and let the masses worry about the monster. Having hiked to the lake and drunk deep from its waters again one brightly lit night, I shall, I decided, spend a while 'soaking in' the feel of the countryside while touring through the highlands. I shall visit Loch Ness again and again. Yes, I shall drink again from the waters of Loch Ness so as to make it a part of me permanently, and then no monster or angel would trick me into desiring more than the magic that was already there. I felt an ache. I cannot explain or rationalize. Like you love the ocean, I love the loch. I began to hover there at night without much fuss or explanations to anybody else. Nobody was a witness. No one saw the change. Nothing I could say would explain the longing I had to make my way to the calm waters, feel the evening air alongside its glowing surface, creep into it and pat its surface, scampering away the insects that suddenly seemed rather delicious to me.
It was the most blissful feeling I had ever had, and not even the subsequent tourists continuously aiming their cameras at me and merrily clicking away could disturb my nonchalant pastime.