Fall, Leaves, Fall on Algy

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The weather was changing rapidly, and it looked as though it would be Algy’s last chance to enjoy the beautiful autumn leaves on the trees. Despite the frequent icy showers of rain and hail, the sky cleared at times. Algy waited all day for a good break in the cloud, and was eventually rewarded with some late afternoon sunshine. So he perched on a low branch of his favourite silver birch tree and watched the golden leaves drift down gently all around him to the ground.

         Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
         Lengthen night and shorten day;
         Every leaf speaks bliss to me
         Fluttering from the autumn tree.

[From the poem Fall, leaves, fall by Emily Brontë.]

Note: the animation may be jerky while it loads, but will then play properly.
Algy hopes that perfectionists will overlook the compression artefacts and lack of colour depth – Tumblr imposes heavy restraints on animated GIFs.

Algy Sings Puirt-à-Beul to a Fallen Pine

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Algy was in high spirits on this beautiful afternoon but he felt sad when he saw that a whole row of large Scots Pine trees, which had lined the edge of the beach leading to the old castle, had been uprooted by last winter’s storms. So he settled on one of the toppled branches, and sang puirt-à-beul (mouth music) at the top of his voice, to try to comfort the fallen tree.

Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately – Algy made no recording of his singing, but other, much better singers have recorded their puirt-à-beul. Try listening to Catherine-Ann MacPhee from the island of Barra, across the water from Algy’s home – she sings puirt-à-beul in just the way that Algy would like to – or to Mary Ann Kennedy, who lives in Algy’s area of the West Highlands of Scotland.

Algy Sits Rapt On Shore

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Algy flew out of the forest and onwards to one of the loveliest parts of the peninsula. There he spent a happy few hours exploring the woods and shore in the golden afternoon sun. Reclining on the dry heather, he watched the tide running up into the sea loch, and thought:

         when all the golden birds
         fly home across the blue deep water;
         On shore I sit rapt in its scattering
                                                       glitter;

         departure rustles through the trees.
         This farewell is vast and separation draws close,
         but reunion, that also is certain.

[From the poem Now it is fall by the early 20th century Finnish poet Edith Södergran, translated from the Swedish by Averill Curdy.]

Algy Lets Nature Be His Teacher

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The autumn weather remained cold, but it was bright and inviting. Algy felt that he needed a break from his daily chores, so he set off to look for new adventures. After flying for twenty miles or so, he paused to rest on the mossy floor of the temperate rainforest. Watching the light play through the trees while a robin trilled nearby, Algy was reminded of a poem, even though it was intended for a different season. So he offered this advice to his friends:

         Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
         Or surely you’ll grow double:
         Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
         Why all this toil and trouble?

         The sun above the mountain’s head,
         A freshening lustre mellow
         Through all the long green fields has spread,
         His first sweet evening yellow.

         Books! ‘tis a dull and endless strife:
         Come, hear the woodland linnet,
         How sweet his music! on my life,
         There’s more of wisdom in it.

         And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
         He, too, is no mean preacher:
         Come forth into the light of things,
         Let Nature be your teacher.

[From the poem The Tables Turned by William Wordsworth.]

Algy Appreciates a Hushed October Morning

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The wind changed, and the rain cleared to bring a beautiful, calm October day. Algy flew into a cherry tree, and spent a peaceful morning watching the breeze ripple through the autumn leaves in gentle rhythms of colour and light.

         O hushed October morning mild,
         Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
         Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
         Should waste them all.
         The crows above the forest call;
         Tomorrow they may form and go.
         O hushed October morning mild,
         Begin the hours of this day slow.
         Make the day seem to us less brief.

[From the poem October by Robert Frost.]

Algy Greets All His Friends

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In Algy’s wee corner of the West Highlands it has been raining for two days straight, but Algy is happy because he has made new friends on Tumblr. He greets all his friends, near and far, and hopes they are happy and at peace. He says:

          If I were to live my life
          in catfish forms
          in scaffolds of skin and whiskers
          at the bottom of a pond
          and you were to come by
              one evening
          when the moon was shining
          down into my dark home
          and stand there at the edge
             of my affection
          and think, “It’s beautiful
          here by this pond.  I wish
             somebody loved me,”
          I’d love you and be your catfish
          friend and drive such lonely
          thoughts from your mind
          and suddenly you would be
             at peace,
          and ask yourself, “I wonder
          if there are any catfish
          in this pond?  It seems like
          a perfect place for them.”

[Algy quotes Richard Brautigan’s poem Your Catfish Friend.]

Mull was Astern, Rùm on the Port, Eigg on the Starboard Bow

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Algy sailed his sky boat back to his home in the Sea of the Hebrides. As they sped across the water like a bird on the wing, he sang of another Skye Boat which crossed the same sea.

Algy first learned this song many years ago, when he was just a tiny wee chick. The magical names of the islands remained forever linked in his mind with the haunting Gaelic melody. Little did he realise that one day he would live among those very islands…

As he was so very young at the time, it was the gentler lyrics by Robert Louis Stevenson which he was taught to sing to this famous lament:

          Mull was astern, Rùm on the port,
                Eigg on the starboard bow;
          Glory of youth glowed in his soul;
                Where is that glory now?

          Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
                Say, could that lad be I?
          Merry of soul he sailed on a day
                Over the sea to Skye.
          …

          Billow and breeze, islands and seas,
                Mountains of rain and sun,
          All that was good, all that was fair,
                All that was me is gone.

[Algy is singing Robert Louis Stevenson’s (Scottish) version of the Skye Boat Song: Sing me a Song of a Lad that is Gone. The more familiar lyrics of this song were written by an Englishman, Sir Harold Boulton. Both versions were composed in the late 19th century, long after the Jacobite Rising which they commemorate, and were set to the tune of a much older Gaelic song. Sometimes the two sets of lyrics are combined.

Listen to a traditional folk version of the Skye Boat Song performed live by The McCalmans at Arisaig, close to Algy’s home, or to a version played on the bagpipes.]

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