Flaming June…

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For days and days and days – that felt like weeks and months and years – the dense Scotch mist had smothered the West Highlands of Scotland with a dark and exceedingly thick wet blanket. Algy had heard a distant rumour that this would be the hottest, sunniest weekend of the year to date… in the UK…

So, in the middle of the afternoon, in the middle of the year, Algy perched on a dripping fence post and studied the moss growing on top of the post in front of him. As most of the world had vanished, it was almost all he could see, but he was glad to discover that at least some things seemed to thrive in these conditions…

Flaming June, they call it.

April is the Cruellest Month…

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Most days were grey – either cold, damp and dreary, or drenched in heavy rain and dense Scotch mist. But from time to time the sun shone, and then Algy found a perch where he could feel a wee bit warmer and drier, and watch the play of light on the sea or the wee burn which had found itself a new path across the beach, twisting in and out of the masses of rock in a mysteriously elaborate pattern.

It was undoubtedly spring; the light was much stronger, the days were much longer, and the skylarks were singing merrily above the sand dunes… and yet the air was cold and the wind was sharp. Algy was inevitably reminded of T. S. Eliot’s famous opening lines from The Waste Land:

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

[Algy is quoting the opening lines of that most famous of early 20th century poems, The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot.]

Encounter on the Hill

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Algy had a strange encounter on the hill last week…

Shortly after this photo was taken, the black coo cautiously approached Algy, one step at a time, evidently unsure what this strange creature might be. Eventually the coo came close enough to reach out and discover whether a fluffy bird was something a hielan’ coo could eat… Of course Algy knew that coos do not eat birds, but nevertheless he thought it prudent to consider the “encounter” at an end at that point, and fly away to a safer spot where he could not be munched by a large, hairy animal 🙂

Des Menschen Seele Gleicht dem Wasser

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Algy flew down to the Sound and perched in a gorse bush already covered in February gold. It was a stormy day, with rapidly alternating phases of darkness and light, and many heavy showers were sweeping in along the Sound from the open ocean. Algy was thinking of some of his friends, who were threatened by dark storm clouds in their own lives, and as he watched the next wave of clouds approach he sang one of his favourite “songs” for them:

Des Menschen Seele
Gleicht dem Wasser:
Vom Himmel kommt es,
Zum Himmel steigt es,
Und wieder nieder
Ewig wechselnd

The human soul
is like water:
it comes from heaven,
it rises to heaven,
and again it must descend to earth
in an eternal alternation.

Listen to this beautiful recording of Gesang der Geister über den Wassern in a setting by Schubert, performed by the Vienna Vocalists and the String Ensemble of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

[Algy is singing part of Gesang der Geister über den Wassern (The Song of the Spirit over the Waters) by the late 18th/early 19th century German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. You can read the full text of the poem in German and English, but Algy feels that the English translation given there does not do full justice to the original.]

By a Rock Pool…

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The next day brought no change in the weather: the outside world, if it still existed, was lost somewhere beyond a never ending mass of dense Scotch mist. Visibility was reduced to a few hundred yards at best, and the small part of the world which seemed to remain was blurry and grey.

Algy flew down to the sea, and gazed in the direction where the islands should have been… but as there was nothing out there except a pale, wet fuzziness which drove in among his feathers with surprising force, he decided to find a sheltered spot among the rocks and focus on his more immediate surroundings instead. Even when the rest of the world had vanished, there was plenty to see in the rock pools, so Algy perched on a cold, damp rock at the edge of a pool and spent a happy if damp and chilly half hour watching the tiny creatures beneath the surface going about their daily business…

A Lonesome Bog…

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The mist was down again. There had been a few clear, sunny days earlier in the week, and Algy had even seen some bright blue sky at times, but such conditions rarely lasted long on the wild west coast of the Scottish Highlands, for the north Atlantic weather systems ensured an almost constant supply of clouds and rain.

Algy found himself a damp perch on a clump of soggy grasses and heather, and gazed into a spontaneous bog pool which was strewn with last year’s grasses, tossed about by the wind. Despite the cold, grey wetness of it all, Algy could detect a change in the air. The rain and the mist and the wind might not stop, but Algy knew that the winter was almost over, and any day now the skylarks would start to sing again, announcing the beginning of a new spring. So Algy peered into the water, wondering whether any frogs were sleeping down below, and murmured one of his favourite silly poems in case they might be listening:

The moon came late to a lonesome bog,
And there sat Goggleky Gluck, the frog.
“My stars!” she cried, and veiled her face,
“What very grand people they have in this place!”

Algy wishes you all a very happy weekend 🙂

[Algy is reciting the short poem The moon came late by the 19th century American writer Mary Mapes Dodge.]

Return of the Light

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An icy wind had begun to blow from the bitter north-east, but it brought much brighter, clearer, and decidedly fresher weather. Algy could see that the world was tilting rapidly towards the northern spring now, and light was returning to the wild West Highlands of Scotland. The dreaded darkness of winter was receding faster every day, and although it was still very cold, all the birds were rejoicing, including Algy 🙂 He perched happily on the branch of a still-dormant birch tree, and gazed at the sky. Spring was on its way!

Algy hopes that even if you are feeling cold this weekend, your world will be filled with new light 🙂