Still Waiting…

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A cold breeze was starting to whistle across the water, and Algy began to feel a wee bit exposed and chilly out in the open. Looking across to the other side of the slipway, he observed an odd structure which he could see right through, more or less. It was open on one side, and apparently contained a long, silvery perch, possibly for the convenience of those who might seek protection from the wind…

He flew over to the object and inspected it cautiously, trying to determine whether it would be acceptable for a fluffy bird to enter and wait within. A mysterious notice to one side read “RNLI PERSONNEL ONLY”, and for a moment Algy thought that it might be intended to prohibit fluffy birds from the area. But after careful inspection he concluded that although he wasn’t quite sure what the notice meant, it seemed to apply to an area beyond the transparent structure and not to the structure itself. So, as there was no-one else taking advantage of the shelter, Algy eventually decided that there would be no harm in his resting inside, out of the biting wind, while he continued to wait for some transport back home. He settled himself on the edge of the strangely uncomfortable, slatted perch, swinging his legs idly to and fro, and with little else to do except consider the store of poetry he kept inside his head, he began to recite quietly:

Today I will let the old boat stand
Where the sweep of the harbor tide comes in
To the pulse of a far, deep-steady sway.
And I will rest and dream and sit on the deck
Watching the world go by
And take my pay for many hard days gone I remember.

I will choose what clouds I like
In the great white fleets that wander the blue
As I lie on my back or loaf at the rail.
And I will listen as the veering winds kiss me and fold me
And put on my brow the touch of the world’s great will.

Daybreak will hear the heart of the boat beat,
Engine throb and piston play
In the quiver and leap at call of life.
To-morrow we move in the gaps and heights
On changing floors of unlevel seas
And no man shall stop us and no man follow
For ours is the quest of an unknown shore
And we are husky and lusty and shouting-gay.

[Algy is reciting the poem Waiting by the 20th century American poet Carl Sandburg.]

The Mist

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As the glorious West Highland summer continued, Algy reclined on the dripping leaves of a garden hedge, wondering how long it would take for the tiny droplets of dense mist to soak right through his feathers. There was no point looking out to sea, as the sea had not been visible for quite some time. And there was no point watching the sky, as the sky had long since vanished. So Algy struck up a conversation with a song thrush who, despite the weather, had been yodelling vigorously in a tree nearby. The thrush was not a particularly well-read bird, so for his benefit Algy recited an appropriate poem, in the hope that the thrush would add it to his repertoire:

I am the mist, the impalpable mist,
Back of the thing you seek.
My arms are long,
Long as the reach of time and space.

Some toil and toil, believing,
Looking now and again on my face,
Catching a vital, olden glory.

But no one passes me,
I tangle and snare them all.
I am the cause of the Sphinx,
The voiceless, baffled, patient Sphinx.

I was at the first of things,
I will be at the last.
I am the primal mist
And no man passes me;
My long impalpable arms
Bar them all.

[Algy is reciting the poem The Mist by the 20th century American poet Carl Sandburg.]

The wind was relentless, and it was blowing sand everywhere. It wasn’t long before Algy’s eyes and beak and feathers and hair were all full of sand, so he shook himself off and retreated to the relative shelter of a clump of Marram grass growing in the middle of the beach. As he dug himself into a sand pocket, he watched the wind fill in the footprints of the sandpipers and other seabirds. It only took a few moments to erase their tracks across the beach, and it reminded Algy of a poem:

The wind stops, the wind begins.
The wind says stop, begin.

A sea shovel scrapes the sand floor.
The shovel changes, the floor changes.

The sandpipers, maybe they know.
Maybe a three-pointed foot can tell.
Maybe the fog moon they fly to, guesses.

The sandpipers cheep “Here” and get away.
Five of them fly and keep together flying.

Night hair of some sea woman
Curls on the sand when the sea leaves
The salt tide without a good-by.

Boxes on the beach are empty.
Shake ‘em and the nails loosen.
They have been somewhere.

[Algy is quoting the poem Sand Scribblings by the 20th century American poet Carl Sandburg.]

Algy perched on the lighthouse rocks, and gazed out across the moody sea towards the Small Isles of the Inner Hebrides, which were looking unusually menacing on the horizon. The colours of the sea and sky were those of January, and yet it was August. There was certainly something very strange about the world this year, and it did not feel quite right at all. But even in the worst summer in living memory, the sea was infinitely appealing, whatever its mood, and there was nothing Algy liked more than to perch beside the water, watching its constantly changing motion and the ebb and flow of the tide. Just as Carl Sandburg said, Algy is “a loon about the sea”:

The sea is large.
The sea hold on a leg of land in the Chesapeake hugs an early sunset and a last morning star over the oyster beds and the late clam boats of lonely men.
Five white houses on a half-mile strip of land … five white dice rolled from a tube.

Not so long ago … the sea was large…
And to-day the sea has lost nothing … it keeps all.

I am a loon about the sea.
I make so many sea songs, I cry so many sea cries, I forget so many sea songs and sea cries.

I am a loon about the sea.
So are five men I had a fish fry with once in a tar-paper shack trembling in a sand storm.

The sea knows more about them than they know themselves.
They know only how the sea hugs and will not let go.

The sea is large.
The sea must know more than any of us.

[Algy is quoting the poem The Sea Hold by the 20th century American poet Carl Sandburg.]

Algy leaned back on the rocks, watching the sea swirl all around him. The tide had just turned and was starting to retreat, so he felt quite at ease perching close to the water. Occasionally the spray splashed his toes, but only with a pleasant sort of sprinkling. As he gazed across the bay, he saw the silver flash of a fish jumping out of the sea, many white spurts of water as several gannets dived from the sky a wee bit further away, and – way out to sea, nearly on the horizon – several much larger splashes sparkling in the bright light and apparently travelling across the ocean, which he knew must be a pod of dolphins leaping and playing together in the sun. The sea creatures were very active today, and the scene reminded him of a poem:

I have lived in many half-worlds myself … and so I know you.

I leaned at a deck rail watching a monotonous sea, the same circling birds and the same plunge of furrows carved by the plowing keel.

I leaned so … and you fluttered struggling between two waves in the air now … and then under the water and out again … a fish … a bird … a fin thing … a wing thing.

Child of water, child of air, fin thing and wing thing … I have lived in many half worlds myself … and so I know you.

[Algy is quoting the poem Flying Fish by the 20th century American poet Carl Sandburg.]

As most of Algy’s friends will know by now, Algy has been spending this weekend celebrating three years of The Adventures of Algy on Tumblr. (Join Algy on lovefromalgy for his all-weekend dance party.)

Algy’s very first adventure was posted on Tumblr on 13th March 2012. On that day, young Algy perched on a rock in the sea and quoted this poem, which he repeats now from a different rock, to celebrate three incredible years:

          The sea-wash never ends.
          The sea-wash repeats, repeats.
          Only old songs? Is that all the sea knows?
                     Only the old strong songs?
                     Is that all?
          The sea-wash repeats, repeats.

Algy thanks you all very much indeed for your wonderful kindness, congratulations and good wishes on the occasion of his 3rd Tumblr birthday xoxo

One of Algy’s Tumblr friends asked Algy to tell his assistant that “we want to celebrate with all of you the 100th birthday of those adventures“. Even 3 years of adventures is really quite a lot for a fluffy bird, and 100 years sounds quite alarming! But who knows, maybe Algy’s adventures will still be carrying on through his books – if not on Tumblr itself – in 100 years time! He hopes so 🙂 Perhaps, like the sea-wash, Algy’s adventures will never end…

[ Algy is quoting Sea-Wash by the 20th century American poet Carl Sandburg; the poem originally appeared in the February 1920 issue of Poetry magazine. Listen to Sea-Wash at the Poetry Foundation. ]

Algy decided that it might be prudent to retreat to a higher spot, before the tide advanced any further. Unfortunately the higher ground is always more exposed, but then a fluffy bird can’t have everything! So Algy found an elevated perch with an excellent view, only slightly obscured by the wind constantly blowing his hair into his eyes… As he gazed at the never-ending tumult of the sea crashing and swirling around the rocks below, he was reminded of a poem by Carl Sandburg:

          The sea is never still.
          It pounds on the shore
          Restless as a young heart,
          Hunting.

          The sea speaks
          And only the stormy hearts
          Know what it says:
          It is the face
             of a rough mother speaking.

          The sea is young.
          One storm cleans all the hoar
          And loosens the age of it.
          I hear it laughing, reckless.

          They love the sea,
          Men who ride on it
          And know they will die
          Under the salt of it.

          Let only the young come,
          Says the sea.

          Let them kiss my face
            And hear me.
          I am the last word
            And I tell
          Where storms and stars come from.

[ Algy is quoting the poem Young Sea by the 20th century American poet Carl Sandburg. ]