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.]

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.

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.]

Algy slept for a long, long time after the excitement of his Magical Midwinter Star party, and when he awoke, it was January. Rubbing his eyes sleepily he flew up to a perch in a pine tree, to inspect the brave new world, but the world had gone. He rubbed his eyes again, but still there was nothing there… nothing but dense, dark Scotch mist… It was January indeed…

It was Earth Day, and a huge wave of dense white mist was rolling in from the sea again. Soon it would cover everything, and both land and sea would be obscured. Algy perched at the edge of the dunes, watching the mist approach, and wondering whether human beings would manage to avoid destroying their own home. Their ways bewildered him; all he could do was hope for the best, because he rather liked the Earth himself. As he felt the first cold droplets of the mist tickle his feathers, he thought of a poem by a particularly talented and thoughtful human, Mary Oliver:

Somewhere
    a black bear
      has just risen from sleep
         and is staring

down the mountain.
    All night
      in the brisk and shallow restlessness
         of early spring

I think of her,
    her four black fists
      flicking the gravel,
         her tongue

like a red fire
    touching the grass,
      the cold water.
         There is only one question:

how to love this world.
    I think of her
      rising
         like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
    the silence
      of the trees.
         Whatever else

my life is
    with its poems
      and its music
         and its glass cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
    coming
      down the mountain,
         breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her—
    her white teeth,
      her wordlessness,
         her perfect love.

[Algy is quoting the poem Spring from the collection House of Light by the contemporary American poet Mary Oliver.]

Algy was trying to help his assistant finish his book, but his mind kept dozing and drifting and he just couldn’t seem to concentrate. It had been a long, long, weary winter, and all he wanted to do was rest. So he reclined against the tall Marram grasses, lazily watching the grey mist roll in from the sea, and dreamed of this and that. He was reminded of a poem by Longfellow:

          Becalmed upon the sea of Thought,
          Still unattained the land it sought,
          My mind, with loosely-hanging sails,
          Lies waiting the auspicious gales.

          On either side, behind, before,
          The ocean stretches like a floor, –
          A level floor of amethyst,
          Crowned by a golden dome of mist.

          Blow, breath of inspiration, blow!
          Shake and uplift this golden glow!
          And fill the canvas of the mind
          With wafts of thy celestial wind.

          Blow, breath of song! until I feel
          The straining sail, the lifting keel,
          The life of the awakening sea,
          Its motion and its mystery!

[Algy is quoting the poem Becalmed by the 19th century American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.]

The weather had taken a most peculiar turn, bringing pale, drifting mists that hovered around the islands and floated in and out from the sea across the land all day. Algy flew up to a rocky perch to admire the view, and noticed that everything seemed strangely flat in the diffuse light. There wasn’t the slightest sign of green on the peat bogs or moorland yet, but there was a definite change in the air, and Algy knew that the West Highland spring had arrived.