Although the river was beautiful, it lacked the soft intimacy of the wee burn which joined it. Algy was fascinated by the clear, shallow water sparkling over its dark bed of stones and peat, and by all the green ferns and mosses which thrived in the damp environment. There were so many tiny details to study; every part of the burn and its banks seemed alive and busy.

Listen to the sounds of the burn, with the river in the background, just as Algy heard them …


This is the sound of the wee burn which Algy watched as it trickled over its peaty bed through the mosses and ferns to join the river behind him.

A wee bit further back from the banks of the river, Algy found a large rocky mound covered in deep moss and fallen leaves. Between these rocks and the water lay the course of an ancient path through the woods. As Algy reclined on his soft bed, dreamily watching the river and listening to the rustling leaves, he was inevitably reminded of the famous poem by Rudyard Kipling:

          They shut the road through the woods
          Seventy years ago.
          Weather and rain have undone it again,
          And now you would never know
          There was once a road through the woods
          Before they planted the trees.
          It is underneath the coppice and heath
          And the thin anemones.
          Only the keeper sees
          That, where the ring-dove broods,
          And the badgers roll at ease,
          There was once a road through the woods.

          Yet, if you enter the woods
          Of a summer evening late,
          When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
          Where the otter whistles his mate,
          (They fear not men in the woods,
          Because they see so few.)
          You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet,
          And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
          Steadily cantering through
          The misty solitudes,
          As though they perfectly knew
          The old lost road through the woods …
          But there is no road through the woods.

Algy had been wandering for some time in the woods and had lost his sense of direction. But eventually he found his way to a sunlit spot, where a wee trickling burn wound its way into a faster flowing river. It was very pretty there, and the sounds of the water were soothing, so he sat on the mossy bank, to rest and watch the bright water making its way towards the sea. Algy knew that if he followed the river he would soon be able to find his way home again.

(Algy apologises to those of his friends who may have missed him while he was absent. He is very sorry to have deserted you, but he lost his way for a while.)

On the next day, Algy awoke to find the world full of colour again. The wind had gone round to the north, and everything looked fresh and bright and clean. Algy leaned back against the grassy rocks by the shores of the loch, and soaked up the welcome warmth of the autumn sunshine. He was reminded of some lines from a poem by Lawrence Raab:

          Although it is October, today falls into the shape
          of summer, that sense of languid promise  
          in which we are offered another
          and then another spell of flawless weather.  
          It is the weather of Sundays,
          the weather of memory, and I can see  
          myself sitting on a porch looking  
          out at water, the discreet shores  
          of a lake. Three or four white pines
          were enough of a mystery, how they shook  
          and whispered, how at night I felt them  
          leaning against my window, like the beginning
          of a story in which children must walk  
          deeper and deeper into a dark forest,  
          and are afraid, yet calm, unaware
          of the arrangements made for them to survive.

[Algy is quoting part of the poem On the Island by Lawrence Raab.]

Although it was evident from the masses of orange seaweed along the shore that this was indeed a sea loch, it was very calm compared with the more exposed lochs that Algy was used to. Everything was hushed and still, muffled by the tall trees and deep mosses. Algy closed his eyes and listened to the tiny sounds of the forest and the water. Before very long, the quiet, rhythmic breathing of a sleeping bird was added to the other gentle noises by the loch …

Algy was exploring an area which he hadn’t visited before. The trees grew taller and straighter here, and beneath them he found lovely thick carpets of soft green moss to rest on. The clouds were still hanging low over the hills, and everything was dripping wet, but the wind was beginning to change; it was veering round to the north, and Algy knew that colder, brighter autumn weather was on its way. He leaned back against a mossy tree trunk and thought of a haiku by the Japanese master Kobayashi Issa:

           water splashed
           on the stone, on the tree…
           autumn wind

mizu uchishi ishi nara ki nara aki no kaze

[Algy is quoting a translation from the Japanese by David G. Lanoue, from his extensive online collection of the Haiku of Kobayashi Issa.]

There was no denying that the weather left a lot to be desired, but at least it had stopped raining for a wee while and the mist had lifted to the hilltops. So Algy perched on a wet, grey rock by the side of the great sea loch, and gazed at the wet, grey water. Behind him, the mountains overshadowing the Glen of Weeping looked suitably grim, their heads obscured by the endless waves of moody black clouds, but Algy was more interested in the waves of the incoming tide. He idly wondered how soon the spray would reach his toes.

Like most people in the area, Algy had been unwell with “that virus”, but he was feeling somewhat better now and in need of a new adventure. He flew over to the great sea loch, and found one of his favourite viewpoints. The gorse made a very spiky perch, but he was so intent on watching the light over the loch that he hardly noticed the prickles.