By Saturday morning it seemed that the worst of the blizzards had passed for the time being, and the world looked somewhat brighter. As Algy perched on a soft cushion of young spruce branches near the entrance to the forest, the sun broke through the snow clouds and lit up the beautiful woodland on the far side of the deep freshwater loch. For a few bright moments, the whole world seemed transformed :))

Algy hopes that you will all have some bright moments when the world seems illuminated, this weekend xoxo

The next morning, Algy ventured back out onto the moor to see what was happening. Intermittent blizzard conditions persisted, but the snow was soft and wet and mixed with sleet, so it tended to melt partially before the next wave swept in. The wind, on the other hand, was fierce and bitter. Algy tried to keep as close to the ground as possible, with his back to the icy blasts. But even in such shelter as he could find, he noticed that all his feathers became aligned in one direction… never a good sign!

As the piercing wind stung his face, Algy remembered a rather unusual poem by Keats:

          O thou whose face hath felt the Winter’s wind,
          Whose eye has seen the snow-clouds hung in mist,
          And the black elm-tops ‘mong the freezing stars,
          To thee the Spring will be a harvest-time.
          O thou, whose only book has been the light
          Of supreme darkness which thou feddest on
          Night after night when Phoebus was away,
          To thee the Spring shall be a triple morn.
          O fret not after knowledge – I have none,
          And yet my song comes native with the warmth.
          O fret not after knowledge – I have none,
          And yet the Evening listens. He who saddens
          At thought of idleness cannot be idle,
          And he’s awake who thinks himself asleep.

[ Algy is quoting the poem The Winter’s Wind by the early 19th century English poet John Keats. ]

The weather was so unpleasant, and the wind so strong, that Algy decided it would be wise to take shelter in the great forest. Even there, the storms had taken their annual winter toll, and many trees had fallen. But a fallen tree can provide a welcome home for many wee creatures, and an excellent perch for a fluffy bird, so Algy soon found a comfortable place to rest and recover from the battering of the snow-laden gales. As he looked at the trees all around him, Algy thought of the famous poem by Robert Frost:

          Whose woods these are I think I know.
          His house is in the village though;
          He will not see me stopping here
          To watch his woods fill up with snow.

          My little horse must think it queer
          To stop without a farmhouse near
          Between the woods and frozen lake
          The darkest evening of the year.

          He gives his harness bells a shake
          To ask if there is some mistake.
          The only other sound’s the sweep
          Of easy wind and downy flake.

          The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
          But I have promises to keep,
          And miles to go before I sleep,
          And miles to go before I sleep.

[ Algy is quoting the poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by the 20th century American poet Robert Frost. ]

How to Pronounce Algy’s Name…

Algy has just received a message from a Tumblr friend which mentions:

One question has arisen: what is the correct pronunciation of Algy’s name?

And this is of course an excellent question. Algy realises that many of his friends are not native English speakers, and even those who are may perhaps pronounce his name in different ways. But of course Algy and his assistants only pronounce his name in one way.

So here is the official answer:

The A is the diaphoneme æ so it sounds like the a in cat. The first part of Algy’s name is therefore Al as in Alan.

The g is soft: the diaphoneme d͡ʒ so it sounds like a j – as in joy or Jenny :)) This should not be confused with the hard g in the word algae, which apart from the hard g sounds the same!

The y is an “eee” sound, as in the words see or city… or Jenny :))

So now everyone can pronounce Algy’s name in the same way that he does xoxo

The wind was whistling across the moor at speeds close to 40mph, and frequent showers of snow and ice were blasting across the ridges. The forecast said that the weather would continue to deteriorate, so Algy tucked himself down in the lee of a rock, pulled his hat firmly onto his head and clenched his beak, bracing himself for yet another winter storm…

In the West Highland winter, the sun is very rarely seen, and the sky can remain heavy and grey for months on end. Such conditions are not for the faint-hearted, but Algy knew that from time to time the sun would manage to break through a gap in the clouds. As he leaned back against a sheltering rock on top of the moor, with the fleeting silvery rays illuminating the Sound in the distance, he thought of those of his friends experiencing dark times, and remembered a poem:

          I have seen the sun break through
          to illuminate a small field
          for a while, and gone my way
          and forgotten it. But that was the
          pearl of great price, the one field that had
          treasure in it. I realise now
          that I must give all that I have
          to possess it. Life is not hurrying

          on to a receding future, nor hankering after
          an imagined past. It is the turning
          aside like Moses to the miracle
          of the lit bush, to a brightness
          that seemed as transitory as your youth
          once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

This post is dedicated especially to Algy’s friends seagirl49 and seoulsearching97 and to all those experiencing times of darkness xoxo

[ Algy is quoting the poem The Bright Field by the 20th century Welsh poet and Anglican priest R. S. Thomas. ]

As Algy looked out from his perch in the grey afternoon, he thought of all his friends in the north-eastern USA who were bracing themselves for what might be the biggest snowstorm on record. The spattering of snow around Algy’s home was negligible in comparison, and he wondered what it would be like to be completely overwhelmed by a massive snowfall…

Stay safe in those blizzard conditions, everybody, and keep warm! Algy says be sure to wear your hat :)) xoxoxo

Algy perched on a strong, comfortable branch overlooking the forest and the deep, calm loch, and wondered how much longer the winter would last. It was Burns Night, and often by this time in January the song thrushes had started to sing… but not this year, with its exceptionally stormy winter that threatened to go on forever. As he gazed at the bare branches around him, Algy remembered Burns’ sonnet, written on this day, and recited it aloud in the hope that there might be a song thrush listening in the bushes:

          Sing on, sweet Thrush, upon the leafless bough,
          Sing on, sweet bird, I listen to thy strain,
          See aged Winter, ‘mid his surly reign,
          At thy blythe carol, clears his furrowed brow.
          Thus in bleak Poverty’s dominion drear,
          Sits meek Content with light, unanxious heart;
          Welcomes the rapid moments, bids them part,
          Nor asks if they bring aught to hope or fear.
          I thank thee, Author of this opening day!
          Thou whose bright sun now gilds the orient skies!
          Riches denied, thy boon was purer joys,
          What wealth could never give nor take away!
          But come, thou child of poverty and care;
          The mite high Heav’n bestow’d, that mite with thee I’ll share.

[Algy is reciting the Sonnet Written on the Author’s Birthday on hearing a Thrush sing in his Morning Walk by the 18th century Scottish poet Robert Burns, whose birthday on 25th January is traditionally celebrated in Scotland by a Burns Supper.]

Algy flew on across the moor, but from time to time he paused to marvel at the many wonders of a land in the grip of the icy fingers of a northern winter.

Algy hopes that you all have a truly marvellous weekend, even if you too are in a land bewitched by Jack Frost xoxo

The weather was changing again, and Algy knew that soon the snow and ice would turn to rain and mush, so he decided to explore some of the higher ground before all the snow melted. He flew for a few miles, up to the moor, and surveyed the scene in each direction. It certainly looked bleak, and he was very glad that he had followed his friends’ advice and kept his hat on his head, as that wind whistling through the moorland grasses was bitingly cold.