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 🙂

Algy was fascinated by the way the clouds rolled around the mountaintops, drifting and swirling in an elaborate dance that never seemed to repeat itself. Sometimes patches of cloud broke away from the sky and slithered down the steep slopes into the glen, or vanished through a narrow pass, never to re-emerge. Algy wondered whether he could ride on a cloud to find his way back home, but decided that it would be more likely to take him deeper into the mountains, so that he too might never return.

As he watched the endless dance of the clouds, Algy thought of his oldest friends, who were about to leave Scotland to return to a softer land, and he remembered a poem by Neil Munro:

          Are you not weary in your distant places,
              Far, far from Scotland of the mist and storm,
          In drowsy airs, the sun-smite on your faces,
              The days so long and warm?
          When all around you lie the strange fields sleeping,
              The dreary woods where no fond memories roam,
          Do not your sad hearts over seas come leaping
              To the highlands and the lowlands of your Home?

          Wild cries the Winter, loud through all our valleys:
              The midnights roar, the grey noons echo back;
          Round steep storm-bitten coasts the eager galleys
              Beat for kind harbours from horizons black;
          We tread the miry roads, the rain-drenched heather,
              We are the men, we battle, we endure!
          God’s pity for you people in your weather
              Of swooning winds, calm seas, and skies demure!

          Wild cries the Winter, and we walk song-haunted
              Over the moors and by the thundering falls,
          Or where the dirge of a brave past is chaunted
              In dolorous dusks by immemorial walls.
          Though rains may thrash on us, the great mists blind us,
              And lightning rend the pine-tree on the hill,
          Yet we are strong, yet shall the morning find us
              Children of tempest all unshaken still.

          We wander where the little grey towns cluster
              Deep in the hills, or selvedging the sea,
          By farm-lands lone, by woods where wildfowl muster
              To shelter from the day’s inclemency;
          And night will come, and then far through the darkling,
          A light will shine out in the sounding glen,
          And it will mind us of some fond eye’s sparkling,
              And we’ll be happy then.

          Let torrents pour then, let the great winds rally,
              Snow-silence fall, or lightning blast the pine;
          That light of Home shines warmly in the valley,
              And, exiled son of Scotland, it is thine.
          Far have you wandered over seas of longing,
              And now you drowse, and now you well may weep,
          When all the recollections come a-thronging
              Of this rude country where your fathers sleep.

          They sleep, but still the hearth is warmly glowing,
              While the wild Winter blusters round their land:
          That light of Home, the wind so bitter blowing –
              Do they not haunt your dreams on alien strand?
          Love, strength, and tempest – oh, come back and share them!
              Here’s the old cottage, here the open door;
          Fond are our hearts although we do not bare them, –
              They’re yours, and you are ours for ever-more.

This post is dedicated especially to Algy’s oldest friends, and also to self-xpression and to any other of Algy’s Scottish friends whose “sad hearts over seas come leaping to the highlands and the lowlands” of their home xoxo

[Algy is quoting the poem To Exiles by the late 19th/early 20th century Scottish writer Neil Munro.]

Autumn had come to the West Highlands, with its subdued, watery light. All the world was hushed, except for the cries of the sea birds calling to each other on the shore; it was a perfect afternoon for quiet contemplation. As Algy perched on a rock by the silver sea, watching the slowly ebbing tide, he thought about all his friends around the world, and especially of those who lived a long way inland – far, far away from the ocean that he loved:

          A thousand miles beyond this sun-steeped wall
              Somewhere the waves creep cool along the sand,
              The ebbing tide forsakes the listless land
          With the old murmur, long and musical;
          The windy waves mount up and curve and fall,
              And round the rocks the foam blows up like snow,—
              Tho’ I am inland far, I hear and know,
          For I was born the sea’s eternal thrall.
          I would that I were there and over me
              The cold insistence of the tide would roll,
              Quenching this burning thing men call the soul,—
          Then with the ebbing I should drift and be
              Less than the smallest shell along the shoal,
          Less than the sea-gulls calling to the sea.

[Algy is quoting the poem Sea Longing by the early 20th century American poet Sara Teasdale.]

Sometimes, when Algy gazes up at the sky, he feels as though he is an exceedingly tiny fluffy bird, and the sky (not to mention the universe beyond) is incomprehensibly immense. But the more he looks at the sky, the more he becomes absorbed in all the beautiful patterns and colours of Cloudland, and very soon his heart is at ease, just as the poet suggested – especially if he is sitting by “the voiceful sea”:

          O! It is pleasant, with a heart at ease,   
             Just after sunset, or by moonlight skies,   
          To make the shifting clouds be what you please,   
             Or let the easily persuaded eyes   
          Own each quaint likeness issuing from the mould     
             Of a friend’s fancy; or with head bent low,   
          And cheek aslant, see rivers flow of gold   
             ‘Twixt crimson banks; and then, a traveller, go   
          From mount to mount, through Cloudland, gorgeous land!   
             Or list’ning to the tide, with closéd sight,
          Be that blind bard, who on the Chian strand   
             By those deep sounds possessed, with inward light   
          Beheld the Iliad and the Odyssey  
             Rise to the swelling of the voiceful sea.

[Algy is quoting the poem Fancy In Nubibus Or The Poet In The Clouds by the early 19th century English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.]

The light was failing as the dark clouds swept in across the sea behind him, but Algy continued to read. He was reading a poem about friendship, and this is what it said:

          Love is like the wild rose-briar,
          Friendship like the holly-tree—
          The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms
          But which will bloom most constantly?

          The wild rose-briar is sweet in spring,
          Its summer blossoms scent the air;
          Yet wait till winter comes again
          And who will call the wild-briar fair?

          Then scorn the silly rose-wreath now
          And deck thee with the holly’s sheen,
          That when December blights thy brow
          He still may leave thy garland green.

Algy dedicates this to all his amazing Tumblr friends who have been so incredibly kind to him (and to his assistant). When Algy started his Adventures, he never dreamed that they would lead to friendship with so many wonderful people around the world. Algy loves you all, and sends you all his very fluffiest hugs xoxoxo

And it is dedicated particularly to those people who have recently lost a friend – Algy is thinking of you especially…

[Algy is reading the poem Love and Friendship by the English 19th century author Emily Brontë.]

September had arrived, and the West Highland weather had become extremely moody, but Algy was not perturbed. The few rays of light which managed to find their way through the clouds reflected off the surface of the sea with a dazzling brightness, illuminating the pages of his book. So Algy happily carried on reading, for as long as the light lasted…

This post is dedicated especially to Algy’s friend Ned nwalthall, and to everyone who becomes so engrossed in their reading that they fail to notice a change in the weather 🙂