Sea Symphony in Silver…


Summer does not last long in the wild West Highlands of Scotland – if indeed it arrives at all – and as July gave way to August there was a distinct and melancholy change in the air, as though autumn were here already. Waves of heavy rain swept in across the Atlantic on strong, cool winds, and when the sun occasionally emerged, in between the showers, the world appeared in the muted, silvery colours typical of the equinox, instead of the strong hues of summer. However, Algy knew that in fact it was only early August, and as he watched the diamonds sparkling on the water and the wet sand, he hoped that there might still be a chance of some warm sunshine before the long Highland winter began in earnest…


There are few things a fluffy bird enjoys more in fine weather than perching on a rock very close to the ocean, just watching the water swirl around and about, and listening to the gurgling, glugging sounds that it makes.

Algy knew that autumn was on its way: the days were growing shorter very noticeably now, and there was a familiar but indescribable feel to the air which told him that the summer visitors would soon be heading south… But for the moment the swallows were still swooping low over the sea, and although the sun was not managing to climb so high in the sky, the colours were still those of late summer. So Algy leaned back on his rock and let the cool wind sweep through his feathers, trying not to think about the long, dark winter ahead…

Algy perched on one of his favourite rocks, and gazed at the hills, the sea and the sky. The colours were still beautiful, but the sun was much lower in the sky now, and the wind had a bitter edge to it. Algy knew that summer was over for this year, and he remembered a poem by a famous American poet:

          An agitation of the air,
          A perturbation of the light
          Admonished me the unloved year
          Would turn on its hinge that night.
          I stood in the disenchanted field
          Amid the stubble and the stones,
          Amazed, while a small worm lisped to me
          The song of my marrow-bones.
          Blue poured into summer blue,
          A hawk broke from his cloudless tower,
          The roof of the silo blazed, and I knew
          That part of my life was over.
          Already the iron door of the north
          Clangs open: birds, leaves, snows
          Order their populations forth,
          And a cruel wind blows.

[Algy is quoting the poem End of Summer by the 20th century American Poet Laureate, Stanley Kunitz.]

The wind blew fresh from the north and the air felt chill: summer was over and autumn was closing in fast. The mists loitered all day around the hilltops, never very far away. The swallows and other migrant birds were preparing to leave, and some had already gone, but the heather was blooming – the last hurrah of the West Highland summer. Algy nestled among the tiny fragrant bells, and listened to the wind sighing in the trees behind him as the damp mist swept back down from the hill. He was glad of the wind, even though it was bringing a change of season:

          A host of poppies, a flight of swallows;  
          A flurry of rain, and a wind that follows  
          Shepherds the leaves in the sheltered hollows
             For the forest is shaken and thinned.

          Over my head are the firs for rafter;
          The crows blow south, and my heart goes after;
          I kiss my hands to the world with laughter—
             Is it Aidenn or mystical Ind?

          Oh, the whirl of the fields in the windy weather!
          How the barley breaks and blows together!  
          Oh, glad is the free bird afloat on the heather—
             Oh, the whole world is glad of the wind!

[Algy is quoting An Old Road by the late 19th/early 20th century American poet Edwin Markham.]