Taigh Solais

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The harbour environment was both fascinating and enjoyable to visit, but Algy was feeling a wee bit homesick, and from the other side of the bay he could hear the strange beeping and clanking sounds the transport vessel made as it approached the land. If he wanted to return home, now was the time to leave… Leaning back against another odd object on the floating platform for just a few moments longer, Algy took a last look at the many different boats and the picturesque harbour, and wondered when he would see them again…

Shadow Race

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Algy searched around for a more comfortable perch, and spotted one that not only looked inviting but which would obviously provide extra advantages should he have the misfortune to be suddenly swept into the sea. Tucking himself in cosily, he put his feet up and leaned back in the sunshine, trying to ignore the bitter wind which ruffled his feathers. It was a splendid day for shadows, and as he admired the fine shadow beside him, he thought of a wee poem he had read, and smiled:

Every time I’ve raced my shadow
When the sun was at my back,
It always ran ahead of me,
Always got the best of me.
But every time I’ve raced my shadow
When my face was toward the sun,
I won.

Algy hopes that you will all have a relaxing and happy weekend, and that every time you race your shadow you will win 😀

[Algy is quoting the short poem Shadow Race by the 20th century American children’s book writer Shel Silverstein.]

The Flying Dutchman…

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Suddenly, Algy noticed that the din of human voices which he had heard from the other side of the bay had ceased; all was silent, except the creaking of the boats as they swayed against the strange floating structure he was perching upon. Puzzled, Algy flew a wee bit closer. The tall ship appeared to be deserted now, which seemed odd; he hadn’t noticed the humans moving away, and he had seen them bustling about all over it just a short time ago. The clouds were moving swiftly across the sky, creating ever changing patterns of shadow and light, and for a moment the sun illuminated the name which was painted on the side of the boat. Algy gasped and shuddered, then quickly turned away, and pretended to be gazing at something fascinating across the bay, in the opposite direction. The opening lines of a long poem came into his mind… “Long time ago, from Amsterdam a vessel sailed away…” he thought, and then remembered the end of the famous tale:

Once more the lurid light gleamed out, – the ship was still at rest,
The crew were standing at their posts; with arms across his breast
Still stood the captain on the poop, but bent and crouching now
He bowed beneath that flat dread, and o’er his swarthy brow
Swept lines of anguish, as if he a thousand years of pain
Had lived and suffered. Then across the heaving, sullen main
The tempest shrieked triumphant, and the angry waters hissed
Their vengeful hate against the toy they oftentimes had kissed.
And ever through the midnight storm that hapless crew must speed;
They try to round the Stormy Cape, but never can succeed.
And oft when gales are wildest, and the lightning’s vivid sheen
Flashes back the ocean’s anger, still the Phantom Ship is seen
Ever heading to the southward in the fierce tornado’s swoop,
With her ghostly crew and canvas, and her captain on the poop,
Unrelenting, unforgiven; and ’t is said that every word
Of his blasphemous defiance still upon the gale is heard!
But heaven help the luckless ones to whom the sight appears, –
The doom of those is sealed near whom the ghastly sailor steers;
They’ll never reach their destined port,—they’ll see their homes no more, –
They who see the Flying Dutchman – never, never reach the shore!

Algy wishes you all a very happy time this weekend, and hopes that you will not encounter any doomed ghosts… 😀

[Algy is quoting the first line and the final stanza of the poem The Flying Dutchman by the 19th century Irish poet and journalist, John Boyle O’Reilly.]

Distracted…

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While Algy was waiting patiently on the slipway, watching the transport contraption approach slowly but steadily across the sea, he heard the sound of excited human voices carrying across the water from the other side of the bay. Looking round, he noticed an unusual vessel, apparently motionless beside the strange structures which he had seen in that area of the harbour some time before. Forgetting all about the ferry boat for the moment, he decided to fly over to investigate. As he approached, Algy could see that there were several humans clustered round the vessel, and more of them actually upon it, so he thought it might be prudent to observe from a safe distance, just in case fluffy birds were not welcome. Landing on the end of one of the odd platforms which projected out into the bay, he perched on the flat, colourful surface. Although the wind bit him viciously as it whistled through his feathers, the surface itself felt comfortingly warm in the spring sunshine, but he was surprised to find that it seemed to bob up and down with the motion of the sea, which was a wee bit disconcerting, although not too seriously alarming as the weather was more or less calm, and the water seemed to stay firmly in its place…

Still Waiting…

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A cold breeze was starting to whistle across the water, and Algy began to feel a wee bit exposed and chilly out in the open. Looking across to the other side of the slipway, he observed an odd structure which he could see right through, more or less. It was open on one side, and apparently contained a long, silvery perch, possibly for the convenience of those who might seek protection from the wind…

He flew over to the object and inspected it cautiously, trying to determine whether it would be acceptable for a fluffy bird to enter and wait within. A mysterious notice to one side read “RNLI PERSONNEL ONLY”, and for a moment Algy thought that it might be intended to prohibit fluffy birds from the area. But after careful inspection he concluded that although he wasn’t quite sure what the notice meant, it seemed to apply to an area beyond the transparent structure and not to the structure itself. So, as there was no-one else taking advantage of the shelter, Algy eventually decided that there would be no harm in his resting inside, out of the biting wind, while he continued to wait for some transport back home. He settled himself on the edge of the strangely uncomfortable, slatted perch, swinging his legs idly to and fro, and with little else to do except consider the store of poetry he kept inside his head, he began to recite quietly:

Today I will let the old boat stand
Where the sweep of the harbor tide comes in
To the pulse of a far, deep-steady sway.
And I will rest and dream and sit on the deck
Watching the world go by
And take my pay for many hard days gone I remember.

I will choose what clouds I like
In the great white fleets that wander the blue
As I lie on my back or loaf at the rail.
And I will listen as the veering winds kiss me and fold me
And put on my brow the touch of the world’s great will.

Daybreak will hear the heart of the boat beat,
Engine throb and piston play
In the quiver and leap at call of life.
To-morrow we move in the gaps and heights
On changing floors of unlevel seas
And no man shall stop us and no man follow
For ours is the quest of an unknown shore
And we are husky and lusty and shouting-gay.

[Algy is reciting the poem Waiting by the 20th century American poet Carl Sandburg.]

The Turn of the Tide…

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The tide had turned and the sea was rippling its way back over the temporary beach, advancing quietly but with much greater speed than Algy had expected. Soon the boats would be afloat once more…

Algy adjusted his position on the sticky seaweed, preparing himself to leap into the air as soon as the sea reached his toes. He had been dreaming of his own little nest, half way up the cliff by the wild, open ocean, and he was beginning to feel just a wee bit homesick. His trip to this strange, new place had undoubtedly been full of fascinating suprises and discoveries, but it was still an alien environment for a fluffy bird, and he wondered whether the boat which had conveyed him to the island might soon be willing to take him back across the water again…

The Dawn Treader…

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The tide had receded even further, and the creel boats were leaning listlessly against one another, high and dry. Algy thought it would be fascinating to see the parts of the boats which were usually underwater, so he flew back to the fishermen’s pier and found a convenient perch on a strange object which was suspended against the side of the wharf. The boats looked surprisingly large close to; they towered above him, blocking out the bright sunlight and throwing deep black shadows onto the exposed sea bed. Standing beside the further boat, almost lost in the shadows, a friendly human was very busy doing something mysterious to the underneath of his vessel. Looking up for a moment, he greeted Algy kindly, remarking that it was a fine day, and when Algy returned the greeting and gazed at the boat above the man’s head, he noticed that it had an unusual name, which may be of interest to fans of C. S. Lewis’s Narnia stories…

Becalmed

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Algy was surprised to find a lone, flowering gorse bush growing out of the hard ground beside the strange man-made structures which stretched out across the still water, but it provided a comfortingly familiar perch in strange surroundings, so he settled upon it happily, ignoring the usual prickles to his tail feathers. The wind had dropped entirely for a moment and the harbour was completely still; the surface of the sea glimmered like a mirror, reflecting not only the brightly-painted buildings and the boats, but even the clouds, so that they floated serenely across the water as well as the sky. Such a calm was unusual on the wild west coast of Scotland, and Algy gazed in wonder at the translucent water and the clear reflections, thinking of a poem in his collected works of Longfellow, and wondering when the wind would start to blow again:

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.]

Like a Mirror…

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As he continued to explore the harbour around the fishermen’s pier, Algy suddenly noticed a patch of what looked like spring flowers on the far side of the bay, where many smaller boats were floating in deeper water beside a strange, man-made structure. Flying across to investigate, Algy discovered something very odd. One of the boats, which had been washed up high onto the shore, was full of small daffodils. They were even crowding up through a wee hole at the end. Algy perched beside the flowers for a while, puzzling over this strange phenomenon. Was it possible that soil got thrown into stranded boats during the winter storms, and daffodils seeded themselves there? It hardly seemed likely…

But it was such a beautiful day that Algy decided not to worry his fluffy head too much about things he could not understand… The sun was shining, the sea was exceptionally calm, and the bay looked just like a deep blue mirror. So he leaned back among the flowers and gazed contentedly at the pretty scene, relaxing in the welcome spring sunshine…

Algy wishes you all a very happy Sunday, and hopes that you all have a chance to relax in beautiful surroundings today 😀

Life’s Ladder

As Algy explored the harbour at low tide, he found many unusual perches, of which some were better adapted to the needs of a fluffy bird than others… He was particularly interested to discover that, at intervals along the great wall which contained the sea when the tide came in, wooden structures with multiple perches had been provided – presumably to suit the different levels the water might reach – and he wondered how the humans could make use of them. For fluffy birds, at least, they only provided a moderate level of comfort, but as Algy perched on one of the lower levels of such a structure, he found that a poem he had once read came to mind, and he wondered whether it might perhaps provide an explanation:

Unto each mortal who comes to earth
A ladder is given by God at birth,
And up this ladder the soul must go,
Step by step, from the valley below;
Step by step to the center of space
On this ladder of lives to the starting place.

In time departed, which yet endures,
I shaped my ladder and you shaped yours,
Whatever they are, they are what we made,
A ladder of light or a ladder of shade;
A ladder of love or a hateful thing,
A ladder of strength or a wavering string,
A ladder of gold or a ladder of straw –

If toil and trouble and pain are found
Twisted and corded to form each round,
If rusted iron or moldering wood
Is the fragile frame, you must make it good
You must build it over and fashion it strong,
Though the task be as hard as your life is long;
For up this ladder the pathway leads
To earthly pleasures and spirit needs,
For all that may come in another way
Shall be but illusion and will not stay.

[Algy is quoting parts of the poem Life’s Ladder by the late 19th/early 20th century American writer Ella Wheeler Wilcox.}