When Algy woke up the next morning, he discovered that the scene had changed during the night. The clouds had descended from the sky, and crept silently down the mountains into the loch. Everything was quiet and muffled in the mist, except for the occasional shrieking calls of the oystercatchers. Algy moved along the beach until he found a slightly more comfortable area, where the pebbles were fewer and scattered over a bed of very coarse brown sand. Resting there for a while, he noticed that there was now a pretty wee island floating right in the middle of the loch. He wondered whether it had been there the day before; one could never be quite sure about these things in the strange West Highland mists…


Algy was out and about adventuring in the mid-afternoon, when he noticed that it was rapidly growing darker and darker. He found a convenient perch on a rocky outcrop covered in stunted heather, and paused to survey the sky. Of course one could never be quite sure, but he had a funny sort of feeling that he was about to get exceedingly wet. If only he had remembered to bring his umbrella…

As it was Mother’s Day in the UK, Algy’s assistant had asked him whether he would kindly take her mother a special balloon. Algy was very willing to help, but when he tried to set off he discovered that although balloons filled with helium do “float” in the air, they most certainly don’t fly in the same way that fluffy birds do…

It was the blue hour. After his day out in the woods, Algy felt like some quiet contemplation, so he flew over to the shores of the great sea loch and found a perch on a lichen-covered rock overlooking the water. As he sat there silently, watching the ripples flow back and forth in shades of blue, he thought of all of you … and remembered this poem:

          Whenever I look
          out at the snowy
          mountains at this hour
          and speak directly
          into the ear of the sky,
          it’s you I’m thinking of.
          You’re like the spirits
          the children invent
          to inhabit the stuffed horse
          and the doll.
          I don’t know who hears me.
          I don’t know who speaks
          when the horse speaks.

[Algy is quoting the poem To the Reader: Twilight by the contemporary American poet Chase Twichell.]

On either side of the pass the mountain sides rose up quite steeply, until they vanished into the low clouds which drifted constantly along the ridges. Everything was dripping and soggy from the mist, so Algy perched rather awkwardly in a young birch tree, to avoid soaking his feathers on the wet ground. It wasn’t exactly raining, but then, on the other hand, it wasn’t exactly not raining … “And that’s the West Highland summer for you,” Algy grumbled to himself.

Algy thought of all his friends far away, and particularly of his special Tumblr friend Ted in the USA, who celebrated his 40th birthday a few days ago, and who seems to love the Scottish Highland landscape. Algy sends you a big fluffy hug and late congratulations on your 40th birthday, Ted – and a thousand thanks for all your support and encouragement, and your reblogging of his adventures on the excellent LuxLit 🙂 May you have many, many more happy years ahead, and make many more wonderful images :))

Algy was thoroughly fed up with the gloomy grey skies and constant mist and rain which had persisted throughout the so-called summer. Although there was little sign of any forthcoming change in the weather (except for the worse), he decided to set out on an adventure, in the hope that a change of scene would be better than no change at all. After he had travelled some distance the rain stopped for a while, so Algy stopped too, and rested among the heather beside the old road through the pass. No-one had travelled along this road for years, and very slowly, inch by inch, patches of lichen were spreading across it to cover the man-made pink and grey surface with their subtler, more delicate colours.

The next morning, the mist gradually lifted up, until it was able to drift lazily across the tops of the ridges, swirling slowly around and about. Algy perched on an old fence post and contemplated the West Highland summer. The world was grey and green and rather hazy, but the rocky outcrops on the hillsides glimmered like silver in the diffuse light. Algy was reminded of a poem by an ancient Chinese Zen monk:

          The gorge is long, rocks, and rocks and rocks, jut up,
          The torrent’s wide, reeds almost hide the other side.
          The moss is slippery even without rain.
          The pines sing, the wind is real enough.
          Who’s ready to leap free of the world’s traces:
          come sit with me among white clouds?

[Algy is quoting a poem by Han Shan, written in the 8th century, and translated by J. P. Seaton.]

When the sun sank lower in the sky Algy woke up, refreshed by his afternoon nap by the burn. It was time to set off on the last stage of his journey home. He emerged from the glen and crossed the great sea loch via the seals’ islands, where he paused to bathe his feet in the water. The tide was high, so the seals were away out to sea, looking for their supper. Behind him, the evening sun caught the last remnants of snow on the mountains. It was a fine evening to be out and about.

Algy flew along the shores of the loch all morning, until he reached the mouth of a glen which was overshadowed by mountains rising up steeply on either side. The afternoon sun was pleasantly warm, so he paused for a rest on the banks of the pretty river which flowed down the glen towards the sea. Most of the trees were covered in spring green now, and Algy thought of a poem written by the famous Chinese poet Li Bai many centuries ago:

          You ask why I make my home in the mountain forest,
          and I smile, and am silent,
          and even my soul remains quiet:
          it lives in the other world
          which no one owns.
          The peach trees blossom,
          The water flows.

{The poem Green Mountain, by the 8th Century poet Li Bai (also known as Li Po), has been translated many times, and the various translations are quite different from one another. Algy is quoting the translation by the contemporary American poet Sam Hamill.}

Algy was sitting quietly in the tangled mass of honeysuckle, thinking idly about life, the universe, and nothing much at all, when a huge black cloud turned everything dark and there was a sudden shower of hail. As the shower moved rapidly towards the hill, a dazzling hailbow appeared, with sheets of hail still falling around it. Algy thought it was perhaps the brightest rainbow he had ever seen, but it only lasted for a few minutes and then vanished …