Even nature doesn’t have any good news lately. Snowstorms throughout the Northeast, floods in the west, roadways wiped out along the Pacific coast, wind damage from here through the southeast, and more storms coming. That’s okay; it is February and this isn’t unusual, it’s just that, you know, Covid, politics, the economy, unemployment, conspiracy theorists, maskless morons, all underlined by time just slipping slipping slipping, into the future (I don’t really need to attribute that, right?).
Usually we can handle one or two aspects of existence slumping for a bit, but many are dealing with no less than three weak spots in their belay line. People slip, some fall, some jump. And at some point we’re going to come out of this dank period and grab hold of hope again. But it’s not feeling around the corner, is it? Well, anyway, it doesn’t feel that way to me.
If you were someone else, and that person came to you complaining about the way things are, down about the seeming lack of promise, deep in despair about some vague, indiscriminate sense of helplessness, and asked for advice, what would you say?
I used to do that when I was younger. If I wasn’t sure what to do, and I felt like there wasn’t anyone I could talk to about it, I’d step outside myself and ask the other me what advice I had for, well, me. It usually worked because the objective part of my psyche is way more positive than the character caught in the tangled curtains separating a lousy perspective caused by confusion about reality. The troubled side of us too often sees things in a dimmer light.
So I asked myself, “Myself, what’s the best use you could be making of your time right now?”
And Myself said, “Go to the river.” In this case, Myself sounded a lot like the medieval knight in the cave at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
The tide is high today, well above normal, and the water choppy from the strong winds out of the west. It isn’t snowing or raining but a little of both, sometimes, looking a lot like it will pass yet not anytime soon.
Then I watched the Seabirds push against the wind, rising and falling while trying to hover against the storm much like they do when eyeing down a fish below the surface, just before they tuck back their wings and dive, but now they hang there for survival, pushing, ducking a bit then rising again, but always in the same area, always resisting the storm, pushing against it.
I pulled my collar up, tilted my head down a bit, my eyes tearing from the cold.
Then one of the gulls lifted up, well above the others, then let the left wing loose, stretched it all the way out, tilted her head to the east just slightly, turned with the wind and was gone, gliding out toward the bay, lifting up with ease, and higher, the whole time not needing to work, just heading up and out over the bay, quickly covering a distance it would take me more than a little time to travel.
What grace she had, letting go of the resistance of inevitable forces, and using what is best in her the best she should. A few minutes later another untucked her slightly frozen feathers and flew behind, just feet above the water this time without so much as a single push, like pelicans in summer along the coast, and then another, and another.
I don’t know what happened that they suddenly turned and took flight. Did they wait until the storm was strong enough to carry them afar? Did they always know they were going to head that way but waited as long as they could?
Did they give in? Tough call, when to resist and when to head home by another way, choose another path. How long did they hover believing it was always going to be like that where in the distance they could see only grey, only more grey after that?
And an egret stood at the edge of the water, oblivious, dipping her head for minnows in the unusually rough pond. And a young eagle perched alone atop a tree beyond the marshland. And two young gulls stood next to each other on the sand, facing the wind, but low, below the point that might force them to find new shelter.
They didn’t seem to mind, not really. Nor did the others. They negotiate the storms with much the same approach as they do the hot and sunny days of August.
It is snowing again, and on the news now they’re talking about congressional disagreements, about rising Covid numbers, about almost half a million deaths, about regression among schoolchildren, about lack of relief for poor and famished families, about so much most of us can do nothing about, and I find myself turning away from this storm of information, this deluge of inhumane behavior, and let the breezes lift my spirits enough to rise up and move on, away from the madness.