The Seagull

Joyce Benedict

© Copyright 2021 by Joyce Benedict

Photo by John Higgitt on Unsplash
Photo by 
John Higgitt on Unsplash
Love is restored through a most unusual,unexpected encounter.

In the summer of 1984 I had decided to take a trip. I was recovering from what had begun as a beautiful relationship, but ended by being destroyed by the ravages of alcoholism. The trip was my prescription for a broken heart.  I believed it was impossible to ever love again. This man had satisfied me intellectually, emotionally, physically and spiritually.  I was 47, mourning the loss, and drained in every way from my efforts to ‘cure him.’  The change of scenery eagerly anticipated.

Having visited a sister in Arizona, I moved onto Salem where friend Barbara and her husband greeted me at the train station.  We went immediately to their small summer cottage a block away from the Pacific Ocean.  The smell of salt water, the distant pounding of surf, the tall dry grasses that grew in the sandy areas brought a lift to my inner despondency.

We awoke the next day to sunshine and strong winds. We decided to picnic on the beach and take long walks along the pounding surf. The ocean waters in August were so cold  and the bite in the wind required a sleeveless down jacket.  Barbara’s husband had business to attend to and we had much catching up to do, not having seen one another for over three years. We happily packed a lunch of salmon, cheese, crackers, water, lemonade and cookies.

Barbara and I had shared a deep interest in healing and nutrition in years past. She and her husband had started a small restaurant specializing in tofu meals, soups, salads and homemade breads. I had taught alternative methods of healing locally in adult education classes. Initiating a small prayer group in my local church had seen an increase in members in a short time. We had much to share.

We had to walk through a vast area of sand and grasses to reach an open stretch of beach. To our utter amazement, as we cleared the tall grasses, we came upon a seagull nesting  on the sand at the edge of the clearing. We were surprised it had not flown away at our approach. In fact, we were more startled than it was seeing that it did not seem ruffled at all by our close proximity. We paused to admire it.  Not having been near the ocean in years, I was awed by the sheer vastness of it. Also, viewing seagulls from a distance their size is greatly diminished against the blue sky or above boats moored in basins. The bird was huge. Why didn’t it move?

It didn’t take us long before we realized something was very wrong. Its eyes remained almost totally closed. Its head drooping with beak disappearing into the sand. It appeared lifeless. Approaching the bird within a foot or two brought no response. We guessed the bird to be very sick and dying. My question was, was it normal for a seagull to want to die on a beach near a path where others pass fairly often?

Barbara suggested wrapping it in our blanket and taking it to a vet. Although others may have been successful at this in years past I had found wounded birds on the road, wrapped them up to take to take them to a vet only to witness them go into shock, wracked by brief, violent spasms and die on my lap as my husband sped to a nearby town. Each incident was very distressing. I concluded that we should leave Mother Nature alone. This bird was obviously making its choice, strange as it seemed.

We left the bird to its chosen destiny, parked our belongings on the blanket we spread out on the sand, and removed our sandals. For the next three hours or more walked the beach, watched the waves, and sat by a log washed up on shore to have lunch.

Swimming was out of the question despite it being August. The cold wind whipped relentlessly from the ocean requiring warmer clothing. Not a soul was in the water though a few had gingerly put feet in the ripples only to jump back quickly. The water was cold!

The bird’s plight could not be ignored. While we chatted, I kept looking in its direction. I felt compassion and remorse for it. Twice it made feeble, awkward attempts to fly. Stumbling awkwardly it became comatose once again. I was bothered to see children play around it, taunting it, trying to frighten it. Fortunately, responsible parents pulled them away. 

I observed others stopping and staring as Barbara and I did only to see heads shaking, turning  away, realizing as we had that to try anything would be pointless. A short while later a college student approached, bent down. Obviously, he too, pondered the bird’s dilemma. He touched it gingerly. When a response was not forthcoming, he shrugged, rose, and moved on.

With the sun beginning to set, we packed our remaining food, dishes, blanket, put on our sandals and headed towards the same path back to the cottage. We passed the seagull again. We could not ignore it being but a foot from the path. We put our belongings down to reconsider its plight.

We decided to offer the bird some of our water. No response. Barbara suggested to offer our left over salmon. Eagerly, we broke up small pieces and placed them before the inert bird. Nothing. Complete indifference met all efforts at eliciting a response. The same drooping head, beak sinking into the sand, deadening lethargy continued.

Barbara,” I said, “there is nothing we can do. It is obviously too sick to even fly to its dying place.”

Once again we gathered our belongings. Why hadn’t I thought of it before? “Barb,” let’s pray over it!”

Pray over a bird!” she blurted out.

Yes,” I enthusiastically replied, ’you put both your hands on its back, and I’ll put my hands on its head. Just simply think of God’s powerful love, pour your heart into the bird, surround it in your mind with Divine Energy! I will do same.”

We did just that. Barbara placed her hands on its back kneeling behind it while I kneeled before it with my hands on its head. It moved not, nor struggled, nor resisted. In silence we ‘did our thing.’  Still, nothing.

Sighing heavily, I said, “let’s go. There is nothing more to do.” She nodded in agreement.

We silently picked up the belongings once again and turned to head down the long, sandy path to the cottage when we heard a tremendous whoosh of wings and loud flapping!  We turned suddenly to see the bird rise straight upwards about a story high. It then headed north with great arching flaps of its beautiful wings flying easily, effortlessly along the water’s edge. We stood transfixed, watching the bird’s strong flight until it became a mere black dot on the horizon.

We turned to one another. Tears streamed down our cheeks. We had just participated in and witnessed one of Nature’s mysteries.  Words could not define what we were both feeling.  Inwardly, I reflected the Great Heart that beats in the Universe had brought this bird to us.  Our gift of prayer in a mysterious way had restored a traumatized bird to life. Its plight had revived in me what I thought had been lost forever: compassion, concern, and love.

There was a spring to my step and a sense of renewal as Barbara and I returned to the little cottage now bathed in the gorgeous rays of a setting sun. For the first time in quite awhile, a little peace had returned to my heart. 

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