It has been well documented that I spend a lot of time walking the beach. I do it nearly every day, all year round. While the warm summer days are great, I actually prefer it when it’s in the 50s or 60s and I can wear boots, a down vest, a hat and gloves. The sunny days are awesome, but so, too, are the cloudy, dark ones. My ideal time is early morning when the tide has gone out and sea glass discovery is at its prime. No matter my mood when I start, it is always, without exception (more on that in a bit) better when I am done. Even when the surf is rough or the winds are whipping or the sky is covered in clouds, the rhythm of the ocean delivers a serenity that I can always (yeah, more on that to come) count on, no matter the time of year. I love my ocean walks.
As a result of all this time logged at the beach, my already vast collection of sea glass continues to grow. Getting lost in the beauty of the sea, my 10,000 steps are easily reached and often exceeded. The various items that have been washed ashore or left behind or dropped from the sky are invariably (more on that to come) awesome. Beyond the sea glass, I’ve happened upon bottles of booze – some full, most empty. Lego pieces, toddler sandals, small toys, the occasional t-shirt, and of course rocks, shells and seaweed. Here’s a little scene I happened upon late last week. Sad little (plastic) birdie.
I am hardly alone one my beach walks. Both the sand and paved walkway overlooking the beach are always teeming with people, many of whom I have come to recognize just from their gait. The exchange of “hellos”, “good mornings” and “what a great day” are not only perpetual but a truly lovely way to start the day. And, perhaps most wonderful, the beach always (more on that to come) feels physically, emotionally and spiritually safe.
This morning, however, was a little bit different.
I nearly tripped over it. It freaked me out. Still does, actually. And the symbolism, the metaphor, the gruesome imagery…yeah, colossal yuck. At first, I thought perhaps he was digging for something in the sand and actually marveled a little bit at the beauty of this animal in its natural habitat at which I was a mere interloper. But then, when the feathers started blowing wildly from the ocean breeze and the body wasn’t attempting to resist the gusts, I realized I was looking at a dead bird. A very dead bird, in fact. As in: couldn’t be deader.
With its head buried in the sand. The week of Thanksgiving. Still intact, free, for now, of the scavenging animals which are sure to enjoy tearing him apart for breakfast.
I walked away; feeling agitated, slightly nauseated and entirely grossed out. Yet, I kept finding myself going back to check on him. I considered jostling him with a gentle kick with my booted foot, but, on the off-chance that he hadn’t actually gone to meet his maker, I thought better of it. How’d he croak? Did he get his beak stuck in the sand while innocently reaching for a snack? Would just a little tug free him from, um, death? How long had he been there? And what would he look like tomorrow or the next day?
And, if we are being honest…seriously? Is nothing sacred? Can I not have the damn beach stay serene and calm and relaxing? Does there really have to be a dead fucking bird at my feet? And, if he had to be dead, did he have to do it right in my path? I mean, really. So much for physical, emotional and spiritual safety. Geez.
Discombobulated, I took a shorter than usual walk, but not before going back to visit him, maybe more than once, checking, I suppose, to see if he was still and truly lifeless. Oh, and to take his picture. For posterity? For confirmation? Yeah, pretty much no good reason to memorialize his passing other than to be able to include in my blog. (That being said: the visual is a “good” one, right?)
Feeling on edge, nearly (and inexplicably) lachrymose, I returned to my car and called the local police. I admit that I felt a little silly reporting a dead bird on the beach, but the officer who took my call, which included a very specific explanation of his precise location, told me he would call the state and have them collect him. I did not inquire as to what they would do once they found him. I imagine it will not include a proper burial or reflection on his life, but, more likely, a shovel and a hole which seemed somehow unfitting for his splendor. Even in death, his strength and stature were almost grand.
I obsessed over considered, but decided against, going back to check on him this afternoon, primarily to ensure that he’d been brought to his final resting place and not torn apart by his fellow bird-folk. Tomorrow morning, as I descend upon the sand for my ritual walk, I hope to hell he is gone. And, with his absence, perhaps my peace can be restored, my calm reinstated and my joy in the discovery of each piece of sea glass revived.
It is indeed curious to me why I was so unraveled by a dead bird on the beach. Methinks there is a gigantic metaphor (his head being buried in the sand was not lost on me) which, in turn, holds some sort of message. I am not really sure what that message is, exactly…so I am choosing , instead, to focus on the beautiful piece of blue (for the unindoctrinated: blue is the hardest, and thus the most satisfying and, dare I say, exciting to find) and the several heart-shaped pieces of sea glass I managed to find whilst encircling, avoiding and obsessing over a big dead bird.
His is an image I will not soon forget which is fairly ridiculous given the fact I will be feasting on one of his brethren on Thanksgiving in a few short days. Something tells me I am going to pass on the drumstick this year…