Mother Nature's Voice
I lived on a thirty-two foot sailboat on the West coast, in a marina near Los Angeles, for about a year. The boat was in desperate need of attention that I always meant to give it.
The rains that winter had kept me off my boat(the deck leaked, profusely). Staying with a dear friend, running down to the boat daily to check on the tarp covering her and the amount of water in the bilge. The tarp over the boat helped to lessen the amount of water that got below when it rained, but it still got below.
One weekend I went to my boat to see what I could do about the rain that had soaked below deck all week. It was quite a mess that Saturday, the starboard side getting the majority of the rain. The bunk was soaked, the shelf off the hull behind it had water sitting in it an inch and a half deep, a pillow and some clothes on the port side were also soaked.
I stripped the bunk, turning the bottom cushion over and wiping the area up with paper towels. I estimated the amount of water I bailed out of the shelf at about a gallon and a half of water. The bread sacks that had been pitched there over the past two weeks were either wet or just bad. These were going to the fish when I finished below decks.
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I took the one dry loaf of bread and stood on the stern of my small boat, the piece of deck between the cockpit and the stern toerail a little under two feet wide, gave me plenty of room to stand.
At first, I just tossed the bread slices into the water, figuring the fish would eat them sooner or later. There had been no birds in sight so I never thought of them.
Moments after the bread hit the water though, the seagulls appeared, diving and snatching pieces of bread from the surface in flight. I continued tossing the bread, throwing it further out with a higher arc each time. When a bird nabbed a piece in the air, I changed the way I was throwing the bread.
I began breaking off smaller pieces, making them easier for the birds to catch. I also threw the bread more at the bird nearest to me as they passed. Shortly, another type of sea bird arrived for the impromptu lunch. It was smaller, had a darker color and a red beak. These birds seemed more intelligent than the sea gulls, quickly discerning that if they watched me, they would know when the next piece of bread was to be flung into the air.
When I noticed what these birds were doing, I would make eye contact with one, then toss a piece of bread as it closed in on me. As the piece was caught, other birds that were waiting would circle and come 'round again, as if waiting their turn. It was rather chaotic for a while. The number of birds crowding into the area behind my boat made it difficult for them to fly. I was caught up in the moment, flinging bread as fast as I could, becoming lost in the frenzy of the birds.
When the opportunity came a bit later, after the frenzy subsided, I was able to watch a single bird circle. By the time it returned, I would have a piece ready. A few birds held eye contact during most of their circle. I had, for the moment, become a part of their lives, and them, mine. A peace came over me that only comes when nature and I touch. I yearn for more of those moments.
After tossing a piece of bread to one bird, I would see one behind it that witnessed the whole thing. It would pass to my left then circle right, coming back at me. The bird would check the immediate air space for other birds, then focus its attention on me as it neared. It was now that I would ready for the throw, waiting so I could time it so only the bird that I was watching would get it. Most of the time this would work. But every now and again a bird would come from behind me and intercept. When this would happen, I'd watch the one that didn't get it and aim for him or her when it came back around.
I was feeding the birds for a good twenty minutes, experiencing a oneness with nature as the birds watched me, waiting for me to throw another piece of bread. It felt good feeding the birds. A simple thing that filled a void left empty by the synthetics of man.
Still uncomprehensible, I feel a pull to return to nature, to sail. Leave the noise of civilization and the electric buzz behind, the wind and waves silencing the cerebral hum. I feel an urge to return to simplicity. Technology used as a tool, not a fix-all. Daily chores becoming moments of reflection.
I wait, a loaf of bread at the ready. The gulls and I have an open lunch date. Maybe I can get them to talk to me this time.