FLIGHTLESS AT THREE O’CLOCK

Oh, what a terrible feeling!

I speak, I write — of a gull, probably a juvenile, absurdly walking about, flightless, a wing out to the side, probably broken. Diane said, “he’s been attacked.” There are many feral cats in this world of mobile homes. I emptied a cardboard box from the shed of its assorted tools and gadgets. Diane found a kind of sheet. The wild bird sanctuary said, bring it! Catch it and bring it. After parking the car (we had been driving into the park on the main street when we saw it and were forced to swerve around it), I looked back up the street and saw it crossing back across the street, bewildered by its inability to fly, as vulnerable as a creature can be. By the time we’d gathered the box and sheet, it had gone from sight. I’d seen it turn down a street. We cruised. Diane yelled at me, “you’re going too fast.” I yelled back. I yell a lot these days. Up and down the streets, very slowly, we went. No sign of her. I somehow think it was a “her.” She had a black head, white and gray body. She was small. One does not see many gulls in the park. There are woodstorks, egrets, moscovy ducks, blue heron…then the common domestic, non-tropical birds, the bluejays, mocking birds, grackle by the hundreds, it seems. Sparrows, perhaps, now and then, a migrating robin, crows, of course. And gulls. But so close too the Gulf it is odd we don’t see more.

I felt so sorry for this little gull. But we could not find it. The box remained empty. Her fate, unknown.

Later, after dark, I walked two miles in darkness, cloudy skies, a congenial and cossetting sense of mystery all around me. I felt, for a change, that I was doing something healthy. In the clubhouse they were playing pinochle, a Monday night ritual. Lights on, warm, pleasant gathering. I walked by. Diane was in there. I glimsed her standing, talking, perhaps telling people about the poor gull.

Where did she go?

It was about three o’clock when we saw her. I was not having a great day. They were having the worst kind of days in far off Ukraine. Stopped to tell the parked handyman of our search for the wounded gull and he said, “you have too much time on your hands.” It was an offhand comment (speaking of hands), not intended to wound. It was a man’s world’s quick judgement, one of his typical mordant appraisals as he walked, smiling, back to his truck. I’ll bet he’d have stopped for the gull. The person in the vehicle behind us, a truck, also slowly swerved around it as the flightless creature, used to soaring so high, circled in the middle of the grimy street, is time in the skies probably gone forever. (I think I’m well into what they call the “pathetic fallicy” here — the attribution of human emotions or attributes to animals. I think the handyman, no logician but filled with common sense and used to fixing things, was trying to “fix” me in that regard. Or maybe this is all an act of “projection”. Perhaps it’s me that’s feeling “flightless”now.)

Three o’clock. All that was good about this day, was that hour when time seemed to move more slowly then suddenly speed up toward darkness, and the hours when there would be more LESS “time on our hands” to to have the luxury of thinkinig about the gull; a time when we must parepare to do serious work on serious earth on the coming serious days.

While people are suffering and dying in Ukraine and who-knows-where-else, it is important to be able to — forget. Is this, by chance, what Kierkegaard meant when he wrote, “If a man cannot forget, he will never amount to much”?

At three o’clock it was neither sunny nor dark. There were clouds and a sprinkle of rain, then muted light.

Where did the little gull go? There are cats, which is to say, danger, everywhere. But they will fall prey, too, too…STOP!!

I must forget. But it must be terrible to be a bird and suddenly find yourself unable to fly. She would not survive.

I’m surviving, thank God. And I’m still in search of my wings.

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