23 March 2020

63. Seagulls on the Shore

Heading home to the farm again, I start crying in the car. Eyes too clouded to drive, I pull over at a boat landing on Lake Macquarie. 

I have come from the hospital where my mother is ill battling multiple infections and in pain. This has been a gut wrenching time. 

When you love someone it’s hard to see them suffer. Like watching on as a surgeon rips your heart out of your chest.

There’s hardly anyone around; just a couple backing up their four-wheel drive, winching a speedboat out of the water.

Once the boat ramp is clear I blow my nose and get out. Walking to the shore I see a storm brewing over the water. 

Dark clouds are merging over bright boats moored a little way off.

Slow tears trickle down, but the full shock I feel leaving my parents hasnt played out yet. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get back to see my old mum any time soon. 

Coronavirus has changed the way we are to live. 

A Silver Gull swoops down near my feet.

I’m angry at a world with COVID-19 in it. I’m upset my mother is sick and vulnerable at such a dangerous time for the aged. Worried my father will be locked out and unable to see his wife of over sixty-five years.
Seagulls aren’t so special anyway. There are probably a billion or more around the planet. People call them the rats of the sea.

When I look closer, the gull is peering at me. All pristine white feathers with smoky grey tips, the bird tilts its head and stares.

‘There’s no chips for you,’ I choke out.

Silver looks to the sky and squawks. Opens its red beak wide and calls other gulls to it.

Eight more fly in, their legs settling on the seaweed.

They line up. I stop crying; start watching them watching me. 

The seagulls are waiting for storm clouds to close the distance.

Snow white feathers over tough sea-faring bodies, these were prime examples of one of the most successful birds on earth.

The Silver Gull is found all over Australia, from the red centre to Tasmania, even where there’s barely any water. Opportunistic, abundant and adaptable, I’ve never seen a rubbish dump without a flock of gulls nearby.

They are strong and bold, at ease in the sky, in flood waters or floating at sea. 
As if it hears my thoughts, one seagull dips into the shallows. Gliding in, it bobs up and down on ripples of water licking at the shore.

When I was very young, the whole family would come somewhere near here for family picnics. Mum didnt like rough surf beaches as much as still waters where she could float. 

My mother seemed unsinkable. Always light and slim, she would sit up in the water as if supported by a chair or pool float, though she didnt need either.

To stay upright, she would wave her hands gently, barely bending her wrists. Synchronised swimmers at the Olympics had that same still presence Mum had, only they needed to keep on kicking. Even with me thrashing, swimming beside her, Mum floated effortlessly like a seagull at sea.

An hour ago, Mum couldnt walk and could barely stand. Now the gulls watch me cry again. My nose is running and I haven’t got a dry tissue on me. I duck back to the car for the last Kleenex. Panic buying has meant I cant get them any more. People have gone round the twist hoarding.

When I come back to the same spot, the Silver Gulls are preening. Comfortable with me around, they aren’t afraid of humans. Some are so over-confident theyll steal a chip from your hand, or fly-in fly-out with half your sandwich in their beaks.

It would be good to be strong and bold like the seagulls for the next part of the story. We’re all navigating grey skies and bleak weather into uncharted waters with Caronavirus.

My eyelashes are salt crusted from too many tears. Ready to drive home I hear squawking in the distance. It’s the sea birds whove won me over, getting loud  because a storm is coming.

 A huge storm is coming, it’s clouding the world.

 The tempest is COVID-19

I wish I could to soar above and fly through all the crap that is to come like a Silver Gull on the wing. 

I wish I was so resilient I was unsinkable. I’m not, but those ordinary-extraordinary seagulls calmed me down somehow.

Like always, the birds save me from the worst in myself.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Thérèse. Yes, you were right, you've taken a big chunk out of my scant supply of tissues - again. Mam is still ok but she had a teary phone call with my brother yesterday, full of comments about how much she loves us both and thanking us for all we have done for her, as if she wasn't expecting to see us again. "Done for her"? Get real Mam, nine months carrying each of us then seventeen years of looking after us, followed by a lifetime of still trying to look after us. ❤