Beaches September 01, 2008
Long weekends were meant for the beach. Occasionally I miss the shore, its sound of slapping waves, bare feet in the sand and the haunting cry of gulls. We lived on the shores of Lake Erie over a decade and I barely glanced at fabulous shorebirds. Now I crane my neck at each fly-by and try to sort the gulls. Who knows what I passed by in my pre-birding days? The irony of life never ceases to amaze.
Now I realize there are least 10 different varieties of gulls on our lake... all of which I held in distain as a shrieking mouth at one end and an endless source of boat canvas whitewash on the other. They flap about begging for French fries or scrap on the beach over rotting morsels of yesterday’s sheepshead; never very high or noteworthy in my book, much less deserving of a second look, until now. The stilt legs were at least interesting, as they run back and forth on the sandy shores drilling for riches with their bills. But who knew there were so many: plovers and pipers, dowitchers and snipe? Why didn’t I realize before?
I never really saw them as individuals to be divided and conquered, and checked off a list. Mostly they were background noise. The soundtrack to an otherwise happy life: holding hands on the beach, sand between the toes and water slopping into cuff of upturned pants, two children giggling, poking sticks in the sand and collecting minute shells. Running ahead, hair in the breeze, fall setting in, hand holding, snuggling… who thought of birds? Not I. Not I.
And now, I sort each, thrilled by a Sanderling. Is this better… or worse? Sadder and wiser, or just older and settled? There is no chasing and hugging, no scolding for transgressions of venial sins involving sharp stick and sun-splayed catfish. I have a new life and however rewarding… sometimes I miss the old. Here’s to a weekend of beaches, and reflections.