One of my favorite things to do living in the beautiful Bay area is going to the beach on weekends. I don’t go all the time, but it is something I absolutely LOVE TO DO. This weekend I went with a couple of friends and it turned into a very heartfelt time in nature from beginning to end.
I brought my camera with me because I just love watching all the birds and enjoying all the life at the sea. I noticed a beautiful rose on the beach that someone had left behind with some writing that was mostly washed away. It was very poetic and beautiful just sitting there and I captured this shot.
Somehow, that rose was symbolic of the day.
After just sitting on the beach and enjoying watching the waves and gulls, we happened to notice a little bird which I later looked up to be a “Pigeon Guillemot”. We thought at first it was a baby bird without its mom, but it is likely that it was grown or almost grown.
At first, we saw it with a seagull nearby. I didn’t think much of it as I thought it was just two birds hanging out, but then I noticed that the gull would get close and start to peck at this little bird and the pigeon was not moving from its spot to protect itself. It was just sitting there, but pecking his beak back at the gull. I knew something was wrong.
I have this ongoing joke that whenever I come to the beach I call it “my favorite movie”. As we were watching this story unfold with the bully seagull pecking at this little bird, I got up and I said, “Not in my movie”! I did not want to watch a seagull peck another live bird to death, which is exactly what this gull would have done had I not intervened.
Now many people may say, “oh that’s just nature”. Sure, ok, nature does that, but if you are sitting there, are you going to watch it? Are you comfortable with it? In my life, compassion counts no matter what life form.
When I arrived at first, the pigeon was a bit afraid of me, but then I stepped back a bit and just talked to it softly. She eventually walked towards me.
We carried it over to our little section on the beach and I held her in my hands and she seemed to really enjoy being held. It was as if she was saying “Thank you, I really needed a break”. Her eyes would close as if she was needing this “rest”. I knew at this point that there was definitely something wrong with the bird health wise. Although I could not see any physical injury, there was something not right, perhaps some internal disease or injury. None of us knew exactly what was the problem, but we did know that we wanted to take care of it as long as we could.
At the same time, a big crab showed up on the beach. At first he was upside down, but then when I picked him up, he was moving and still alive. I realized that I wanted to show the same compassion for the crab as I did for the bird. Except that the crab was not as interested in cuddling like the bird. It seemed to have a warrior like spirit and was ready to brave whatever happened to him. I let him be.
We had our wool blanket with us and were enjoying just sitting with the blanket over us and eventually our pigeon decided that it would be nice to hide in the blanket. We affectionately named her “yin-yang” due to her black and white appearance. We gave yin-yang the space in the blanket to enjoy and I just know that she loved it because she was safe from the pecking gulls and any other predator that might be around.
The day went on and we were enjoying it as we always do when we go to the beach, watching all the different birds from seagulls, pelicans, hawks and many other species. It truly is wonderful watching the roaring of the ocean waves, and wondering if we’ll see any big wildlife like some whales or dolphins.
We had tried to feed yin-yang some water, but she wasn’t really interested. For awhile we left her in the blanket while we roamed the beach for some time. When we got back to the blanket, she was still sitting in the same spot. I would pet her head softly and she just closed her eyes and seemed to really enjoy the touch. I could sense yin-yang feeling gratitude for having this time and space to be alone, yet cared for.
We decided it was time to move to a different spot on the beach next to all our stuff. When we started to move, she flapped her wings a bit, but I could see that she didn’t have enough strength to fly. Whatever was wrong with her, was likely to take her life… probably sooner than later. So we sat down near our day-tent and I had her in my lap for about ½ an hour as she just rested. She really enjoyed being held. I saw that she was breathing heavier and I knew something was changing. Again, she started to flap her wings and I thought, ok, I’ll put you on the sand. She could barely keep her head up, so I tried to prop her in a way that was as comfy as possible.
It was here that I knew that she was going to die soon. I thought to myself, you’re going to watch this beautiful little life pass on to another world. My mind was really resistant to the idea and I started to tear up feeling helpless as this sweet soul was struggling with its last few moments. It was my job to be “present”. I noticed her wings stretch out to the fullest as if she was having a dream she was about to go flying. I knew she was ready to leave soon. I saw her take her last breath and then her entire body and head went limp. The light of her spirit had left her body. I wept for this beautiful little life that I nurtured though her last hours.
I wondered why this was happening and why I was here witnessing it. Maybe it was just to be the change I wanted to see? I knew that I would not have let that bird be pecked to death at the shoreline. I just imagined what it would be like to be a bird in her position and thought how thankful I would be if someone were to pick me up and save me. Even if I knew my body was going to die, it would be nice to die peacefully. This little bird, yin-yang served up a lot of love to me and I gave it back to her. I will always remember this moment and be thankful for being there.
Believing in the recycling of life, we eventually took her body near the ocean and let the birds and other wildlife go after the body. Her spirit had long left her and was probably flying in her new world.
On Death by Kahlil Gibran
You would know the secret of death. But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life? The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light. If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life. For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond; And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring. Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity. Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour. Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king? Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling? For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.