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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


It seems to me that seagulls don't get enough press, and when they get it, it's bad - all that squawking at summer dawns (that's 4:30 am up here in north country), poking around the shore for disgusting rotten things,  descending on the ducks when they pop up after a food dive, swooping down to relieve you of the sandwich in your hand (this happened to my wife in Florida), pooping on your brick sidewalk, or somewhere worse. But they are magnificent flyers, moving swiftly, changing direction with the flick of a feather, or just standing in mid-air in a windstorm, laughing at us. Most wonderfully insouciant.

Then there is the standing on roofs. On my walk down to Crocketts Beach this morning, I saw perhaps 20 of them on the ridgeline of one house. As I walked by, a few rose up and circled overhead, perhaps following me, passing  by another favorite house, judging by the white streaks down the roof angle, and finally joining a bunch of others on the roof of the big house on the shore. Each new arrival settled in, and the line adjusted such that equal space was achieved between all, and the effect was eerily organized, some 50 birds all lined up along the whole length of roof, all perfectly spaced, all facing the same way looking out to sea. I'd give them a lot of credit if I knew why they did it. They wouldn't care.

The roof tiles of this big house were not white-streaked like the other, lesser abodes away from the water. Perhaps the owner had failed today to activate the luxury house accessory package - the hot-wire, roofline gull repeller, along with the golf simulator in the basement and the fake-log fireplace. Or the gardener and the woodcutter and the lawnboy had come but not the seagull shoo-er. Or the roof had the Seaside Special: tiles guaranteed against guano for 15 years. Probably the gulls just know class when they see it. Wretches, to distribute their waste so discriminately!

As I walked back up the road from the beach, one lone seagull was walking on the road ahead of me, as if leading me away from its babies. We traveled together for a couple of hundred yards, and then I saw the problem. I got a little too close and it tried to take off and fly and it fell over like a drunk. One wing hung down, useless. It hurried off into a yard as if embarrassed. How does a gull break a wing? Is there anything so terrible as a wounded bird? Its magic, its blitheness, is gone. I wish I had a sandwich to give.

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