10 December 2008

The Seagul (or why I missed Church on Sunday)


Cutting edge connotes a greatness and passion – that would be ok.

The problem was that I had come to think of the ‘bleeding edge’ as comfort food – spiritually, emotionally and financially.

Bleeding is just not a sustainable life model. I am out of money – seriously out of money. I have been eating my seed corn for a while now and working on a project that refuses to grow up. It sucks up money that I no longer have.

And what is worse is that, I have come to understand, that I like this – on some level. I have a ‘Just in time” sense of provisioning myself in the world. This is a stubborn story stuffed into my head before I was aware that I could vote on it. This particular story is about being clever in a dangerous world and how you survive by your wits, grit and looks:

“I am on my own; I can fight but I am not good enough to ever really win.”

It varies from a generic prairie bootstrap story only by its lack of a happy ending – or any ending. It would kill most people young …but my mother’s milk gave me a deep understanding of brinksmanship. I focused. I worked hard. I made payroll. I lasted into middle age without waking up in a breakdown.

I first tried to quit this story by leaving town. I sat all my employees down in a room to say I was going West. It was Tulsa and they were shocked. I left but took my fears about the world with me to recreate it bigger in the next “life” in the big city. I met my husband soon after arriving and we made an all-consuming business in tech - together.

Seven years later, the second wake up crash was even bigger. Within a three-year timeframe, we went bankrupt. The only real partner I had ever had – my husband and business partner left me. My Adonis older brother was killed in a skydiving accident and my superwoman mother fell into dementia. The national “911” experience seemed to parallel but pale to the overriding sadness of my new life.

It was at this time that I found Unity and pantheism which was big enough to fit my ideas of God.

THE SEAGULL (or why I missed church on Sunday)

Twilight had emptied the seabird competitive chaos from the city lake. It was now the temporal province of bats. Their muffled aerobatics were more felt than heard when my pace finally quieted my particularly “chatty” mental chorus of the day.

The reflective black pool matched my mood – contemplative and stubbornly negative. I was just offering all “my stuff” to the walking and the beauty of the moment when I saw her.

Of the hundreds of seagulls there by day, she was the only one that remained and she was working hard to stay afloat and alive. White against the dark water, she rested her head on the rim of the pool’s edge; she seemed off-balance and a little too deep in the water. Like a damaged ship seeking port, she was wounded.

I approached her – more out of instinct than any useful offer of help. She moved away in fear.

In this seagull, I saw me. She was separate. Her fears stripped her of her flock, her protection, her community - as I have done on various levels most of my life. I have braced myself for a dangerous world before engaging it. So, of course, the world ‘proved’ itself to be dangerous and unfair.

She, as my metaphor, floats alone in contrast to my new sweetheart and partner who is all about engaging the world in ways that heal himself and others. He has a deep web of friends and family that value him. She showed me something that I did not want to see. I have created disconnection in my life through my beliefs and judgments.

I want to stop judging – everything especially myself. I am most unkind to my self.

Hafiz has a poem called The Vintage Man that is about this habit of artistic self-criticism and self destruction. The new Ladinsky translation is “Whitman-esque” in its freshness:

The Vintage Man

Between a good artist
And a great one

The novice
Will often lay down his tool
Or brush

Then pick up an invisible club
On the mind’s table

And helplessly smash the easels and

Whereas the vintage man
No longer hurts himself or anyone

And keeps on


Judging is a dam to the creative river. I want a quick and easy fish ladder to get around my dams or maybe dynamite. But the Seagull showed me what I did not want: stellar isolation and I was grateful. I felt somehow conversant in the language Universe.

Over the course of the next two days, my little seagull showed amazing grit and will to endure. I fed her crumbs from my table when the flock wasn’t looking.

I did not want to imagine her fate because she was my metaphor. However, each day she was still there. I meditated on decline as part of the life’s process of continuance and renewal. I contemplated acceptance of the good of God, even if it did not look like “good” to me.

On Sunday morning, dreading to see her dead but looking for her anyway, she saw me across the lake. She recognized me. She paddled with difficulty - over to my side of the lake. She was weak and did her best to eat something. She sided up to the pool’s edge and paused. Her back was to me; she was so close. I realized that she was asking for help; she wanted me to pick her up.

Without thinking it through, I had a seagull cradled in my arms.

Strangely, I had what I needed. The towel that I had used to hold the bread, became her wrap. I took her home. With the help of my spiritual partner, we made a nest for her. With the omnipotent connections of the Internet, we found a place that would care for her and went within the hour to get her help.

With an apology – we walked in. “I (only) have a wounded Gull”. We had passed all sorts of amazing animals on the way to the front desk- a white pelican, a raven, hawks, eggrets etc. The WildCare people did not think I was crazy to have consideration for this gull. They actually THANKED me. I told the story of this seagull that endured so long and recognized me from across the lake. One vibrant young woman suggested that connections to animals like this meant something important to Shamans and people in tune with nature.

Hey. I want to be in tune with nature…

A gull, it turns out is a bird of two realms and is symbolic of communication between the world of land and sea. It suggests eloquence from the unconscious to the physical world. It portends a possibility of working with the natural world.

I missed going to my church that morning but made it to one near WildCare with an adventure story about a Gull, the Universe and Me. It was a great day.

My gull is doing fine and recovering from a pellet wound in her shoulder from a gun.With no broken bones she will heal. I will give her back so I can release her back to her life, healed.