The Creative Non-fiction Corner//

Seagulls are the sky’s synchronized swimmers

One of my earliest memories is during my first vacation. I sat on pale sand near dark turquoise Miami waves. I was wearing a shell-pink tankini with a matching bucket hat as my mother pitched and smeared thick coats of sunblock across my cheeks.

It was lunchtime. She handed me a sandwich, it peeling open in my baby hands.

Leaning in for a ham-and-cheese bite, I was interrupted by extended wings surrounding my doughy body. A yellow beak snatched the sandwich in one elegant swoop, their friends cawing with mockery overhead.

The powdered sugar sand, vast dunes next to my two-year-old height, was the gull’s own chalky territory by the sea. They flew in flocks: a synchronized routine in the sky’s swimming pool.

Of course, I immediately burst into tears. My mother chased after them, her hands frantically outreached, but they quickly took flight with broad flapping strokes. Their twirls and dives across the blue were graceful and their bright beaks acted as amber swim caps breaking the wind.

Growing up in Chicago, we’re not known for our beautiful (or clean) beaches, but in the summer seagulls would still nestle there. They’d stalk the shoreline for unprotected lunches — fully-loaded Chicago-style hotdogs and green grapes are typically on the menu.

In the wind, they soared up and down the shoreline, spinning and gliding with their broad wings as they squawked amongst themselves. They loved a classic ‘fake-out’ — they pranced across the littered sand, creeping softly just before they’d stretch into a butterfly stroke, a cape of feathers ready to plunge.

I envy their life by the waves, leisurely eating fish, clams, the occasional sandwich, while gliding over the coming tide. It’s peaceful — except when a screaming mother storms after you for stealing her daughter’s sandwich.

They may not be the most ‘beautiful’ bird to many people, but they’ve followed me everywhere, no matter where I’ve lived.

Northport — a very tiny town on Lake Michigan — is where I usually spend my summers, lunging on the brown sand, sucking Michigan cherries and devouring novels. The gulls fly around the bay or sit by cottontail-surrounded frog ponds, beaks up to enjoy the light breeze.

They seem so innocent by the lake, floating on the clear water, simply enjoying the sunshine. But just as they stiffen into look-alike plastic-bird decoys, they flip upside down and plummet to snatch up a trout. Tiny flutters from their yellow feet make little splashes in their wake.

Once they satisfy their hunger, they soar back home to Gull Island, a once inhabited place that has been overrun by hundreds of seagulls. Only two chimneys remain of the only family home that sat on the island.

Although it may seem like a malicious take-over, there’s an elegance in their routine circles above the island, synchronized in flight. The flocks of seagulls skim their wings against the lake water, leaving ripples as their feathers slice the white caps.

Even now in Vancouver, UBC is home to the gulls. They perch themselves outside of the Nest, eating student leftovers from the turf — competing with the racoons — then ascend through the wind towards the ocean.

I find so much comfort in knowing that they are everywhere.

I toss a fry to them every now and then, even though I probably shouldn’t. They’ve watched me grow up, so the gesture is out of respect. And besides — I don't see any signs saying ‘don’t feed the birds.’

Senior Staff Writer

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