Thursday, February 21, 2008
It isn't a dream but it feels like one. Halfway through the birds it started to rain. A drop here and there. J gets a phone call. My sleeves are wet from cleaning the filter in the pond, a process that requires me to crouch at the slate egde and reach my hand deep into the cold water to withdraw the feathers and leaves that gather in the filter's pores. There are always clumps of feathers, mostly the small feathers from when the birds preen. J says "wait" to the person on the phone and asks if I can go out to the lagoon to fetch an oiled grebe. I say okay. I was going to take an injured seagull to be euthanized, and it is a better errand to try and rescue a live bird. I am handed the phone and given a series of detailed but complicated directions. I try to listen, but in between visualizing the lagoon and the paths and the dunes, my attention scatters to the way rain is beginning to fall more steadily on the red slate rocks of J's patio. Then I leave and drive my car, which for some reason feels impossibly small, to the edge of the beach facing southwest. Because of the curved land, some of the beaches face southish here. I park and make my way with the blue plastic carrier past the shaggy south edge of the beach where the water is whipped white by the rain and wind and there are piles of large sad rocks. I traverse the large dune which is like a forehead and is vaguely ben bulbenesque. I hang onto my hat. The dune is muddy and criss-crossed with tire tracks where the ice plant has been cut away by bikes and hikers. I walk and look over the edge of the cliff where there is no beach, only the slapping surf. The dunes are large, and there are moments where there is nothing but white sky in sight. And then the dune slopes north and west and the green lagoon rises alongside. And then on the other side a thin taper of beach that curls and widens to a sort of half-moon swath of sand cluttered with bits of driftwood -- laurel and cypress and eucalyptus. The little beach is like a pile of sticks, a pile of matches. I am looking as the lady on the phone instructed -- looking amidst the grayish bits of matchstick wood for a long white neck. I am looking and looking for white. There is sea-spray in the air and it smells good. There is also the smell of oil, which is why I must find the grebe. The woman on the phone warned me that there were two dead birds near the live one, but I do not see them. Suddenly, I see a thin strip of white bending up and down almost like it is being blown by the wind but it is moving as a living thing moves. And the thin white strip is the thin white neck of the grebe and then I see the yellow beak and up closer the bright red-orange eyes. I put the blue plastic carrier on the sticks and approach the bird from the back. It's feathered body is like a raft adrift the sticks. I have a towel that I softly toss over its head as it begins to squawk. I gently grab the neck and scoop up the bird and, like always, I am surprised by it's lightness. The bones and feathers and wet. And the sticky oil underneath. I put the bird in the blue plastic carrier. It is only when I shut the gate and lean down to peer into its shadows that I am aware of the warm life inside the carrier, the sheltered quiet of the blue plastic as the waves and winds and sticks and oil shudder. And I feel the familiar relief of discovering that something is still alive. And is safe. And is still alive, still living.