on being off course


I’m in Chicago tonight. This is my last bit of travel for the rest of the year. I never expected to have to travel much when I chose this occupation, but this year alone I have been sleeping in hotels for over 40 nights, not counting three weeks of vacation this year. In other words, it is good that I work for myself because no employer in his right mind would ever tolerate this. In fact, if I wasn’t so invaluable to the organization I would probably fire myself. This is the insanity speaking; it was that kind of a day.

I saw a group (not really enough to call them a flock) of seagulls today while driving to the airport. No big deal, except that they had located themselves in the middle of some completely landlocked farmland. Not a speck of water in site: no major rivers, no major ponds or lakes around for miles. And certainly not the ocean.

Although to be technically correct I guess there is no such thing as a 'seagull.' I whipped out my Peterson's field guide and saw that there are glaucous gulls and iceland gulls and Kumlien's gulls and ivory gulls, etc. But no seagulls.

I stopped the car and watched them for a little while, sitting in the middle of a field. I wondered why they were there. Wondered why they didn't see what nearly every other gull had probably seen. Wondered why they seemed content to sit in the middle of a cut field of hay.

But mostly I wondered about how they had gotten off course. Perhaps one of them couldn't continue the migratory pattern and so they ended up there. Maybe they just got tired of flying. Maybe they had a vision of where it was they were supposed to go, but somehow something got in the way of that vision.

I yelled out the window to them, "Why don't you go find the ocean?" They didn't respond. I didn't understand.

But then I realized something. Maybe the gulls didn't mean to land there. Maybe they didn't know what to think of it. Maybe the only way they would end up understanding it would be: "Remember the year that the ocean dried up and disappeared. Perhaps those cows drank it all." Those gulls would talk about it for generations and it would take on mythical truth.

Most everyone finds home sooner or later.

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