Jonathan Livingston Seagull . . . was no ordinary bird. Most gulls don't bother to learn more than the simplest facts of flight how to get from shore to food and back again. For most gulls, it is not flying that matters, but eating. For this gull, though, it was not eating that mattered, but flight. More than anything else, Jonathan Livingston Seagull loved to fly.
Man is a free moral agent and can be magnanimous and deal disinterestedly, humanity is a definite goal, social justice is desirable and possible, individual lives may be gloriously diversified, uniquely individualized, and yet socially useful; or, these are mere phrases, snares to catch gulls, soothing syrup for our troubled souls.
George Amos Dorsey
Today, Aaron decided, he would begin to grieve in earnest. He would walk the lonely beach, mocked by gulls, uncaring, his every step a stately rebuke to the malign forces that had blighted his fate. His was the tragedy of a man who couldn't have his own way, and he intended to make known his anguish in the solemn solitude that only a stretch of sand, a suspiring sea, and a beetling cliff could provide.
I have been feeling very clearheaded lately and what I want to write about today is the sea. It contains so many colors. Silver at dawn, green at noon, dark blue in the evening. Sometimes it looks almost red. Or it will turn the color of old coins. Right now the shadows of clouds are dragging across it, and patches of sunlight are touching down everywhere. White strings of gulls drag over it like beads. It is my favorite thing, I think, that I have ever seen. Sometimes I catch myself staring at it and forget my duties. It seems big enough to contain everything anyone could ever feel.
I walked to Mairangi Bay beach, day after day, seeking companionship in the roar of the ocean, and contemplating the shipwreck of my life. There, in that isolated wilderness, amidst the screaming gulls, and consistent rhythm of the tides, I channeled my chaotic thoughts through my pen and released them into poetry, until the quiet desperation passed and I was secure in the knowledge that I had made it through another day.
The conversation between Fletcher and Jonathan Livingston Seagull is centered on why some have achieved more than others . . . are they divine . . . ahead of their times . . . Fletcher says, Well, this kind of flying has always been here to be learned by anybody who wanted to discover it; that's got nothing to do with time. We're ahead of the fashion, maybe. Ahead of the way most gulls fly. Poor Fletch. Don't you believe what your eyes are telling you? All they show is limitations. Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you'll see the way to fly.
Devoutly the teachers point out huge fumigated domes; but beneath the statues there's no love, no love beneath the eyes set in crystal. Love is there, in flesh ripped by thirst, in the tiny hut struggling against the flood; love is there, in ditches where snakes of hunger wrestle, in the sad sea that rocks dead gulls, and in the darkest stinging kiss under pillows.
Federico Garcia Lorca
... photography is an imprint or transfer off the real; it is a photochemically processed trace causally connected to the thing in the world to which it refers in a manner parallel to fingerprints or footprints or the rings of water that cold glasses leave on tables. The photograph is thus generically distinct from painting or sculpture or drawing. On the family tree of images it is closer to palm prints, death masks, the Shroud of Turin, or the tracks of gulls on beaches.
Rosalind E. Krauss
Under the tossing ocean the voice of the waters was in my ears-a low, sweet voice, intimate, mysterious. Through singing foam and broad, green, glassy depths, by whispering sandy channels atrail with sea-weed, and on, on, out into the vague, cool sea, I sped, rising to the top, sinking, gliding. Then at last I flung myself out of water, hands raised, and the clamor of the gulls filled my ears.
Robert W. Chambers
I think it takes an amazing amount of energy to convince oneself that the Forever Person isn't just around the corner. In the end I believe we never do convince ourselves. I know that I found it increasingly hard to maintain the pose of emotional self-sufficiency lying on my bed and sitting at my desk, watching the gulls cartwheeling in the clouds over the bridges, cradling myself in my own arms, breathing warm chocolate-and-vodka breath on a rose I had found on a street corner, trying to force it to bloom.
With favoring winds, o'er sunlit seas, We sailed for the Hesperides, The land where golden apples grow; But that, ah! that was long ago. How far, since then, the ocean streams Have swept us from that land of dreams, That land of fiction and of truth, The lost Atlantis of our youth! Whither, ah, whither? Are not these The tempest-haunted Orcades, Where sea-gulls scream, and breakers roar, And wreck and sea-weed line the shore? Ultima Thule! Utmost Isle! Here in thy harbors for a while We lower our sails; a while we rest From the unending, endless quest.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
WE DASH THE BLACK RIVER, ITS flats smooth as stone. Not a ship, not a dinghy, not one cry of white. The water lies broken, cracked from the wind. This great estuary is wide, endless. The river is brackish, blue with the cold. It passes beneath us blurring. The sea birds hang above it, they wheel, disappear. We flash the wide river, a dream of the past. The deeps fall behind, the bottom is paling the surface, we rush by the shallows, boats beached for winter, desolate piers. And on wings like the gulls, soar up, turn, look back.
Through Rohan over fen and field where the long grass grows The West Wind goes walking, and about the walls it goes. What news from the West, oh wandering wind, do you bring to me tonight? Have you seen Boromir the Tall by moon or by starlight? 'I saw him ride over seven streams, over waters wide and grey; I saw him walk in empty lands, until he passed away Into the shadows of the North. I saw him then no more. The North Wind may have heard the horn of the son of Denethor.' Oh, Boromir! From the high walls westward I looked afar. But you came not from the empty lands where no men are. From the mouth of the sea the South Wind flies, From the sand hills and the stones; The wailing of the gulls it bears, and at the gate it moans What news from the South, oh sighing wind, do you bring to me at eve? Where now is Boromir the Fair? He tarries and I grieve. 'Ask me not where he doth dwell-so many bones there lie On the white shores and on the black shores under the stormy sky; So many have passed down Anduin to find the flowing sea. Ask of the North Wind news of them the North Wind sends to me!' Oh Boromir! Beyond the gate the Seaward road runs South, But you came not with the wailing gulls from the grey seas mouth. From the Gate of Kings the North Wind rides, And past the roaring falls And loud and cold about the Tower its loud horn calls. What news from the North, oh mighty wind, do you bring to me today? What news of Boromir the Bold? For he is long away. 'Beneath Amon Hen I heard his cry. There many foes he fought His cloven shield, his broken sword, they to the water brought. His head so proud, his face so fair, his limbs they laid to rest; And Rauros, Golden Rauros Falls, bore him upon its breast.' Oh Boromir! The Tower of Guard shall ever northward gaze To Rauros, Golden Rauros Falls until the end of days.
Have you really not noticed, then, that here of all places, in this private, personal solitude that surrounds me, I have turned to you? All the memories of my youth speak to me as I walk, just as the sea shells crunch under my feet on the beach. The crash of every wave awakens far-distant reverberations within me... I hear the rumble of bygone days, and in my mind the whole endless series of old passions surges forward like the billows. I remember my spasms, my sorrows, gusts of desire that whistled like wind in the rigging, and vast vague longings that swirled in the dark like a flock of wild gulls in a stormcloud... On whom should I lean, if not on you? My weary mind turns for refreshment to the thought of you as a dusty traveler might sink onto a soft and grassy bank...
Come to the beach with me And watch the pelicans die, Hear their feeble screams Calling to an empty sky Where once they played And scouted for food, Not scavenging like the gulls But plummeting unafraid Into friendly waters. Come to the beach with me And watch the pelicans die, Listen to their feeble screams Calling to an empty sky. Maybe Christ will walk by And save them in their final toil Or work a miracle from the shore, A courtesy of Union Oil. Come to the beach with me And watch the pelicans die. My God! They'll never fly again. It's worse than Normandy somehow, For there we only murdered men.
To the sea, to the sea! The white gulls are crying, The wind is blowing, and the white foam is flying. West, west away, the round sun is falling, Grey ship, grey ship, do you hear them calling, The voices of my people that have gone before me? I will leave, I will leave the woods that bore me; For our days are ending and our years failing. I will pass the wide waters lonely sailing. Long are the waves on the Last Shore falling, Sweet are the voices in the Lost Isle calling, In Eressea, in Elvenhome that no man can discover, Where the leaves fall not: land of my people forever!
Sea-fever I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by, And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking, And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking. I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied; And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying, And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying. I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life, To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife; And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over
White-crested waves crash on the shore. The masts sway violently, every which way. In the gray sky the gulls are circling like white flakes. Rain squalls blow past like gray slanting sails, and blue gaps open in the sky. The air brightens. A cold silvery evening. The moon is overhead, and down below, in the water; and all around it-a wide frame of old, hammered, scaly silver. Etched on the silver-silent black fishing boats, tiny black needles of masts, little black men casting invisible lines into the silver. And the only sounds are the occasional plashing of an oar, the creaking of an oarlock, the springlike leap and flip-flop of a fish. ("The North")
I looked out the window and saw the street and railroad tracks, the woods beyond. Beyond the woods, the county of which they were a part. And so on, until it all dissolved into the larger thing: my mother's house becoming every other house as I once had seen it, sitting atop the southern end of a broad river valley, close enough to the the mountains that every few years a scared black bear would wander down into the remaining forest, and close enough to the ocean that those early English settlers took it as the farthest point they'd go upstream, the geology of the place preventing them from having any choice other than the one wherein they said, "We are lost; therefore we will call this home." And close enough that as a child I had been teased by older kids who said if I only tried hard enough I would smell salt water, and I, believing, stood among the light poles and the gulls in the parking lots of AandPs and cried when I knew that it was true despite the fact that they had meant to lie, as children sometimes do.
The immense accretion of flesh which had descended on her in middle life like a flood of lava on a doomed city had changed her from a plump active little woman with a neatly-turned foot and ankle into something as vast and august as a natural phenomenon. She had accepted this submergence as philosophically as all her other trials, and now, in extreme old age, was rewarded by presenting to her mirror an almost unwrinkled expanse of firm pink and white flesh, in the centre of which the traces of a small face survived as if awaiting excavation. A flight of smooth double chins led down to the dizzy depths of a still-snowy bosom veiled in snowy muslins that were held in place by a miniature portrait of the late Mr. Mingott; and around and below, wave after wave of black silk surged away over the edges of a capacious armchair, with two tiny white hands poised like gulls on the surface of the billows.
As the sun shines low and red across the water, I wade into the ocean. The water is still high and brown and murky with the memory of the storm, so if there's something below it, I won't know it. But that's part of this, the not knowing. The surrender to the possibilities beneath the surface. It wasn't the ocean that killed my father, in the end. The water is so cold that my feet go numb almost at once. I stretch my arms out to either side of me and close my eyes. I listen to the sound of water hitting water. The raucous cries of the terns and the guillemots in the rocks of the shore, the piercing, hoarse questions of the gulls above me. I smell seaweed and fish and the dusky scent of the nesting birds onshore. Salt coats my lips, crusts my eyelashes. I feel the cold press against my body. The sand shifts and sucks out from under my feet in the tide. I'm perfectly still. The sun is red behind my eyelids. The ocean will not shift me and the cold will not take me.
So that you will hear me my words sometimes grow thin as the tracks of the gulls on the beaches. Necklace, drunken bell for your hands smooth as grapes. And I watch my words from a long way off. They are more yours than mine. They climb on my old suffering like ivy. It climbs the same way on damp walls. You are to blame for this cruel sport. They are fleeing from my dark lair. You fill everything, you fill everything. Before you they peopled the solitude that you occupy, and they are more used to my sadness than you are. Now I want them to say what I want to say to you to make you hear as I want you to hear me. The wind of anguish still hauls on them as usual. Sometimes hurricanes of dreams still knock them over. You listen to other voices in my painful voice. Lament of old mouths, blood of old supplications. Love me, companion. Don't forsake me. Follow me. Follow me, companion, on this wave of anguish. But my words become stained with your love. You occupy everything, you occupy everything. I am making them into an endless necklace for your white hands, smooth as grapes.
A swaddled silence would be over the island, nights like that: if they complained, or had to cry for some lesion or cramp, it was baffled by the thick mists and all you heard was the tide, slapping ever sideways along the strand, viscous, reverberating; then seltzering back to sea, violently salt, leaving a white skin on the sand it hadn't taken. And only occasionally above the mindless rhythm, from across the narrow strait, over on the great African continent itself, a sound would arise to make the fog colder, the night darker, the Atlantic more menacing: if it were human it could have been called laughter, but it was not human. It was a product of alien secretions, boiling over into blood already choked and heady; causing ganglia to twitch, the field of night-vision to be grayed into shapes that threatened, putting an itch into every fiber, an unbalance, a general sensation of error that could only be nulled by those hideous paroxysms, those fat, spindle-shaped bursts of air up the pharynx, counter-irritating the top of the mouth cavity, filling the nostrils, easing the prickliness under the jaw and down the center-line of the skull: it was the cry of the brown hyena called the strand wolf, who prowled the beach singly or with companions in search of shellfish, dead gulls, anything flesh and unmoving.
There are many examples where species share common plastic traits. What appears to be convergence may just be the plastic response of the organism to its environment. Examples include the following: Limbs that protrude from an animal's body have more surface area per unit mass than the rest of the body. In cold weather the animal loses more heat per unit mass from these limbs than from other parts of the body. In many species the tails and legs are shorter for those living in colder climates and larger for those in warmer climates. Gulls' wings are shorter in cold climates than in warm. Hares and foxes also have shorter ears in cold climates than in warm. Eskimos have shorter arms and legs than do people living in warmer climates... Jodan's rule: Many species of fish tend to have more vertebrae when they live in cold water than do the same species living in warm water. These differences have been shown to depend on the temperature at which the fish have been reared. What these rules show is not convergence. They show that different species adopt the same anatomical strategies when they have to cope with the same environmental conditions. We have seen that these strategies cannot come from random mutations. It is much more reasonable to say they come from environmental cues acting on the genetic program.
Let me tell you about love, that silly word you believe is about whether you like somebody or whether somebody likes you or whether you can put up with somebody in order to get something or someplace you want or you believe it has to do with how your body responds to another body like robins or bison or maybe you believe love is how forces or nature or luck is benign to you in particular not maiming or killing you but if so doing it for your own good. Love is none of that. There is nothing in nature like it. Not in robins or bison or in the banging tails of your hunting dogs and not in blossoms or suckling foal. Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind. It is a learned application without reason or motive except that it is God. You do not deserve love regardless of the suffering you have endured. You do not deserve love because somebody did you wrong. You do not deserve love just because you want it. You can only earn - by practice and careful contemplations - the right to express it and you have to learn how to accept it. Which is to say you have to earn God. You have to practice God. You have to think God-carefully. And if you are a good and diligent student you may secure the right to show love. Love is not a gift. It is a diploma. A diploma conferring certain privileges: the privilege of expressing love and the privilege of receiving it. How do you know you have graduated? You don't. What you do know is that you are human and therefore educable, and therefore capable of learning how to learn, and therefore interesting to God, who is interested only in Himself which is to say He is interested only in love. Do you understand me? God is not interested in you. He is interested in love and the bliss it brings to those who understand and share the interest. Couples that enter the sacrament of marriage and are not prepared to go the distance or are not willing to get right with the real love of God cannot thrive. They may cleave together like robins or gulls or anything else that mates for life. But if they eschew this mighty course, at the moment when all are judged for the disposition of their eternal lives, their cleaving won't mean a thing. God bless the pure and holy. Amen.