This week my children and I spent several days along the coast discovering new beaches and revisiting our favorites along the way. Three days into our trip, one sprawling beach caught our attention, so we made a day there, frolicking in the sand under an overcast, humid sky. We played along the shoreline in shallow, choppy and inconsistent waves. We chose a less populated spot to picnic, and as I sat there watching my children playing in the water, I understood why not very many people were in this particular area. Behind me was a freshwater pool where gulls flocked in multitudes. Every so often (quite often) the birds would squawk in sync and then fly out to the ocean all together. Above my two children they would flap their white wings and navigate along the ocean in troves, and then about a quarter mile out, they circled back to the beach pond and landed into the shallow water. There were a couple hundred seagulls, at least. I thought of moving away from the noisy birds several times, but something about this strange bird phenomenon intrigued me. What were they doing, exactly? They definitely were not hunting for fish. This was clear. I continued watching the gulls and noted that there was a rhythm. It seemed as if they did this random quarter mile flight about every five minutes, but they did not have a timer, so how did they know when it was time to launch?
At some point I made peace with the squawking, flying birds and decided to stay in the area. Perhaps I could figure out what they were doing. When I felt warm enough, I made my way into the ocean and spent an hour body boarding with my children, assisting my daughter in moving with the body of water after she had been dragged through the sand by a wave. It made her quite nervous, but she quickly moved through her fear. This was a good time to get out while she was feeling confident enough to swim around without me alongside of her. I got back on steady ground, laid upon my beach towel and opened a book I’ve been reading about the poet and sage, Robert Lax who moved to the Greek Isles from America in his early forties and ended up staying there for the remainder of his life. Interestingly, the chapter I was on was about rhythm. Every so often, I found myself looking up from my book to check on my children and to watch the gulls do their flight routine above the water. It was a curious event and I doubted that I would ever figure out the point of their travel pattern. My human mind created scenarios of them being in some sort of bird boot camp. I actually wondered if they were training for something, but most likely they were just there reflecting what I was about to learn. Their purpose for this rhythmic flight may have been nothing more than a demonstration of the rhythm of life.
As I read about Robert Lax’s understanding that our bodies require rhythm in order to flow with life (instead of against it), it occurred to me that I’ve been second guessing myself all along, although I’ve pretty much made a personal art of just going with the flow. Once in a while, I’ve gathered that my movement with the flow of my life is frustrating to the people around me who want things to be a certain way, and are quite fixed in their thinking. People get stuck in their ideas of what should happen next, rather than allowing life to unfold as it may. I used to be this way too. It’s common, but I’ve let go of that need to have things be a certain way. There’s been too many times when things didn’t go my way, and at that moment when I believed things were “off,” a synchronistic event occurred that brought it all together in a way that I could have never predicted. Frustration is a result of expectation. I don’t enjoy being frustrated, you see. I suppose my goal all along has been to find a way to live in a constant state of peace. In my attempts to go with my own flow, I’ve been called “moody,” although my “moods” are a result of needing to reflect inward some days, while other days I’m more extroverted. I’m ok with this way of being. I no longer resist myself, nor do I judge myself for not always being outgoing. Some days I am the life of the party and some days I’m alone in a corner just being quiet. I don’t try to be anything any longer. I’m like a reed in a river just bending with the wakes and wind. The inner calm is constant and whatever is occurring on the outside is mirroring my state of being. Everything is connected, and I’m a part of the whole. Human beings are part of nature, so I have learned to pay attention to how nature lives in harmony, so that I can do the same. Over the course of the year, I’ve thought of myself as random and choppy like the waves, because of someone close to me basically telling me that I’m “off.” According to what other people observe, maybe I seem that way, but I know from being in my own body and mind, that most of the time I’m just trying to find my balance. Nothing more and nothing less. Harmony is extremely important to me, so when I feel “off” I tend to go inward where I can interpret what is going on for me. I’m simply going with my own inner ebb and flow, and when I do things with a sense of well-being and love, my decisions end up having a ripple effect for all people involved. Everything always works out in the end. There really is rhyme and reason behind everything I do, although it isn’t easy to explain to those who are comfortable with a more linear existence.
It took me about two hours to understand that the seagulls had a natural timer driving them to and from the ocean. It was very interesting to say the least. I observed that each time the surf was heavy and thundering, capped with a white funnel, the gulls would squawk loudly and then they would simultaneously fly out above the water, and then turn back around. The surf determined their flow, and a high folding of the waves meant that it was time to go out and do their dance. There was rhyme, but I have yet to understand the reason. I suppose it doesn’t really matter why the birds followed this pattern. It just is. That’s all. And because I was reading about rhythm in that very moment in time, it all came to a full circle of understanding within me.
Like many people, I have always been drawn to the seashore. I am not much of a sailor because I do get sick from the motion, but swimming in the ocean and being near the vast body of water just feels like home to me. While I was out body boarding that afternoon, I felt the rhythm of the sea and it was relaxing. Rather than resisting it, I became part of it. I showed my nervous daughter how to flow with it instead of fear it. She caught on quickly and decided that she absolutely loved the ocean. Such as life. We can either resist what is happening for us, or we can be in a constant state of surrender so that we flow freely through the currents, even when they are unpredictable. When we are aware of the surrounding environment, we learn to dance with it, rather than dread the incoming tides. I’ve spent most of my life resisting, and my life was perilous during that time, but I’ve learned the art of surrender and now I wake up excited about another day. The seagulls taught me something about rhythm last week. They reminded me that it’s a very natural thing to move with life, to take cues from the elements and to not need an explanation. They taught me about poetry in motion and reminded me that I can trust my inner ebb and flow. We all have this natural ability to move in sync with life and it doesn’t matter what the observer sees. I have no idea what those birds were doing out there, but they certainly didn’t make any fuss about me. Harmony doesn’t need a reason. It simply is.