It was New Year’s Day. It was the California coast as we rode our bikes north in celebration of the new year. We pushed our loaner one-gear cruisers up the hills they weren’t meant to climb, straining against gravity and a little age. We topped one hill to arrive at a bluff side turnout, where two women and a marbled mutt gazed out over the beach and ocean below. The sands were brown with winter and weeks of rain, the water silver with light below the gray sky. It was the elemental world, and the gulls – the gulls were everywhere littering the air and waves. They soared and dipped. They glided and dove. They sat like Buddhas on the water. Birds in flight, water in motion, all over the world’s roundness. What more was there to know? We rode on.
Later we arrived below at the beach. We parked our bikes and took to the rocks to sit and watch. Still the gulls swarmed, more densely and darkly. Outliers skimmed the wavelets away trailed by their tiny young. Latecomers swooped down. But it began to seem a black storming hunger now, a frenzy in the air as the swirl of movement grew ever more intensely wild. And amid it all was the diving – the nose diving, straight from mid air, sudden and steep, breaking the surface in explosions of water, spreading along the shore and ever more concentrated, as if the ocean were being bombed. Oh, it was a marvel, it was a sight, this wondrous and varied nature we treasured in the new year.
And I began to think of what was happening beneath the water.