Friday, 16 August 2013

ESSAY: A story about a broken wing

I work at a Yacht Club and have the privilege of a sea view complete with wind-tossed palm trees and soaring seagulls.
I must confess to not being particularly fond of seagulls.
They are loud, vicious and unlovable: vermin with wings.
At least I always thought so.

My colleague Al thinks otherwise. She is a sensitive soul with sea-green eyes and a gruff attitude that hides a tender heart. Many years ago, long before I came to work with her, she rescued a seagull with a broken wing. She nursed her and fed her. It was a her, that seagull. Female. Vicious, loud, demanding. Al fed her three tins of cat-food a day.

Did I say it was a seagull? By the time I arrived on the scene it was a veritable Christmas Turkey.
She waddled on webbed feet to the window of our office, dragging that broken wing; and tapped demandingly for food three times a day. If the “service” was not fast enough, Madam would scream furiously. She’d screech anyway, and stare at whoever was feeding her with an imperious, scornful eye. I was not fond of her. She was not endearing.

One day, she did not come to tap on the window for breakfast, nor for lunch…
I’ll admit I was worried.

Al told me that the Princess - as she called that squint-winged demon - had a lover.
A lover?

Yep, a seagull lover- a dashing, debonair wind-pirate. This lover came every season, and for a few weeks, the Princess would not show up for feeding. She was dining on richer fare. Her love was plundering the depths and bringing her glittering silver fish, grooming her broken wing with a tender beak, standing with her against the sharp afternoon gusts to share a dazzling sunset.

And then - as is the way with seagulls -he would leave; and she, with her shattered wing, could not follow.
Her life was a cycle of love and longing.
He’d come, he’d go, she’s stay and she would mourn; but he always came back.
Always, season after season, there he would be.

For days after he left, she would squat at the edge of the quay, that long concrete tongue licking at the bay, and she mourned.
I swear she mourned.
She huddled there, a despondant bundle of feathers, watching the horizon.

Then she would pull herself together and be back to her old routine, banging on that picture-window, her mad eye summoning her slaves to feed her, quickly now!
And we did.

One day the Seagull Princess vanished for good, and Al was devastated.
We don’t know what happened to her, what mishap overtook her.
I like to think some sea-god blessed her, and she soared away with her love, whole-winged and hale.

I wonder: if seagulls can love like this, be loved like this; can we settle for less?
Can we accept, or live, a love a that does not touch our broken wings with tenderness?
Love that is not steadfast, that is not acceptance, love that does not transcend our flaws and painful limitations?

“Love is not love that alters, where it doth alteration find”
Do not settle for less, ever.
Demand a broken-winged love too.

Manuela Cardiga

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