Grebes are a type of bird – oddly proportioned, graceless on land, they live most of their lives at sea, like sailors. They hunt by diving into the water, flying through the depths, soaring between the currents. Their legs are placed far back on their bodies, to propel these aquatic hunts, but making walking difficult. And in flight they should be embarrassed.
Boyfriend and I see them quite often. Unafraid of every wave’s swell, often diving into them, which is more than I’m willing to do. The types we see are typically sized – small to medium – arching their necks as if they were for all the world sea-bound swans. These necks are black and white. Their bills are yellow. Their eyes are red. We are always glad to see them.
A couple of weekends ago, I was standing on a rock, monitoring Boyfriend’s surfing exploits with our camera. It can get dull between rides, so my attention will stray. I had seen an adult pair of grebes earlier, red-eyed and companionable.
Now, I saw what I thought was a wayward scud of foam to my distant right. But as I watched, it seemed to disengage itself and start swimming against the tide. To my delight I realized that it was a ‘raft’ (a group of grebes) of young grebes, possibly thirteen in all. They were just about grown out of their down, but the adult coloration had not established itself yet. They swam in a ragged line, diving into the waves, bobbing over them, coming dangerously close to the rocks. I feared for their little lives. The world needs more sea birds.
These little ones were being weaned from their parents – possibly the two I had seen earlier, free at last. But these tiny youths might still have needed a parental figure, and were willing to accept any port in a storm.
If I hadn’t been observing the ripples and tiny colors in the sand so intently, I would have missed this living cameo, tucked like a golden intaglio in the silica dunes roaming at my feet.
It was startling to see such an array of brightness and design – interlocking like panes of Chartres glass – so obviously alive yet so still as to give the impression that in all likelihood this fluttering illustration was dead. The blue eyes, arranged at its edges like a scallop’s, were wide awake and unblinking: an optic nerve that ran along its border, black-edged like a Victorian mourning card.
I knelt close to it, breathing lightly so as not to disturb the frosting on its wings, spun like stars frozen into the sky. It was so still and foolish – foolish to think that it could hide behind its static brilliance. It was as veiled as a sunset.
Within its off-kilter symmetry and cursive silhouette lay a history of art – Beardsley’s line, William Morris’ wallpaper, Klimt’s gold ingots; even Charles Worth’s gowns, ripe with the stirrings of Art Nouveau.
I watched the play of line and color; the rippling of pattern dancing like a silent ballet across its back. Until I saw the antennae – curling and extending like frantic grace notes, trying to make sense of its cold, unwanted surroundings.
I am not one to leave stranded jewelry unclaimed, but this I left to its recovery: a bauble that would live to decorate once more the vast and austere sky.
There are some people who consider Boyfriend and I childish. We don’t mind. Childishness can be marvelous and we are sure that particular sobriquet is given not without a touch of envy.
We have a toy bunny, and we don’t care who knows it.
Bunny has journeyed everywhere with us, and shows all the markings of a well-traveled companion. He has the tears, scratches and unavoidable lumpiness that come when one is stuffed into purses, knapsacks and pockets.
So Saturday we took Bunny surfing.
On Boyfriend’s hand-made board, Bunny waited for the awesome swell that would send him roaring to shore, like Da Bull, in 1960.
Calm Before The Storm
When that dark line of water appeared, Bunny was calm, knowing that the spirit of Micky Dora was watching…
But Bunny was reckless, carrying a stance that was too lop-sided. And the wave fell on him like a heavy curtain.
Bunny was soggy for the rest of the day. I hope he doesn’t get moldy.