SEA LION AND GULL
Tortoise’s words were like the dry
winds that raked the desert floor.
“The sea does not exist! This is as close to a sea as you will ever get.”
All morning, Sea lion listened to his friend, but he could not be swayed. It was time. Sea Lion knew it was time.
He turned his back on Tortoise and all his reasons why Sea Lion should settle down where he was and make the desert his home.
“I’m going to find my sea,” he said.
The tortoise laughed. He laughed until he shook. He laughed so hard that he rolled over onto his back and chipped his shell on a rock. Then Tortoise wasn’t laughing.
Sea Lion turned and flippered away.
“Where are you going? Where the hell do you think you’re going?" Tortoise screamed.
But Sea Lion didn’t answer. His head was firmly lifted to catch the scent of a sea breeze blowing in from over the distant mountains.
“You think you’re too good for this desert? Is that it? All this sand is not enough for you, hey? You gotta have water? What is so good about being wet anyway?”
Sea Lion smiled to himself, but he did not turn back.
What was so good about being wet?
Sea Lion already knew the answer to that question. Though he had been away from his sea for so long that he wasn’t sure it existed anymore, though he could barely remember the sensation of floating, though he could hardly imagine the coolness of the waters, he did know one thing. He knew he was made to be wet. That one thing seemed enough to know.
So, Sea lion began his journey to his sea.
All day, Sea Lion pulled his body through the sands. Rocks scraped his underbelly until he bled. By nightfall the tortoise and his questions were far behind but Sea Lion was not sure he was any nearer to his elusive sea at all. His slept fitfully that night. It was the sleep of one who has traveled far and still has far to travel.
Next morning the breeze woke Sea Lion with its call. Salt. He could taste the salt. Lifting himself from the ground he again lumbered through the desert. Day after day Sea Lion pulled and pushed his way over rock. The howling windstorms caused the sand to bite into his flesh by day, but he kept going. He slept by the light of a cruel moon that hung itself in a freezing night sky, but he kept going. Under the burning eye of an angry sun, he moved forward.
Sea Lion lost count of the days as they fizzled in the heat. He lost count of how many cuts he had and how much his body ached. Everything began to blur into one great pain. Each mountain he climbed gave way to another mountain. Valley after valley. Rock after sand after rock.
I am all alone, he thought. There is no way I will ever reach my sea. My dream is as cruel as the cactus that cut my flesh, as intangible as the mirages that tease me with promise of water.
For days he cried, tears mingling with the dirt until mud began to form around him. Having eaten nothing more than a bit of this and a piece of that, Sea Lion was altogether wrinkled, burnt and dying.
He may never have lifted his head again, had it not been for Gull.
From a fog like state, where Sea Lion’s thoughts mingled with his sadness, a call sounded from the sky.
“Looka-loooka-looka!” Gull screeched circling above Sea Lion’s withered body.
With the last of his will, Sea Lion lifted his head to the sky.
Again Gull called.
Sea Lion’s head flopped back to earth.
The bird flew to the ground beside him and pecked away with her questions, until finally Sea Lion whispered, “Go away you, you… bird thing, whatever you are. Can’t you see I am finished?”
Gull looked at Sea Lion with a beady gaze. “Finished what?” she asked.
Sea Lion didn’t remember what was supposed to be finished, so he said the first thing that came to his head, “I am finished with moving.”
“Oh. I see. No… I don’t see. How can you be finished moving? Creatures move. That is what we do. What are you anyway?”
It was a fine question. What indeed? Sea Lion could not remember that he was in fact a sea lion, but he did know his name.
“Sea Lion,” he said.
“Then it seems to me, Mr. S-e-a Lion, that you are in need of the sea.”
Sea Lion shrugged. “The only sea I see is the sand. A sea of sand.”
Gull looked around at the green grass and the handsome pine tress with moss clinging to their legs. She saw the way the river skipped over the pebbles and the soft hands of the wind that stroked the pine needles of the tallest pines and the leaves of the fern carpet on the ground.
“Sand?” she asked.
“Yes, sand!” Sea Lion said, “And the sand hurts!”
“Ahh. Tell me about your sand.”
For a very long time, much longer than the day and the night combined, Sea Lion told Gull about every place he hurt. He told her how far he had traveled, about the mountains that mocked him, the sand that cut into his skin, about the aloneness under the unforgiving sun. He told her how the moon hung itself in a cold sky every night and simply stared at him. Finally, he told Gull of Tortoise and his sneering.
Gull nodded. Sea Lion wondered if she had met a Tortoise herself. But he did not ask. He kept talking. On and on he talked.
Many times Gull was moved to tears, but she did not leave him. She sat there on the bright green earth and nodded her head. Occasionally she asked questions, but mostly she listened.
When finally all the words were spoken the day began to cool and the sky turned a soft lemonade. Sea Lion sat in the stillness with Gull beside him… and just breathed. Gull breathed too.
It was a fine afternoon for breathing.
Sea Lion even smiled a little. It was nice to tell all about his sand. It felt good to tell his stories, even though they were sad. A sadness told is lighter somehow, not brighter, but not so heavy in the heart. A little something lifted inside Sea Lion. Someone stayed with him long enough to hear everything he had to say. How blessed he was to have found this bird thing, whatever it was.
When words were spoken again, it was Gull who talked.
“Where are you now?” she asked.
“In the desert, bird. Haven’t you been listening?”
“I have. But… does this desert of yours look like green buds or taste like the spray of a wave? Does it sound like the river that runs into the arms of an open ocean? Does it talk like the Sea Gulls of the air?”
Gull was wise you see, and she knew that the best answers are given when we discover for ourselves where we really are.
For the first time since Sea Lion had collapsed on the earth, he looked around him. Wild flowers peeked through the moss and the fresh air neither burned his skin nor froze his whiskers.
“No,” he said. “This does not look like my desert at all.”
Gull let that thought sit with him awhile as Gull was apt to do.
Finally, Sea Lion grinned until the grin became a smile and the smile, a laugh.
Gull laughed too.
“You’re a seagull aren’t you?” he asked, but Gull didn’t need to answer. Already happiness settled around them. For through the trees, Sea Lion could make out the distant sight of waves.
“You mean to say that I am almost there?” he asked.
Gull simply smiled.
Sea Lion turned towards the waves.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“To my sea,” he said, and away he went.
Gull watched him go smiling the largest smile a gull can smile. “Go well then,” she called after him. But Sea Lion was gone.
By the edge of his water, Sea Lion stood, taking it all in. The water was so blue it looked as if a summer’s sky had been squeezed into it. Tentatively he approached the first waves. Would the sea be welcoming, or would it reject a Sea Lion who for so long forgot where his home was? Would he find other sea lions who understood what it was like to be so lost and then so very found? Would he have a chance to share his story, to tell others about the desert, and how a dream can call you from deep inside your being? He did not know. Who can know these things? For the future holds its treasures, his heartaches and it joys, deep in the palm of its hand. Yesterday has walked away. But today, Sea Lion knew, was all he had. And today was his day. A proud day to be a Sea Lion who had finally journeyed to the very edge of his Sea.
From high above him Gull circled, watching his every move, until Sea Lion slipped beneath the waves. Gull circled one more time, and then flew off, a settled feeling in her heart. She knew about the ocean, but not what was beneath the water. That was Sea Lion’s world. She could not go where he was going. It was right of course, because some creatures’ fly and others swim. Sometimes if they are blessed, they may meet each other on the edges of oceans and talk awhile. Perhaps even walk awhile. The passion for water is in them both, but when the time comes, a Sea Lion must go to his sea and a Gull to her sky.
May you swim if you swim, and fly if you fly, and always have time for those on the edge of their oceans, those found in the space between the blue above and the blue below.
Written by: Tabitha Bird Used with permission.
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