Sunday morning, south of Los Angeles, at the end of the pier at Hermosa Beach, I am by myself. The wind is blowing, messing up my hair, and the waves are choppy. A lone surfer in a wet suit attempts to stand up and take a ride on the rushing water before he is quickly dumped back into the ocean as the wave breaks close to shore.
My husband and I have arrived at Hermosa Beach on a road trip from Colorado two days ago to escape the cold at home, stay at an ancient hotel on the beach and visit family and friends in southern California.
But right now on the rutted wood railing of the pier, a seagull stands proudly and confidently. He is large, possibly 15-16 pounds with clean grey and white feathers, yellow webbed feet and a yellow beak. He is approximately seven feet away, watching me with one eye.
Fascinated by his presence, I place a morsel of my protein bar in a crevice of the railing a several feet ahead of him. Then I back up. The seagull moves forward a step at a time, along the top of the railing. He zeroes in on the morsel of protein bar, pecks it up, lifts it up in his beak and swallows it.
“So you liked the taste of that?” I ask.
“Delicious. Better than fish. Not so slimy,” the seagull says. His voice reminds me of an old man.
I laugh. “I don’t like raw fish either. I’ll give you some more of my protein bar.”
He pecks up each tidbit I lay on the railing.
“You’re hungry. Do you mind if I ask how old you are?” I ask.
He ignores me, cleaning his feathers. Now he gazes at me with both eyes. “I’ve had at least a thousand birthdays I guess that makes me a thousand years old.”
I raise my eyebrows wondering if he had birthday parties. “You must have seen a lot in your time here.” (I was thinking of human change.)
“Not too much change. The weather changes and that’s about it, except for the tourists in the summer. The pier was built 90 years ago and that improved my diet with all scraps people leave behind.”
“What a blessing for you. What do you think of living in California?”
I waved my arm to indicate the whole state. “The state you live in.”
“Don’t think I’m just a local, a townie. See these wings? Sometimes I fly to Colorado and hang out near the McDonald’s on Colfax in Lakewood.”
Now I get excited remembering the flock of gulls who surrounded my car eating Chicken McNuggets in a field bordering Colfax next to McDonald’s which I bought for the crows, but the gulls came and chased the crows off. It was like a scene out of Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”
“Did you ever eat Chicken McNuggets there?”
“But mostly I stay around here at Seagull Ocean and Seagull Beach.” He flapped his wing to indicate the Pacific Ocean and Hermosa Beach.
“Seagull ocean and Seagull beach,” I repeated. I thought how each animal species and we humans see things from our own point of view.
And then I wondered if I was being gullible.
Mary Stobie grew up in Golden and lives in Wheat Ridge. She is a storyteller, and has had columns published in the Rocky Mountain News, Denver Post and Chicago Tribune. Please contact her with comments at mry_jeanne@yahoo.