Rock-Munching Gull + Rocky the Plummeting Squirrel = ?

I’m sitting on the beach right now on my little fold-out, nylon-strapped chair, writing on my laptop. I’m feeling very Gilligan Goes Thoughtful. Very California Dreamin’.

A seagull just landed on the sand right in front of me, the way seagulls do when they’re pretty sure you must have something on or near you to eat. I don’t have anything on or near me to eat — but figured that instead of shooing it away I’d spend a few minutes staring at the bird, since I happen to know that staring at seagulls drives them crazy. They just hate it. They’re weirdly self-conscious.

Now definitely In the Spotlight, the bird has quickly affected Seagull Disdain, and begun to poke about nonchalantly in the sand, as if I weren’t here at all.

It’s a beautiful specimen, sporting that white chest seagulls have that can practically blind you if the sun’s just right.

So this bird was looking reasonably regal — right up until the moment it picked up this huge rock. This wasn’t some little stone the bird might have reasonably mistaken for a McNugget, either. It was the size of a coffee mug. I think the pressure of my staring at the bird compelled him to open his beak wider than I knew they could open up, wrap it around the rock, and hoist that bad boy right up. You could just see that the weight of the rock was practically breaking the poor bird’s neck.

But seagulls must always remain cool. So, still clamping the rock, Jonathon Livingston Flintstone managed to turn his head a bit to fix me with his gaze.

“What are you looking at?” he then seemed to say. “What — you don’t think I thought this was an abandoned bread roll, do you? Do I look stupid? I knew this was a rock. It just so happens that I enjoy holding rocks in my beak, okay? It’s good for the neck muscles. Besides, I could eat this rock if I wanted to. That’s right, numbnuts; I could. Believe me, I’ve eaten worse. Besides, it’s not like you’re bustin’ out the Cheetos, is it, Lumpy?”

This Gull Moment reminds me of a time when I was strolling through a redwood forest in northern California, and saw a squirrel fall out of a tree. I had stopped to watch this adorable little fellow, way up in a majestic tree, gracefully leaping from one branch to the next — when suddenly he was doing something altogether different, which was crashing down through half a tree’s worth of branches, before finally coming to a singularly ignoble “plunk!” on the soft needle bed below.

I stood staring, shocked. Never in a million years would I have guessed that squirrels ever just fell out of trees.

Seemed to be a pretty major news flash to the squirrel, too. Immediately upon landing, Rocky the Non-Flying Squirrel flipped over onto his feet, and, Natural Museum-style, just sort of froze there, as if computing what in the heck had just happened to him. Then he snapped out of it, and, just like he was having nothing more than a typical day dropping out of trees, leaped onto the tree’s trunk, and scittered right back up it.

I stayed beneath the tree for a while, thinking he’d maybe fall out again. Maybe he was the most incapable squirrel ever.

It was while staring up into that giant redwood that I first comprehended the valuable Life Lesson that Stony the Seagull has just reminded me of: You can’t trust Mother Nature any further than you can throw her.

Wait — that’s not a good lesson to learn. These two nature experiences should teach me something better than that.

Nature is God’s way of showing us that life is insane.

No, that’s no good either.


I wonder what lesson I am supposed to learn from boulder-hoisting seagulls and squirrels that fall out of trees?


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  • If a bird with the brain the size of a mustard seed can move a boulder…..?

    animals are dumb; so whats that say about you?

    The impossible is possible with God.

  • Hjordes

    Jonathon Livingston Flintstone? ROFL

    I don't know…. a reminder that God has a great sense of humor, maybe?

  • Greta Sheppard

    Sea Gull to Hu-man: “Watch’a staring at, dummy . . . didn’t you ever make a mistake?”

    Surprised Squirrel to surprised man: “Oops….if at first you don’t succeed . . . try again!”

    Absolutely loved this post!

  • Tim

    When I was much younger, I sat by the still waters of the San Diego River at dusk, off the Father Junipero Serra Trail. Having polished off two 16 oz. Old English 800 malt liquors, I had a pretty good buzz on. I watched the local bats swooping over the water's surface collecting their dinner of mosquitos, water nymphs, and moths. From out of nowhere, a misdirected bat ran directly into my chest. He fluttered backward for about 3 feet and just as I expected that he would make proper adjustments in his flight path, he proceeded to fly back at me hitting my forehead.

    Similarly, I was trying to understand why a mammal whose radar guided aerobatics are accurate to within pinpoint laser proficiency, seemingly couldn't see me on his radar scope. Was my furry flying friend as inebriated as I was? Certainly drinking those two malt liquors didn't magically make me stealth.

    Looking backward through my Christ-colored glasses, I can only imagine that ALL creation labors under the effects of sin in the world. Like sheep, we have each strayed. We are off the mark. Behavioral dissonance ensues.

  • Ace

    Some bats DO carry rabies, ya know. Or maybe he had a bad dose of Bat White-Nose Syndrome or something….

    As for the gull, birds eat rocks all the time. So did dinosaurs. The rocks grind up the food in their gizzards. That's what you have to do when you have no molars, apparently.

  • Hjordes

    I read this a week ago. I'm still having trouble falling asleep. Just as I'm drifting off I have visions of wide-beaked seagulls and hear falling squirrells, and wake myself up giggling.

  • HEAR is exactly right: that squirrel really did the Homer bounce all the way down the tree. He was snapping branches, knocking off pine cones; birds were flying away to get out of his way. And the funny thing was the bed of pine needles on the ground beneath the tree totally saved him. Cuz unlike, say, a cat, he landed flat on his back. And you could tell he was totally happy with the way landing felt–like he expected it. He bounced back into an upright position, practically. And I was, like, "Oh, that's why they have all those pine needles down there. To catch squirrels." Anyway, right: he fell like a sack of marbles. Least graceful squirrel ever.

    And that gull! You know what I think of all the time, is the way he looked at me, with that big ol' honkin rock in his mouth, like, "What's your problem, Jack?" I guess I wrote that in the piece (I don't have the story itself in front of me), but … I hope I really emphasized it, because dang that bird had an attitude. And it was already a seagull, which are all attitude anyway. But you could totally tell it was his pride that was keeping that rock in his mouth. He was, like, "Yeah, I collect these. Whadda you collect, loser?"

    Ah, nature. It's just as stupid as you'd think it would be.

    Good to hear from you, Hj.

  • Jill

    Birds get drunk. When I was a teen I lived in the Pacific NW, native to which is a rather flavorless berry called Salal. When ripe, the birds would eat these little hairy, purple berries, they would ferment in their stomachs, the birds would get drunk and fly into our windows. Several times a day.

  • Yeah, we here in California—or at least in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I grew up have the same berries–different sort, I mean, ours were red–but they do the same things to the birds. Just as you say: when I was a kid, and it was the right time, the birds would eat those berries, and just get drunk stupid. They were forever flying into our windows–and especially into our large glass sliding back door. It was pretty awful, really, sometimes.

    Birds are so weird. When I first started this blog, the first thing i wrote about–in this, like, totally too long, SEVEN part series (I sort of had no idea what a blog was supposed to be)–was this whole saga of how I one time got attacked by this giant woodpecker. Birds are just … odd.