Efficacy, equanimity and bay gulls

If you ever find yourself feeling a bit bored with life, throw some clean underwear in a bag, grab your ATM card, get in the car and drive to Cape Cod. That is one of the places in the world where you have to work the hardest to find boredom; particularly in the summer you must work very hard to be bored. Alternatively it is very easy to tumble across lots and lots of engaging, entertaining, and even educational things to do.

A little bit ago, we took a boat trip with the Audubon Society to Monomoy Island. It was a fabulous opportunity to see some birds and to see some of the grey seals that have begun to take over Cape Cod. While the boat was making its way to Monomoy, the naturalist on board was giving us an introduction to the more common birds that we were likely to see. She started off by telling us that there is no such thing as a seagull. Rather there are different species of gulls, in fact, there are fifty different species of gulls around the world. She told us that eleven different species of gulls have been sighted around Cape Cod, but five species are the most common. Three of the very most common species are “white-headed” gulls: the Herring Gull (Larus argenttatus), the Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus), and the Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis). The other two common species are “hooded” gulls: the Laughing Gull (Larus atricilla) and and Bonaparte’s Gull (Larus philadelphia). She told us that the white headed gulls are the ones we are most likely to see when we are out on the beach and around the Cape in general. At the moment when she said that, I was overcome with … well, I don’t know quite what possessed me, but I raised my hand, and said “excuse me,” before I realized what I was doing. As the naturalist looked in my direction, I asked, “Well, if the sea gulls fly over the sea, what flies over the bay?”

The naturalist looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language, and started to say “I just explained that sea gull is a euphemism for a variety of species of gulls. And really all of the species can fly over both the sea and the …” When again, I was possessed by a force that compelled me to cut her off one more time as I uttered, “If sea gulls fly over the sea I thought that over the bay, it would be bay gulls.” And of course I said this as I was eating a bagel.

At that very moment, six very serious birders set down their 24 inch spotting scopes, rushed over and threw me off the boat!

As I flew through the air, I remembered the words of Daniel Berrigan, “These many beautiful days cannot be lived again. But they are compounded in my own flesh and spirit, and I take them in full measure toward whatever lives ahead.”

And I burst out laughing as I righted myself and walked to the shore.


Laughter is indeed the best medicine. Sometimes you just have to find the humor wherever you can find it. Most times it can only help to take your self very lightly. It is said that angels can fly because they take themselves so lightly. I can’t help but think that our work for justice and rights would be more efficacious and equanimous if we could but remember to take ourselves more lightly. So, go have a bagel, have a laugh and enjoy your work.

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