It was like being in "Winged Migration"

02 Sep 2003|Darrel Rhea

Last night we stood on the top of our small ship Tango, anchored on the edge of the marshes of the San Joaquin River delta. The view from that high place was unencumbered in all directions, just the endless and cloudless sky with a color spectrum from fire orange at the setting Western sun, through soft deep blue toward the Sierras. The strong tidal current pushed water from the marshes from many miles away through the tiny channel we were anchored in, and into a large body of water behind us.

Thousands of fish were feeding on the floating conveyor belt of food at the mouth of the channel. Schools of fish would intermittently boil the water as they surfaced to feed, flopping over before they dove for the safety of the deep.

Mirroring the teaming life below, a flock of white birds hovered and dove at the fish. They splashed the surface for only a second before retreating to the sky. Huge pelicans would occasionally join the aerial dog fight. Cruising in like stable seaplanes, they lose their grace and fall like a human pushed unwillingly off a cliff. Their large beaks pierce the water to nab a squirming fish in their pouch every time.

Nancy said, “This is like being in Winged Migration.” (That movie shows intimate views of the majesty of bird life through “birds-eye-view cinematography” and creates a delightful “shock and awe” nature experience.) The spectacle of the birds’ dinner dance was happening just feet away from us with a surreal backdrop of natural beauty. An orange sunset spread on the water, an orange moon rise, and an orange-red Mars emerging at the same time –closer that night than any time in the last 60,000 years. Only the sounds of the wind, water, and birds.

This morning I’m taking in the still sunrise on the stern deck with only the sounds of water lapping on the bottom of the Zodiac tied behind Tango and the distant cries of a flock of geese. Bright light sparkles on the water to the horizon. Last night the coyotes woke me, but they are long gone now. The fish feed continues except now huge fish ker-splash every few minutes, with a startling sound like someone throwing a small boulder into the water next to us. Hundreds of tiny starlings flit around us to feed on invisible insects. Nancy is reading next to me and drinking her coffee in the already warm sun, Casey sound asleep in his bunk below.

I am filled with gratitude for all of those people I work with, and for. The richness of these experiences are only possible because their contributions to my life. And there is also some sadness that I can not share this beauty and peacefulness with loved ones who have died. Spirituality is hard to find on airplanes and in conference rooms. Thank you, world, for these moments of peace. I promise to keep seeking them.

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