I must admit that in retrospect Saturday at the beach reminded me of W. H. Auden’s
Musee des Beaux Arts
About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on
There was a bird watcher’s convention going on while we were there and they were absorbed in watching the huge number of Sooty Shearwater in Gray’s harbor through their spotting scopes
rather than noticing the dead and dying Common Murres on the beach (though I’m sure most were all too aware of the problem).
Other birds also seemed indifferent to the Murre’s plight. Migrating Heermann’s Gulls surfed breakers mere feet away from dying Murres,
showing no signs of malnutrition or environmental stress.
A steady stream of Heermann’s Gull headed southward,
stopping to join flocks of Brown Pelicans for rest across the harbor in the Westport Marina.
Though the dying Murres definitely put a damper on our day, Leslie and I didn’t stop everything and go home, either. No. We still ate fish and chips for lunch in Ocean Shores and sauteed scallops and prawns later at the Tokeland Hotel Restaurant. Though I couldn’t help but notice the struggling Murres throughout the day, most of the time I focused my camera on other flocks of birds heading southward.