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Brother Seagull

It was Honolulu 1964 a year after I witnessed a hydrogen bomb blast lighting the night sky as day, philosophers descended from all over the world, DT Suzuki Japan, Justin Wisdom England, Ratakrishna India, Harold Mc Carthy Hawaii, a conference at the University of Hawaii where I met Berkeley PHD candidate Paul Rosenburg. He was feeling terrible, his sister and brother-in-law had gone to Mississippi that summer to register voters, the Mississippi freedom riders and Paul was feeling guilty, his heart was in Mississippi but his head chose a university career. Lucky for me, when I returned to California I looked Paul up and later moved into his basement. He showed me his brother–in-law, Richard Van Buren’s artwork at the Delexi Gallery in San Francisco. Later after traveling in Mexico I moved to New York City and contacted Richard who had moved there the year before after leaving Mississippi. Richard’s life was in turmoil, he and Judy, Paul’s sister, were breaking up. He asked me to take his old studio, he was moving to a new one across the street. Later I helped move his new lady friend, Batya into his new studio. Batya was a dancer in the Alwin Nicolai dance company in the Henry Street Settlement and we became friends. Five years later my wife Terry and I moved to Eastport, Maine and the following year Richard & Batya came up to Maine to visit and purchased a summerhouse near-by on Gleason Cove road. Their lush land bordered on a tidal marsh that emptied into the Passamaquoddy Bay. A portion of the land was under water at high tide and marshy rivulets at low tide. One summer they sublet their property to painter Susan Rothenburg and sculptor, George Trakis. Trakis a minimalist sculptor immediately began carving 75-yard horizontal 3 ft sq. hole through the lush foliage surrounding their property. On this day the Van Buren’s were not home, I continued past their property to the end of the road, a recently created undeveloped state park. The sand road went out on edge of Passamaquoddy Bay, a crescent shaped beach that slowed the tidal waters behind it and for a mile or so past the Van Buren property to the head of high tide backwater. It was a grey foggy overcast morning, I got out of my car and surveyed the waters of the bay, aware off shore of “old sow” the tidal whirl-pool famous for its strong pull capable of dragging large boats under, across to Deer Isle and past to Black’s Harbor on the Canadian side. It was low tide, the flats were completely exposed, when I heard a soul piercing cry echoing across the desolate lifeless flats, looking around I could see no one on the beach nor across the empty bay to the trees beyond. The Gleason cove bay appeared as if someone had pulled the plug draining a bathtub exposing it’s bottom reminding me of T. S. Eliot’s “Waste Land”, vast distances of lifeless mud and weed. Again that sound, skirrarrrrreach!, again piercing my soul. I looked across the mud flats, about a 100 yards distance my eyes made contact, a lone seagull sitting on top of a 15 ft. log pylon. It’s cry almost unbearable. As I listened I realized it was talking to me. I looked hard at the bird and considering the piercing sound, the distance, trying to place the sound back in the bird and wondering if the sound really came from the bird? Or maybe it originated in me? It was then I realized there was no distance between us; I had become the seagull, no separation. The seagull and I are one. Through out the subsequent years seagulls have become my brothers.

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