Become a Fan
Consider The Birds
By Ian D Gilmour
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Rated "G" by the Author.
I saw an old man on the beach front at Kaiteriteri and tried to find some story in his being there. It was an unlikely place for an image like him.
Green fingered trees stretching to touch the blue underbelly of the passing heavens, both unaware and unconcerned of the drifting dramas unfolding below. A gentle but uncompromising velocity guards all heavenly entities from the twists and turns of minor players subjected to the cruel hands of fate and fortune. Between the two worlds feathered emissaries travel with ease to gather material of interest, watch the sad participants in their trials and offer moments of consoling comfort as they lie spent and fading at the end of their days.
Wandering through the carnage a man, his eyes often heavenward, not looking for answers but asking why and when is enough enough. The birds gather around him to share his knowledge and wisdom as he feeds them stripes of sandwich from his bag. He, like them, knows the futility of the struggle around him. He, like them, is on the outside looking in, then up, then away, then...
To everyone else he looks a strange sight. A long gray haired, bearded head atop heap of clothing, moving almost at random through streets and parks. A leathery weathered face crimson with age. His nose was larger now than when he was younger but that isn’t an unusual thing to happen. Not everyone knows that though. Other features that age had marked him with were coarse hair protruding from the nostrils, ear-lobs that hung longer than before and a street map of veins now on the surface of his face. His stoop was pronounced and shoulders fell forward as he shuffled from one point to the next. Most couldn’t imagine this human state flinging his giggling children into the air as a young man and walking for miles with one of them on his shoulders to show them the joys to be found in rock pools at low-tide. His image carried no evidence of a fulfilling life behind it, not to those too busy to consider properly, too fast to judge or too shallow to ever understand. He would often smile quietly to himself at the joke he shared with the birds. Them feeling sorry for him when all the time he was feeling sorry for them. It was just too much.
His pity was limited to those who had lost sight of the real reason to breathe. The busy holiday-makers who turned up at the waterfront every season to quickly recreate for a few days or possibly a week and then to return to the madness of the life they had made for themselves in the hurly-burly world of their working lives. The urbanities that arrived in their four-wheel drives and caravans to try to wind down for a bit so they can get back to paying for the gleaming vehicles with Greek gods for names and meaningless letters and numbers marking the individual quality of their prize possessions.
It was amusing to see them arrive with angst in their every feature. They would find a site to claim - go through the well rehearsed setting up routine with military precision until finally stopping in their deck chairs - not sure how to bring themselves quickly and efficiently to the desired state of utopia they sought. He could see in their faces a tense demanding of their being to hurry up and relax. Amusing but sad too. After a few days of this melodrama and a good deal of affirming how good it was to relax and how relaxing it all was they would pack up their recreational organization and return to their demanding origins ‘much the better for it’.
The ones that still held his admiration were the young carefree teenagers who spent aimless days in the sun, kicking balls and showing off to each other. They would swim then lie on the sand talking with their heads turned resting on their arms for hours at a time. They used their abundant energies to just wile away the days in ways that he hoped would stay with them forever. What was it that happened to them all when they moved on and lost that youth? Where did those beautifully pointless days go? Why couldn’t they keep just some of that feeling for later? Carry a piece of it with them to their end and not lose sight of it all in the murk of middle age.
As he sat on the seats outside the café, with the mix of pity and disgust drifting from the tables behind him the birds between mouthfuls asked him always, ‘What can be done for them? How can this go on? Who should we talk to about this mess?’
His answer was inevitably the same. There was nothing to be done and no one to tell. It would go on because it was a bloody mess but some will find out for themselves if they are brave enough to see what was going on. All this in a smile and a shrug.
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