Marble Godwits

I watch small groups of long-legged birds, marbled godwits, when I walk the beaches on the Monterey Bay. They are so attentive at digging in the sand for food with their long, pointed bills. They drill down into the wet sand after a wave rolls up onto the beach and rolls back out to sea. They seem to be looking for sand crabs or other invertebrates that may be living just beneath the surface. Each bird is dedicated to getting himself fed. He will probe deep into the sand to the point that his whole head is completely buried. But then, when one bird in the group becomes alarmed, the signal quickly goes out to all in the group to cease with the feeding. The long drilling, stabbing beaks pull out of the sand and quickly the birds fly as far as they must go to feel secure.

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I marvel at how these birds bond together in a group to protect each other. They seem to share each other’s eyes, each other’s sense of danger, such that they depend upon one another to preserve the life of the group. Working the sandy beach alone and sticking one’s head in the sand for too long could be quite a risk. Being alone might even be deadly. The bond to remain together gives them a life in which they all function as if they were one. Together they move so freely with the constant wafting of the surf. I see the same action that I see when watching the fingers of a person playing a piano. Some heads lift and look while some go down and eat. What harmony!

I wish I could play the piano because I sense that people who do so connect with a greater harmony that we all share. The theme of the great piano pieces is a celebration of love and of life. About the time I think that being an individual is the most important thing in life, I go for a walk on the beach and right in front of my own eyes I see the godwits enjoying freedom that they would not have as individuals.

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