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Adding to the Life List

I pedal through a billow of white feathers drifting like avian tumbleweeds, bobbing, one small bound at a time over so many speckles of creamy dung dropped along this cemented pathway on Pittsburgh’s north shore by thousands upon thousands. They roost upon a berm rolling along the Allegheny River. Colonies stow away upon chunks of ice floating down, westward, into the rivers’ confluence.

I’d call them an army, but for once I see gulls with no violent intent (they can be so nasty aggressive). Rather, I wonder if they yearn: where are their blue-skied beaches and Atlantic coastline?

They huddle. More and more, these gulls are invading our urban spaces. This year, the Great Lakes have frozen over more greatly than usual, so here the gulls stopover.

While I’m riding through their reserve, I’m fine with their mess. For behind their squawking and flittering and behind Mt. Washington and behind and peeking through clouds, the sun descends. What is it about this dwindling of light at near-night, as it tweaks into pinks and fire wisps, that moves me? In this hilly city I live in a valley and see too few sunsets.

I’m reminded of my friend’s pursuit of the lesser black-backed gull. Oliver, he’s a birder. And, sure enough, here he is at the water’s edge with fellow birders, so many scopes and cameras.

I learn that these masses hold multitudes: ring-billed and herring and the glaucous and Iceland and greater black-backed, and Oliver, in person, in scope, gets his lesser black-backed.

And I get so much, too: a glimpse at gull life, a friend, grey skies slipping through grandeur. Before I pedal home, aloft.


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